Braai is an outdoor cooking based social custom originating with Afrikaner people but has been adopted by South Africans of many ethnic backgrounds.
The word ‘Braaivleis’ is Afrikaans for Roasted Meat. The word ‘Braai’ is Afrikaans for Barbecue or Roast.
Wood is formerly the most widely used Braai fuel however, in modern times the use of charcoal has increased due to its convenience. For the most authentic method, wood is recommended. It is largely uncommon that any gas would be used in this process as an open flame is traditionally used. Once there are enough hot coals, a grill is placed over the top and the meat is barbecued to perfection on the grill. Even once the food has been cooked, the fire is fed throughout the braai, as the social centrepiece of the event. Typically no firelighters are used in order to create the fire, Kindling and smaller pieces of wood are used to start up the fire and fuel the logs used for cooking the food.
Longer burning Hardwoods are used in order to give good heat over a longer period of time however different woods will achieve a variation in aroma and flavour. To replicate this in modern scenarios where different wood cannot be sourced, smoking chips can be used.
The “Bring & Braai” is a grand social event whilst remaining casual and laid-back. Family and Friends will come together, bringing a variety of meats, salad or side dishes. In this type of Braai the host usually supplies the fire and the guest supplies the food.
The ‘Chop & Dop’ is a more casual event where guests will provide meat and drinks whilst the host provides the fire and some side dishes.
Meat is the main star of the South African Braai. Typical used meats are boerewors, kebabs, pork, steaks, marinated chicken and lamb. All ranging in flavours and thicknesses. Fish and Crayfish are also popular. The other main part of the meal is Pap or Krummelpap meaning ‘porridge’ or ‘crumb porridge’.
Meat is usually prepared using either pineapple juice or balsamic vinegar as an acidic base to soften and tenderise the meat by breaking down the meat’s structure. This helps with the open fire cooking process. The meat shouldnt be left sitting in the liquid for too long as it may cure the meat changing the entire flavour.
Add spices to your flavour preferences based on the meat being used, ensuring both sides have been coated and rubbed in with your hands to penetrate the meat.
To check the grill is hot enough, wait until the fire has formed coals, place an open hand, palm down about an inch or two above the grill. It should become uncomfortably hot within 5 to 8 seconds. Your grill is ready for Braai.
Just before placing the meat on the hot grill, sprinkle a few drops of Olive oil over the meat. This will help make the meat taste develop. It will also briefly cause the coals to flame up, hitting temperatures of above 150 degrees celsius for around 10 to 30 seconds. This will sear the meat and seal the juices inside.