In essence, pinchos are Puerto Rican kabobs. Bite-size pieces of pork are skewered on a stick, then grilled to perfection over charcoal flames. Then laden in BBQ sauce and topped with crusty pan de agua (Puerto Rican baguette). This dish and the smell alone take me back to summer celebrations on the island.
Pinchos are one of the many delicious treats served at festivals, carnivals, and patron Saint festivities. Other such delicious treats include traditional empanadas, mofongo, and carne frita. Serve Arroz con Gandules or Arroz con Habichuelas alongside of pinchos to turn this festival snack into a complete meal.
Why would you love this recipe?
- IT IS PORK! We love pork, and pinchos is nothing more than a portable pork dish.
- Extremely easy: Other than cutting the pork into bite-size pieces, there is very little prep that needs to be done to pull these sticks of deliciousness off.
- Versatility: You can make them for a casual backyard hang out. No plates are needed. Or as the main course for a family gathering.
- Pork: Pork is king in Puerto Rico, at least for this humble Puerto Rican cook. I used a mixture of pork loin and country-style ribs. The reason is that the pork loin is a leaner cut, mostly muscle. Whereas the country-style ribs, although there are no bones, the meat does have a good amount of fat and grizzle. This combination helps to balance the number of fatty pieces to the amount of lean.
- Adobo: Adobo means seasoning in Spanish, but to us in Puerto Rico also means a ”trademark” combination of herbs and spices that create a unique flavor that tastes like Puerto Rico. Onion, garlic, oregano, citrus, salt, pepper, paprika, achiote, cumin, and coriander are among the best combinations, and most adobos can be found already mixed to perfection. But to create your own, please read my post on adobo, and you will learn how to make it as a fresh garlic paste or powder.
- BBQ Sauce: I want to say that I was not served straight-up BBQ sauce. I believe I was served a combination of BBQ and ketchup because the sauce was red. For this recipe, I used Hey Grill Hey BBQ sauce which has a great combination of sweet and tangy, and pairs well with anything your drizzle it on.
- Baguette: If a good Puerto Rican Pan de agua is unavailable, a french or Cuban baguette will do the trick. Pan Sobao has a pale, thin golden yellow crust, that feels more like skin than a hardy crust. And inside, it is soft and airy, perfect for catching all the drippings.
Variations and Substitutions
- Other meats: You can make pinchos out of any meat you desire. Chicken is the next popular choice, but lamb pinchos would also work.
- Gas Grill: There is nothing wrong with a gas grill. Charcoal gives a smoky flavor that I am accustomed to from growing up on the island.
- Baked or roasted: If grilling is unavailable, consider roasting them in the oven. Set up a baking sheet with aluminum foil and a cool rack to catch the drippings, and you should be able to roast your pinchos easily in a 400 oven.
- Start by breaking down the meat into bite-size pieces.
- Some might argue the use of a pork loin in this cooking method, but I want to mix a cut of meat that is fatty and full of gristle. Mixing a lean cut of meat allows for all who are eating to eat meaty chunks, not just fat.
- Begin to season the meat with a heavy covering of adobo. I say heavy because as it sits and once we place it on the grill, we will see that some of the seasonings will be left behind.
- Add Sazón, equally generous.
- A splash of lemon juice or bitter orange juice. The splash creates a binder effect, not to have the meat "swim" in it.
- Salt. You can omit this step if you want to. Most adobos have plenty of salt.
- Pepper, same as before. Most adobos have salt and pepper in their mix. Feel free to omit this step.
- And Olive oil. Like we did with the lemon juice, we need a bit of moisture.
- Mix and let rest for at least 30 minutes before cooking. This is something that could be done the night before.
- Once the meat has rested for about 30 minutes, begin to skewer the meat. In Puerto Rico, they are served only with meat, just like I am making here, but feel free to add vegetables if you desire.
Letting pinchos rest before cooking.
Pinchos right out of the grill.
- Mix different cuts of pork to create a more balanced product. I used a pork loin which comes from the back of the pig, and mixed it with country-style ribs that come from the front end of the pig and have a great amount of fat and ”dark meat,” which tends to be very moist. This mixture allows for an end product that is both meaty and juicy.
- Marinate the meat overnight whenever possible to allow the flavor to permeate the meat. About 30 minutes before grilling, cover the meat with another layer of seasoning to create a burnt effect on the finished product.
Frequently Asked Questions
Pinchos is a quick-serve dish, and it has been in my experience that many individuals would take a relatively cheap cut of meat to make the kabobs, leaving the person who is eating it to struggle with gristle and hard cuts of meat. I love country-style pork ribs, but they, too, have a bit of gristle. I prefer to mix and match my cuts. I use a loin cut, mostly lean, and country-style ribs, which have fat and darker meat. This mixture creates a balance of texture, fat, and flavor.
In Puerto Rico, most likely, you will find pork pinchos, but you could also use chicken. Like I do with pork, create a mixture of dark and white meat to keep the final product from drying.
Do what is best for you. A 20pc pack of metal skewers will cost you about $12. It is a cost-effective purchase because you do not have to purchase them again unless your guests or family accidentally throw them out. With the Bamboo skewers, you will get 100pc for $8.20, but they are primordially single-use since they would burn on the fire if they are not adequately soaked.
This recipe goes well with
More Summer Recipes
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Puerto Rican Pork Kabobs, Pinchos
- 12 skewers Soak for at least 30 minutes before use
- charcoal grill
- 1 lbs country-style ribs
- 3 lbs pork loin, boneless
- 2 tablespoon adobo
- 2 tablespoon sazón
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- to taste salt
- to taste pepper
- Begin by cutting the meat into bite-size pieces.1 lbs country-style ribs, 3 lbs pork loin, boneless
- Once all the meat is cut, add all the seasonings, including the lemon juice and the olive oil, and mix to incorporate.2 tablespoon adobo, 2 tablespoon sazón, 1 tablespoon paprika, 2 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, to taste salt, to taste pepper
- Let the meat marinate for at least 30 minutes up to 24 hours before skewering.
- Soak the wooden skewers for at least 30 minutes before use
- After 30 minutes of soaking, begin skewering the meat.
- Start the grill and brush a thin layer of fat on the grill grates.
- Once the grill is hot, place the pinchos on the grill.
- Cook until meat is firm. Baste the pinchos with BBQ sauce as you cook them to create a caramelized crust.
- Serve pinchos with a slice of baguette.