Grilled Spicy Coffee Marinade Kabobs

A recipe featured in the Outdoor News Taste of the Wild
Grilled Spicy Coffee Marinade Kabobs Eileen Clarke

Photos and recipe by Eileen Clarke

I don’t know what I expected the first time I had a coffee marinade.  Probably something like what my friend Marty calls a La Brea Sauce, as in thick as tar.  I was disappointed, but only for the first bite.  You can’t really taste it. It’s rather delicate in that way.  But coffee’s an acid, so it tenderizes, rather gently but rather effectively, carrying the other flavors into the heart of the meat without dominating them.

Grilled Spicy Coffee Marinade Kabobs
Serves 4

The Marinade Ingredients (All measurements level)
1 cup strong coffee, room temperature
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
Up to ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 pound venison steaks, cut in 1½” chunks

Put the steak chunks and marinade ingredients in a re-sealable plastic bag and refrigerate 24 hours. When you take the meat out to grill it, don’t rinse the marinade off.  

The Rest of the Ingredients
2 cloves *elephant garlic, peeled, trimmed and sliced ⅛” thick
1 whole *shallot, peeled, trimmed and sliced ⅛” thick
10 mini-sweet peppers (red, orange and yellow), stemmed and halved lengthwise


1.  Preheat a propane grill to medium-hot, 350 to 400°F.   Alternately, start your coals in a charcoal grill. When coals are covered with white ash–the vast majority of them, not just a few–spread them out for more even cooking.  When it’s hot, scrape the cooking surface with your grill brush, then wipe it with oil. 
2.  Remove the steak chunks from the marinade, and arrange them on the skewers, alternating veggies and meat until you’ve used them all.  Cook about 10 minutes total, turning only once after about 6 or 7 minutes.  
3.   Take the kabobs off the grill when a meat thermometer reads 125°F for rare, 130° for medium rare or 135° for medium.  

4.  Serve on the skewers or slide the meat and veggies off the skewers onto a platter. Either way, they’ll look and taste wonderful.

Eileen Clarke Elephant Garlic

**Shallots (left) are a milder variety of onion (right).  Elephant garlic (middle, one head with several cloves), but is obviously 10 times the size of a standard garlic bulb. This makes it big enough to slice hearty pieces to stick on a skewer. Elephant garlic is distinct in that it is more delicately flavored than the smaller traditional garlic bulbs, as elephant garlic is closer to the leek family than garlic.  

Notes from the chef: In writing my cookbook, Tenderize the Wild, I tested several ‘neutral-flavored’ acids for marinades—when you don’t know what flavor you’ll be in the mood for, later. Coffee was only one of many that worked. But some didn’t.  Uncle Mike’s Hard Apple Cider™ adds a delicate sweetness which I think game usually needs, but it didn’t have enough acid to tenderize—until I added a dose of Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer™. Ginger ale and cream soda work and are quite mild tasting so don’t create a dominant flavor profile you’ll be locked into. Just make sure your soda contains ascorbic acid: that’s the tenderizing agent.
Oddly, honeydew melon, which seems totally non-acidic, has enough acid to marinate meat—and adds brightness that nature didn’t provide.  That brightness is really good with elk, deer, antelope and caribou, but is particularly great for upland birds. For a pound of meat, one or two cups of pureed fruit will do the job. FYI, honeydew’s cousin, cantaloupe? There’s a reason its nickname is ‘musk’ melon.  Musk’s a terrible flavor to add to meat.
And pineapple? I wanted it to work but, fresh, it was a runaway train.  Canned pineapple juice was like Hard Lemonade: it needed help. No happy middle.

Eileen Clarke Measuring Spices Properly

Notes from the kitchen: The measuring of spices for recipes assume a ‘level’ measurement -not heaped. To do this properly, start by overfilling the teaspoon and scrape the excess off the top with a flat knife. Doing this over a clean piece of paper or sheet of waxed paper makes it easy to pour any overage back into the original spice container. I prefer these oblong measuring spoons as they fit inside spice jars for easier measuring, unlike the more common round ones. 


For more on Eileen Clarke’s cookbooks, including Tenderize the Wild: 100 Marinades, Brines and Rubs, visit When you visit her site, check out her other wild game cookbooks. Her volumes compile almost 600 game recipes in all. Not a fan of online shopping? Call her at 406-521-0273

Categories: Big Game, Featured

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