How to Conquer the Braai Stand

You can count on South Africans to celebrate their best and most memorable moments by grilling the finest chops and meat cuts on an open flame.

But it's one thing to grill a bit of meat: it's another to be a braai master who perfectly barbecues tables' worth of meat. No matter how skilled you are at braaiing, there's always room to learn more tricks to master the art of open-fire cooking.

Here's how you can get the most out of your fire:

Use Wood or Charcoal

Gas is an easier alternative that has a few benefits over the traditional braai. Gas braais are convenient - one push of a button and fire is instantly ready, but they lack the original smokey smell and flavour that comes from a wood or charcoal fire. Dry braai woods like Sekelbos and Kameeldoring are especially spicy and smokey, which is why they are many people's preferred choice of wood for braais.

Wood and charcoal flames are also less likely to cause a fire. Propane grills are known to explode if the tank overheats or if gas build-ups in and around the grill. Even if you have comprehensive home insurance, you probably don't want to risk an accident.

Don't Flip the Meat Too Many Times

So, you're wearing the classic "Kiss the Cook" apron with side pockets for all your braaiing utensils and spices… There's a table full of hungry guests, and you're the only thing standing between them and a full stomach. The impatient sighs you hear aren't going to make the meat braai faster, but they are going to tempt you to put on a show. So what's likely to happen? You're going to flip the meat more often than necessary to look busy. If you want your meat to be succulent, try not to turn it before the side that's cooking has sealed in all the juices.

Only Start When the Fire Is Ready

How do you know when all your succulent cuts are ready to go on the grill? If you're cooking with coal, wait until they're covered with a white ash layer before you put your cuts and chops on the grill. If your coals are grey, the flame will not be hot enough, and this will cause smoke. In general, the fire is ready when you can hold your hand over it for about 10 seconds.

Braais are a combination of everything South Africans hold dear — good food, drinks, friends and family. While all those elements combine to make a braai enjoyable, everyone can agree that the meat is the best part of the festivities. With the right utensils, herbs and technique, you too can live your way and lay claim to the title of braai master.

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