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Our South African barbecue, a way of life

The South African barbecue or "braai" has become one of the country’s greatest outdoor eating pleasures, enjoyed by all the cultures in South Africa.


The word "braai", an abbreviation of the word "braaivleis", is the Afrikaans word for barbecue.

It has been adopted by English-speaking South Africans. Like the word "barbecue", the word "braai" is a noun and a verb.

As a noun, it refers to the grill itself and as a verb you would "braai some steak" or hold a "braai".

South Africans won't easily let anything get in the way of a good "braai", not even the weather.

Come rain or sunshine ( fortunately it’s mostly sunshine), they just love it. For us a "braai" is much more then justa way of cooking, it has become a way of life.

Find out more about one of our greatest outdoor eating pleasures.


Sunset family braai on the beach - South African barbecue tips and ideas
Sunset family "braai" on the beach - South African barbecue tips and ideas


A way of life,...

It’s rare to see a "braai" with just a few people attending. When there is a "braai", it's a social happening and South Africans, hospitable by nature as they are, are keen to invite anybody and everybody to make it a real occasion.

It's difficult to determine how and when the South African barbecue or "braai" culture originated. There wasn't much choice for the Khoi people, the Bantu people and later the Voortrekkers with their nomadic lifestyles but to cook and grill over open fires.

Family
South Africans take their braai very seriously - South African barbecue tips and ideas

With time the smoky aroma of sizzling meat cooked over an open fire in South Africa's lovely sunshine weather, has become one of the country's greatest outdoor eating pleasures, enjoyed by all the cultures in South Africa. In the past "braaivleis" (barbecued meat) meant just that, grilled meat served with "mieliepap"(maize meal porridge).

Today however it has become part of everybody's lifestyle and also more sophisticated with marinated steaks, lamb and pork chops, spicy "boerewors" (farmers sausage), tasty spareribs, venison and kebabs. Side dishes include "mieliepap", a variety of fresh salads, pot bread, herbed bread, grilled mushrooms and vegetable stir-fries.

Sitting around the fire after the braai - South African barbecue tips and ideas
Sitting around the fire after the “braai” - South African barbecue tips and ideas
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Make sure that the meat for the "braai" is of good quality, preferably from a youngish well-fed animal. Steaks should be well ripened to ensure tenderness and improved flavour. To prevent curling during cooking, you should remove the outer edges of fat from the chops. Lamb has always been the most popular meat for a "braai" because it’s tender and succulent.

Pork has grown in popularity and is very tasty with a barbecue sauce. But the meat most favourite and ubiquitous at every South African barbecue (braai) is of course the country's famous "boerewors" (farmers sausage). A legacy of the early German settlers, it is a must at any "braai". It's quite fat and made of coarsely minced beef and pork, spiced with mainly coriander and often also clover and nutmeg.

The “braai” is a perfect opportunity for a relaxed social get together - South African barbecue tips and ideas
The "braai" is a perfect opportunity for a relaxed social get together - South African barbecue tips and ideas
copyright © South-Africa-tours-and-travel.com

South Africans take their "braai" very seriously and it has become some kind of an art. The secret is not to be impatient, but to wait until a good bed of coals has formed with no tongues of flame that can singe and spoil the meat.

To achieve perfect coals, seasoned experts use their favourite wood such as camel thorn, vine stumps, "rooikrans", myrtle, leadwood and umbrella thorn. Charcoal has the convenience of being widely available while it produces good heat. However once glowing, they should not be disturbed.

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General barbecue (braai) tips,...

South Africans regard themselves as seasoned experts when it comes to "braaiing" (barbecuing) and they all seem to have their own ways and methods of producing a nice "braai". Below are a collection of tips and hints to help you enjoy your "braai" the South African barbecue way.

The braai is a perfect opportunity for a relaxed social get together - South African barbecue tips and ideas
The correct utensils are essential for a successful "braai" - South African barbecue tips and ideas

  • The correct utensils are essential. Tongs should be used to turn the meat, to avoid piercing the surface and causing the meat to loose moisture. Long-handled tongs are best to avoid singed fingers.
  • A cooking area of about 45cm will be enough to cook food for eight people. Always make sure that the cooking area is large enough to comfortably move the meat around from high to low heat and vice versa.
  • Not all cuts of beef, lamb and pork are suitable for "braaiing". Make sure that you use tender and ripened meat, or alternatively, marinate the meat to tenderise.
  • Most meats and steaks in particular, should begin cooking on the hottest part of the fire to seal the surface and keep the juices inside and then be moved to a cooler area to finish cooking.
  • The thickness of the meat is what determines its cooking time. Small, thin cuts require a shorter cooking time.
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Tips for using a charcoal fire,...
Barbecuing on a charcoal fire - South African barbecue tips and ideas
Barbecuing on a charcoal fire - South African barbecue tips and ideas

  • Stack the coals in a pyramid shape pile to allow air to circulate. Put two or three lighters under the outer edges of the pile, the fire will then spread evenly from the outside to the centre and top of the pyramid. Just before cooking, use tongs to flatten slightly to distribute the heat evenly.
  • After lighting the coals, they should burn slowly until the flames have died down and they are glowing red and covered with a layer of ash. This can take at least 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  • If you can keep your hand three inches away above the cooking grill for ten seconds, the fire is ready on medium heat. Above ten seconds the heat gets too low, below ten seconds the heat is high.
  • To vary the cooking heat, adjust the distance of the grid from the coals.
  • If you lose heat on a "braai", add more coals around the outer edge and gradually move them into the centre of the fire as they catch alight.
  • Fire lighters must be allowed to burn out before adding food, or the food will taste of paraffin and will need to be discarded.
  • If the braai has lost too much heat, remove all the food, add a few more coals, evenly spread and allow them to burn for a minimum of 10 minutes before returning the food to the grill.
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Tips for using a wood fire,...

Great coals from a wood fire, almost ready for the braai - South African barbecue tips and ideas
Great coals from a wood fire, just about ready for the "braai" - South African barbecue tips and ideas

  • When selecting wood for our South Afrcan barbecue (braai) fires, camel thorn, umbrella thorn, rooikrans, mopani, myrtle and leadwood are usually preferred if available, because they burn cleanly, producing coals that will last long, while the smell of the wood adds to the ambiance.
  • Stack a few pieces of wood in a triangular fashion to allow air to circulate. Put lighters underneath to start the fire. Once the few pieces of wood are burning well, additional pieces can be added if necessary.
  • Don’t add too much wood in the initial stages, because otherwise the air might not circulate sufficiently and the fire might die.
  • When the wood has finished burning, which will take considerably longer then with charcoal, spread out the coals to form a nice even bed.
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Cooking times guideline,...

One can almost smell the aroma of these sizzling kebabs - South African barbecue tips and ideas
One can almost smell the aroma of these sizzling kebabs - South African barbecue tips and ideas

When it comes to cooking on a braai, the simplest method and ingredients often create the best end result. There is nothing more disappointing than over- or underdone meat, so the key is to ensure a delicious outer layer with a juicy inside and depending on your choice either rare, medium or well-done

The cooking times below are just a guideline, as it will depend on the thickness of the cut and personal preference.

Beef Steak

When you have gained a little South African barbecue (braai) experience cooking over coals, a good way to check how well a beef steak is cooked, is with the thumb test, using your own hand as a guide.

  • The thumb test for rare-cooked beef steaks: Place your thumb and first finger together (do not squeeze and keep your hand relaxed). Feel the pad of your hand just below your thumb. It should be quite soft. If the meat feels the same, it will be underdone to rare. Cooking time: about 5 to 7 minutes


  • The thumb test for medium-cooked beef steaks: Place your thumb and second finger together (do not squeeze and keep your hand relaxed). Feel the pad of your hand just below your thumb. It should be firmish. If the meat feels the same, it will be medium cooked. Cooking time: about 7 to 10 minutes
What do you think - medium to rare? - South African barbecue tips and ideas
What do you think - medium to rare? - South African barbecue tips and ideas

  • The thumb test for well-done beef steaks:
  • Place your thumb and ring finger together (do not squeeze and keep your hand relaxed). Feel the pad of your hand just below your thumb. It should be quite firm. If the meat feels the same, it will be well done. Cooking time: about 10 to 12 minutes
Hamburgers

About 12 to 14 minutes total cooking time, depending on the thickness, turning regularly.

Beef Kebabs

About 15 to 18 minutes total cooking time, turning regularly.

Boerewors

About 15 to 20 minutes, turning regularly.

Boerewors (farmers sausage), everyone’s favourite a must at every South African braai - South African barbecue tips and ideas
"Boerewors" (farmers sausage), everyone's favourite and a must at every South African "braai" - South African barbecue tips and ideas

Lamb Chops

About 12 to 14 minutes total cooking time.

Lamb Kebabs

About 15 minutes total cooking time, turning often.

Whole Fish

7 to 9 minutes per 500g (if wrapped in foil, add 20% more cooking time and it's a good idea to remove the fish from the foil and cook over the coals for the last 5 minutes for a smoky flavour).

Fish Kebabs

About 15 minutes total cooking time, turning regularly.

Pork Kebabs

About 15 to 20 minutes total cooking time, turning regularly.

Pork Spare Ribs

About 30 minutes total cooking time, turning regularly.

Chicken-breast fillets

About 15 minutes total cooking time, turning once.

Chicken portions on the bone

About 20 minutes total cooking time, turning regularly.

Delicious Sosaties - South African barbecue tips and ideas
Delicious Sosaties - South African barbecue tips and ideas

Bread rolls

While it is possible to cook breads and rolls from dough on the braai, it is essential that you do this in a kettle braai or in a container such as a cast-iron container with a lid, which ten acts as an oven. Bread rolls can be cooked directly on the oiled grid, but should not be placed over very hot coals. Rather spread them evenly around the outer edge of the fire. Prepared filled breads can be wrapped in foil and heated on the braai grid.

Vegetables

On a South African barbecue we prefer to "braai" only firm vegetables such as potatoes, butternut and pumpkin. These can be simply prepared with a knob of butter and seasoning or stuffed to your liking, but they should be well wrapped in foil. Cooking time will vary according to the size of the vegetable, but, generally, allow at least 45 minutes to an hour. Sweet corn is delicious, grilled directly on the grid over the coals and shouldn't take more than 15 minutes, turning regularly.

Mielies (maize cobs) grilled directly on the grill over the coals are a delicacy not to be missed - South African barbecue tips and ideas
"Mielies (maize cobs) grilled directly on the grill over the coals are a delicacy not to be missed - South African barbecue tips and ideas






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