5 Steps to Build the Best Braai
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
- Get everything you need to begin the braai building process.
- You’ll need a fire-starter. These days, firelighters are the convenient choice and are widely available. A more traditional approach would be to use tinder (newspaper, small dry bark/sticks).
- Then, get your kindling. It’s larger and more dense than tinder — dry, medium-sized sticks work well. Several sticks that are about the length of your forearm should do the trick.
- Lastly, you’ll need logs of wood — the harder and dryer the better.
- Make sure you also have a pair of tongs and a sharp knife. No braai master can go without them!
Step 2: Start the Fire
- Place half of your kindling in the centre of the braai area so that it looks like a mini bonfire. Light your tinder (or fire lighter) and place it on the kindling. Then, put the other half of the kindling on top of the flame caused by the tinder.
- Once a small fire is crackling away nicely, place your bigger logs around the kindling so that they form a small square tower. You do this by laying two pieces down on either side of the kindle, parallel to one another. Then you place two more pieces of wood on top, but perpendicular this time.
- Build three or four layers like this and your perfect braai is well underway!
Step 3: Maintain the Flame
- This is arguably the most important part of the fire-building process and the fire needs to be watched intently. Make sure the fire is burning nicely and has enough space to breath. Stack too many pieces of wood and you’ll suffocate the fire. Place too few and it will die.
- You’ll know a healthy fire when you see it. The flames should rise to about the height of the logs that you are using, but there is no set rule here.
- The ultimate technique for maintaining a great fire is to create feeding systems. Build your fire on one side and when the coals form, pull them over to the area you want to cook. Keep adding logs to the main fire — this will create a constant supply of coals to keep the cooking area of the braai at the perfect temperature for grilling meat.
Step 4: Place the Meat
- A fire can take anything from 30 minutes to two hours until it’s at the correct temperature to braai. Braaing on open flames is not advised because the meat will burn. Wait for a bed of hot coals to form and distribute them evenly around the area that you’re going to place your meat.
- Hold your open hand a few centimetres above the grill to determine when to put the meat on. If you can keep your hand there for five seconds, you can put your steak on. Seven or eight seconds means you’re ready for boerewors and 10 seconds for chicken.
- When it comes to flipping meat, less is usually more. Over-flipping causes the juices to be lost to evaporation, making the meat hard and dry. The exception is boerewors, which contains plenty fat and moisture, and cooks more evenly when flipped often.
- As a general rule, you should flip the meat when blood and juices appear.
Step 5: Enjoy!
Now you’re ready to put your meat on the plate, grab another drink and enjoy the awesome occasion of a South African braai!