Grilled pork skewers with five-spice make for a quick and easy weeknight dinner. And we include tricks to keep the pork moist, tender, and juicy without drying out. Here’s how.

The intense heat of grilling can create flavorful charring on the outside of mild pork tenderloin. To boost this effect, we increased the surface area of the pork by cutting it into bite-size pieces, coated it with a potent hoisin and five-spice powder glaze, and then threaded it onto skewers for easier grilling. Spraying the meat with oil not only minimized sticking but also helped the five-spice powder bloom, preventing a raw spice flavor.–America’s Test Kitchen

How do I keep pork skewers from drying out?

Salting the pork before cooking helps it hold on to moisture, making it less likely to overcook on the grill. Cooking the kebabs quickly over a hot fire prevents moisture loss and dry meat. We thickened our sweet hoisin glaze with cornstarch to help it cling to the pork and reserved a small amount to brush on halfway through grilling to ensure that each piece of moist, juicy pork boasted some crusty char and a sticky, finger-licking coating.

Four grilled pork skewers with five spice on a white plate, garnished with scallions.

Grilled Pork Skewers With Five Spice

5 from 1 vote
Grilled pork skewers with five-spice make for a quick and easy weeknight dinner. And we include tricks to keep the pork moist, tender, and juicy without drying out. Here’s how.
Servings4 to 6 servings
Calories254 kcal
Prep Time25 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time40 minutes


  • Four (12-inch | 30-cm) metal or pre-soaked


  • 2 (12 ounce) pork tenderloins trimmed and cut into 1-inch (25-mm) pieces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons five-spice powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (if keeping gluten-free, check the label of your sauce)
  • Vegetable oil spray
  • 2 scallions thinly sliced


  • In a large bowl, toss the pork and salt together. Let rest for 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the five-spice powder, garlic powder, and cornstarch. Add the hoisin and stir to combine. Measure out 1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin mixture and set aside.
  • Add the remaining hoisin mixture to the pork and toss to coat. Thread pork onto four 12-inch metal skewers, leaving 1/4 inch (6-mm) between pieces. Spray both sides of meat generously with oil spray.
  • If using a charcoal grill, open the bottom vent completely. Light a large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of the grill. Alternatively, you can prepare your coals directly in the grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.If using a gas grill, turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, 10 to 15 minutes. Leave the primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s).
  • Clean and oil the cooking grate. Place skewers on hotter side of grill and grill until well charred, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip skewers, brush with reserved hoisin mixture, and continue to grill until second side is well charred and meat registers 145°F (63°C), 3 to 4 minutes more.
  • Move skewers to a serving platter, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with scallions and serve.



Substitute 6 tablespoons packed brown sugar and 3 tablespoons Sriracha for the five-spice powder, garlic powder, and hoisin sauce. Increase cornstarch to 2 teaspoons. Substitute 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro for scallions.
Meat Illustrated Cookbook

Adapted From

Meat Illustrated

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 254 kcalCarbohydrates: 10 gProtein: 36 gFat: 7 gSaturated Fat: 2 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 3 gTrans Fat: 0.1 gCholesterol: 111 mgSodium: 963 mgPotassium: 739 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 5 gVitamin A: 84 IUVitamin C: 2 mgCalcium: 32 mgIron: 3 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2020 America’s Test Kitchen. Photo © 2020 America’s Test Kitchen. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Pork tenderloin is one of my go-to meats when grilling out. I’ve always grilled the whole tenderloin so these grilled pork skewers were a great switch.

I made the variation with sweet sriracha glaze. I was a little nervous about the amount of heat after tasting the glaze but I grilled the meat 4 minutes on the first side and 3 more minutes after flipping. I covered and rested the meat for 5 minutes. The end result was delicious! Crispy charred outside and tender moist inside. The Sriracha flavor was perfect not too hot and nice sweetness from the brown sugar. I will make this again and I’m going to try the glaze on chicken wings.

We make so many dishes that take a long time to put together, such as braises, and that after all of the prep work cook long and slow, filling your home with wonderful aromas and making you think that you will not be able to wait until you can put dinner on the table. Sometimes, however, you want something that will pack a punch and be ready to eat in no time at all. This recipe for grilled pork skewers with five-spice did just that.

I’ve got to say that I am very fond of the flavor of hoisin sauce. That, combined with the five-spice powder, used for the marinade/sauce for the pork tenderloin cubes, was a win-win as far as I am concerned.

The pork tenderloin, with its leanness, needs to be cooked fairly quickly. Since there is no fat to be rendered, it would dry out if cooked too long. Here is the only place where this recipe was lacking. We cooked this on our gas grill. After the 3 to 4 minutes, the meat was supposed to be on the grill, it was indeed well charred, but it was actually too well charred. I will be making this again but not leaving it on the grill for that long a period of time.

I actually will experiment and turn the heat down, as well as turn the skewers more frequently. I haven’t cooked my pork till well done for many years, looking instead for a medium rare which years ago would send some folks yelping as they ran away, being in fear of being poisoned. Not anymore. Please make this dish as soon as you can gather the ingredients, but do not cook it quite so long. And do yourself a favor, and serve it, like we did, over coconut rice. A perfect combination.

HOLY HELL THIS WAS GOOD! I have never used pork tenderloin as a kebab meat and it was utterly fantastic. The dry-brine really helped keep the pork tender and the five-spice powder (something I’m sometimes reluctant to cook with because I dislike that “licorice” taste) really blended with the hoisin to create a glaze that tempts you to keep going back for more.

Unless your skewers are flat and wide, you might have trouble flipping the pork (it rotated on my round metal skewers it was so tender!), so I’d recommend double skewering them in this case to make flipping a breeze. All in all, these grilled pork skewers with five-spice were a stand out dish, and I can’t wait to make the sweet Sriracha glaze variation!

I cooked half of the grilled pork skewers with five-spice and hoisin glaze and half with the sweet sriracha glaze. Both were excellent but two of three tasters preferred the Sriracha glaze. The third taster is afraid of spicy food and declined to try the Sriracha treatment even though we assured her it was not at all hot.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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