An Introduction to South African Braai with The Braai Man
All forms of BBQ are rising steeply in popularity in the UK, with grilling lovers enjoying experimenting with gas, ceramic and electric BBQs to cook everything from low and slow briskets and rotisserie chickens to weeknight spaghetti dishes and even cakes. So it’s no surprise that South African braai is one of the techniques and traditions that many are keen to explore.
To learn more about what braai means, what you can cook on a braai, and what tools you need, we spoke to The Braai Man, the UK manufacturer of authentic South African Braai. Their braais are outdoor grills built specifically for the purpose of using a variety of cooking techniques to cook delicious feasts over fire.
What is the meaning of braai?
Braai is a BBQ technique that originated in South Africa but is also popular in many other African countries and is now a cooking style enjoyed by BBQ lovers worldwide. Traditionally, the meaning of braai is cooking meat using a wood-fuelled BBQ, not electric or gas. Sometimes charcoal is used for convenience, but wood is more authentic than this. In addition, the word braai can also refer to gathering with friends and family while the BBQ takes place, like a cookout. The purpose of braai is to celebrate special occasions, have fun and unite loved ones by sharing delicious food cooked over fire.
What kind of things can you cook on a braai?
Anything is possible on the braai – soups, stews, curries, pizzas, homemade flatbreads, and so much more, as well as the more traditional BBQ/braai foods. On a braai, you can grill, slow roast (on the higher shelf), or even stew in a pot (known as a ‘potjie’). If Bake Off has inspired you, you can even use the braai for baking bread or cakes!
What accessories would you recommend for using with a braai?
The Rotiseree is probably the most popular accessory that we sell. It enables a great style of roasting where meat is skewered on a spit and slow cooks, which tastes amazing, and it looks the part too!
The Plancha Grill Plate and Kebab Skewer Set are probably the next most popular accessories. No words are needed for the kebab set (it does what it says on the tin!). The grill plate is amazing for pizzas.
Outside of our accessories made specifically for your braai, the other key piece of equipment for any BBQ lover has to be an instant-read thermometer, like the Thermapen. It’s the easiest way to ensure your meat is safe for you and your guests, but also juicy, especially when cooking over fire!
What are some of your favourite braai recipes?
Curry, any curry! And of course, the traditional braai dish South African boerewors.
How do you set up a braai?
Start the fire in the ember box (allow a considerable amount of heat to generate), then shake the box with a poker and allow the embers to fall into the ash pan below. Drag the embers across to the grill and spread appropriately for your ingredients and recipe; you can accumulate more embers for a hotter fire and fewer for a gentle heat.
The grid is best set on the lowest setting for steaks, chops, sausages and chicken pieces etc. Place the grid higher up for roasts, stews, and soups and use a potjie stand for potjie cooking.
For slow cooking, pizzas, bread, potjie meals or smoking, we recommend you cook with the braai doors closed and just keep topping up the ember box with wood every now and then. This allows the greatest sustained generation of heat in the braai, effectively using it as an oven rather than a grill.
What are your favourite woods for braaing with?
Typically, Sekelbos and Kameeldoring wood are the traditional types of South African wood used on the braai. However, any dry, well-seasoned English woods are still fantastic. It's all about having dry wood that creates hot and long-lasting embers to gently cook the food!
If you're looking for a unique and exciting new cooking style to play with, South African braai is just the thing. With endless new possibilities for cooking, embarking on a braai journey will enable you to discover the rich flavours and memorable experiences this cooking technique offers. Happy braai-ing!