How to Braai – a visual guide

Rory Braai Dec 2008 065The braai is probably one of South Africa’s most traditional meals. It is practised by all cultures in South Africa, and as often as possible! Probably the only thing that will prevent a South African from having a braai is a rugby game, in which case they will probably simply braai before or after the game!

If you drive through any suburb in South Africa on a summer weekend, you will smell the delicious smell of grilling meat.

Braaing is a very casual and social affair, but there it is taken quite seriously by the cook. You simply NEVER interfere with somebody else’s braai without asking them very politely first (even if the meat is burning!)

So, what exactly is a braai?

Very simple really, it is a South African BBQ. However, it is almost always cooked on wood or charcoal – very seldom on gas. A braai will typically consist of one or more of the following:

  • lamb cutlets (chops)
  • sausage (boere wors – literally farm sausage made from beef)
  • traditional pork sausages
  • beef steak
  • chicken pieces or kebabs
  • beef or pork ribs

Let’s get going

You will need a braai (in which to make the fire). Many public picnic sites have brick braai’s available, or a Weber will do. You will also need wood or charcoal – we often buy “brikettes”, which are small round compressed pieces of charcoal.

Blitz, which is a paraffin-based firelighter, helps to get the fire going, but if you are a boy scout, matches and an axe will do!

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Put a few pieces of the blitz (firelighter) onto the grid
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Light the blitz. and give the coals a few minutes to start burning. Note that with the braai, you will always use “direct heat”.
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Lighting the wood fire
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Some nice coals starting to burn – it should take about 40 minutes to get good coals.
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While waiting for the wood to burn, cook some garlic bread on the fire.
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Garlic bread ready to eat – yummy!
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From top to bottom – wors (beef sausage), chicken, and chicken kebabs in the front. You can also see some ostrich kebabs at the top on the far right.
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Braaing is thirsty work – you will need plenty of liquid refreshments
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When you can hold your hand above the grid for three seconds, you are ready to cook. Put the meat onto the grid, turning every few minutes or so.
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Looking good – almost ready to eat.
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After about two beers (40 minutes or so), you are ready to eat, so dig in!
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Ready to eat – looks great, doesn’t it?
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After a good braai, the plates will be empty!
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One more think, we often have “bring and braai’s”, in which the host supplies the fire, rolls and salads, and the guests all bring their own meat and drinks. Simple and easy.


  1. Craig Strachan said:

    Yes, you cannot miss the smell and taste of a good braai :-)

    December 22, 2008
  2. Sally said:

    Hey gas braais are also good – and seriously convenient when you have kids and limited time (and great for last minute, hubby just home from work, let’s braai nights!). And gas braais are also great for fancier cuts, like beef fillets (pronounced fillay!) and rolled pork, butterflied chicken etc.

    December 23, 2008
  3. Craig Strachan said:

    Yes, gas is good, really convenient and great when you are in a hurry. However, nothing beats the smell of a wood fire.

    December 23, 2008
  4. Adrian said:

    ja, the firelighters are ok, but try a half-packet of pine cones. they are natural firelighters. just a little flame, from a minute piece of white firelighter, will turn the pinecones into a roaring flame in seconds. then you can but the CHAKA on. easy one

    December 23, 2008
  5. Craig said:

    Yes, pine cones are great – they burn like crazy. Also great in an indoor winter fire.

    December 24, 2008
  6. Fabulous views, fragrant fynbos and starry skies: A weekend in the Olifants River mountains, Part II « Grains of Sand said:

    […] As soon as we reached home, we began with our braai. (If you aren’t familiar with this time-honoured South African tradition, then have a read of this amusing and informative Visual Guide: How to braai.) […]

    March 8, 2010

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