These Frozen BBQ Skewers Are the Best Thing to Hit My Air Fryer in a Long Time

The secret? A special add-in, included in every bag.

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July 25, 2022

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Photo by: WONHO LEE


If you’re anything like me your freezer is always stocked with a few ready-to-cook items, just waiting to swoop in and save dinner or snack time — think frozen pizza or pierogies. And, while I can’t deny they’re helpful in a pinch, I rarely, if ever, look back on these foods with any real sense of longing.

The one exception? Anything ordered from Xiao Chi Jie (or XCJ, for short). I was first introduced to this brand (co-founded by a second-generation, Chinese American, husband-and-wife duo) back in 2021 shortly after they started shipping what can only be described as the absolute best frozen xiao long bao. Every time I would steam a batch of their handmade dumplings I would find myself dreaming of the next time I would get to eat them.

So, you can imagine my excitement when XCJ launched their second product: a line of frozen shāo kǎo. Pre-marinated, ready-to-cook Chinese BBQ skewers in beef, chicken or lamb — that taste just like the ones sold in night markets all across China? Sign me up.

I’ll be honest with you, I never doubted that these skewers would be good.They’re made with top-notch ingredients and feature a traditional blend of smoky spices like cumin, white peppercorn and Chinese five spice. Plus, they have the added touch of being handcrafted by a team that is obsessively dedicated to quality — and on a mission to showcase the depth and diversity of Chinese cuisine.

What I didn’t realize, though, was just how far over the top they could go in terms of deliciousness, thanks to what I like to think of as their ‘secret ingredient’.

Every bag includes a jar of XCJ’s signature shāo kǎo spice blend, which you sprinkle over the skewers as they cook. If you’re worried about gilding the lily, don’t be. The mix of red chile peppers, sugar and spices only intensifies the sweet-heat of the marinade. And, the act of sprinkling the spice blend on halfway through the cooking process will remind you that these aren’t your average frozen skewers; they’re handmade with care and without cutting any corners.

You can’t go wrong with any of the options (just ask my husband or 12-year-old daughter — I had to cut the last skewer in half so that they could share!) but if you’re having trouble choosing, opt for the variety bag that includes all three. The skewers come vacuum-sealed in packs of two which will help each type maintain its distinct flavor. They’ll be shipped right to your door, packaged carefully so they’re still frozen when they arrive. Whether you cook these in your air fryer (I used an air fryer toaster oven) for a quick main or throw them on the grill for extra smokiness, you’ll find that they’re the best thing you’ve cooked in a long time — and quite possibly one the easiest, too!

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