Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

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Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by DinkyBird »

No visit to a SANPark is complete without a decent BRAAI, not forgetting all the essential trimmings.

Now, we South Africans at least know what a Braai is - this way of cooking a meal transcends all cultures in the country. But what if you are a first time visitor to the country and our National Parks; or a local amateur who only just knows what a Braai is - you sommer light a fire, and cook something over it - while the Braai Buff watching cringes at the lack of respect for the sacred process and itches to get involved to show us the correct way to Braai.

The Virtual Region of the SANParks Honorary Rangers have decided it is time to give all our Online Braai Buffs a chance to share their expertise, (and secrets) with the rest of us mere culinary mortals. And by taking part in this online project, give their permission for the VHRs to use their trade secrets to compile an eBook (with credits) for all visitors to SANParks to use to ensure they make the perfect Braai!

The primary objective of this project is to build Online community spirit, provide an enhanced traditional gastronomic experience when visiting our National Parks, and if we get it right, and our eBook becomes extremely popular, hopefully we can raise some funds for the SANParks Honorary Rangers.

So, we need to start right at the very beginning – which is?

Step 1. Buying a box of matches?

What is your Step One when you are going to Braai?

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Re: Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by Cantona »

What a great idea to raise funds DinkyBird :thumbs_up:
Our first step is to pack the wood.
We personally prefer a wood braai (using responsibly obtained wood - no borers or illegally gathered pieces - different topic) so I think packing the wood pieces properly is essential for getting nice flames and an even burn. If there is proper ventilation between the pieces you won't smoke out the neighbours :lol: Don't overdo the firelighters otherwise the fire will burn too fast and there will be an overpowering "paraffin" smell.
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Re: Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by Hugh »

Not a Braai buff at all but I have a SO who comes from Scottish stock sooooooo Is on the miserly side . He thinks he can make up a fire with max 7 brickets and a fire lighter .. It works and we can put the meat on very quickly But oh those blazing comforting fires that the experts make..and they sit around chatting with an iced Can in their hands.!!
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Re: Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by colbol »

Braai's Braai's and more Braai's - the more you try and perfect them - the more you change them !!

So - keep it simple (-easy to say and do -until braai chef has an extra beer or wine !!)

Experimenting is fun if you have the same fuel everytime -but can be frustraring trying to get the heat right if wood or charcoal is not the same as last time .

Sooo
My #1 is know your cooking fuel and plan how long to get hot clean coals .?
So have a beer or a wine (or what ever appeals) and experiment to learn how it works ?
Main reason for a braai is to relax with family/friends and -feed the body and soul :D

Cheers Colbol
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Re: Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by George_Brits »

My fail safe method is always:

1.Always but always buy dry wood for your braai fire. Wet or newly cut wood is still green on the inside and won't burn properly.
2. Pack 2 pieces of wood parallel to each other with the firelighters in the middle, then stack the pieces like a HASH sign on top of each other.
3. Time to light those firelighters.
4. See that you have a good quality burn, well one can sometime do the obscene thing and throw some briquettes in the centre, if the wood is a little on the wet side.
5. Leave the fire now alone to sort itself out.
6. Pour yourself a beverage of your choice and take a sip while you scan the horizon and appreciate the nods and congratulations on a job well done by your wife/husband/SO/travel partner/fellow visitors.
7. Spread the coals
8. Braai
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Re: Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by Goggo EJ »

My number one requirement?

Make sure you have a companion who knows what they are doing and sit back and stupervise!

Actually I did manage to get a good fire going one evening by using nothing but some dry leaves and few bits of kindling and then ordinary packet firewood.....and only one match! George's packing method above works well as it lets in good air flow to the flames.
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Re: Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by salamanda »

Hmmmnn. Don't think I'll confess to what we do after reading all these expert suggestions. In the old days I always made a fire using twisted newspaper, dry, tented kindling, dry wood a candle and a couple of matches (one for the candle :lol: ). Now . . . . :roll:
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Re: Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by Elsa »

And after one has made that perfect braai and finished cooking, adding a bit more wood and it becomes the perfect "Bush TV" 8)
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Re: Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by okie »

Interesting thread . As rightly implied , to braai , is a serious Saffie pastime , and as such not to be taken lightly :) .
Now , way , way back , dating back to when I was a youngster , my mother used to cook the most sumptuous meals for Sunday lunch , and for a long time , after we got married some 51 years ago , that Sunday lunch tradition was continued :) .
Braaiing was done on Saturday afternoons and evenings , often just us , my wife , plus children , but , of course also together with extended family , friends and so on . It was a way of life .........
And usually , the meat consisted of boerewors , plus mutton chops ( not lamb chops ) , accompanied by “ krummelpap “ , and other goodies , etc .
Nobody ever braaied chicken :shock: .
Chicken in those days were mostly sort of dual purpose ; the hens laid eggs , and the cockerels were raised for meat . Tough meat , and was usually roasted , and usually formed part of Sunday lunch . But a braai with chicken as the centre dish :doh:
No such thing as specially bred broiler chickens . In fact , the broiler industry only really became serious in the mid 1970’s or so .
So , it was with some surprise and trepidation , when one day , my then fiancée and I received an invitation to a chicken braai .
Hmmm….. who had ever heard of braaing chicken , but , oh boy , what a surprise :roll: . This was certainly the tastiest chicken we had ever eaten , and almost was the cause for our regular Sunday to be spoiled for a long time afterwards :evil: .
Today , of course , chicken is one of the largest agricultural products , but I do know some guys who still only prefer eating red meat , and they will only consider eating chicken as a side-dish ....... in the place of vegetables :doh: .

So , back to braaiing . After our children left the family home , the braai became more personal , and something mainly shared between me and my wife – usually every weekend , at least once per week during winter and more often during summer :dance: .
Now , I do not profess to be an expert at braaing , or any other cooking for that matter . I love food , and I love making food , and experimenting with various things – maybe a result after retiring a few years ago from about 40 years in the food and fruit processing industry ……. :whistle:
And maybe why I find it so interesting , even fascinating to see , and learn how other people prepare , cook , braai , barbecue , smoke , their food , and so on .

More to follow ........ :)
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Re: Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by arks »

Elsa wrote:And after one has made that perfect braai and finished cooking, adding a bit more wood and it becomes the perfect "Bush TV" 8)

Absolutely! I will often make myself a nice fire even when I have no plans to braai ... and then just sit back with my glass of wine and enjoy the sounds of evening in the bush :popcorn: :dance:
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Re: Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by okie »

.....Continuing .......


The topic of this thread poses the question of how to make to perfect braai .

Hmmmm……. IMO there is just no such thing as the perfect braai ; everyone has a different way of doing it , and basically all have only one thing in common , namely on open fire on which food is cooked :roll: .
At Keurboschstrand on the Southern Cape coast , we were camping next to a guy who appeared to have forgotten to bring along any fire wood to braai with , so he gathered armfuls twigs and small sticks . It burnt with a big woosh of flame, and he hardly had time to warm his choppy before the fire died down completely :cry: .
And then , once , we were invited to a braai by my wife’s cousin and when we arrived , he had a huge fire going in a half-drum :doh: . The heat was so intense , we could not get closer than about ten meters from it . Eventually , when the flames had died down somewhat , the cousin approached the cauldron , and laid the meat on it , and with beer in one hand and fork in the other , he commenced “ braaiing “ . He had previously worked in a steakhouse , and in typical steakhouse manner , he flipped the meat , from one side of the braai-grid to the other , and back again :shock: .
And every now and then , with sweat pouring off him , first taking a hit from the bottle , and then dowsing the flames with beer , and , enshrouded by smoke and billowing steam , he continued to ….. flip flip flip flip , shhhhhhhhhh…. Flip flip flip flip flip flip , shhhhhhhhhh…..flip flip flip shhhhhh….. and so on…… :wall: .
In Albuquerque , New Mexico , in the USA , we attended a barbecue . On the one side they had a covered pit in the ground in which was cooking the side of an cow , and on the other side a big black contraption in which they were smoking legs of turkey . We joined the queue , and after about 40 minutes waiting , we eventually ended up sitting on a side-bench , each of us with a huge turkey leg in hand , cooked to perfection . I was so impressed by this , that when I got home , I made myself an American-style smoker using a 200 liter drum , and we used to have great Sunday “ braais “ for some time to come :D .
The wood used for braaiing varies , and usually are based on preference , but more often really on availability . City folks quite often use charcoal , being easily bought even from corner shops , and also being fairly easy to use , and , important in urban environment , relatively smokeless .
But , to me , charcoal is without character , does not impart any flavour to the food , and besides , IMO , the making of charcoal is not necessarily environmentally friendly or sustainable . It needs a lot of heat energy to make charcoal . In fact you burn about 3 time the amount of biomass than the amount of charcoal that you obtain . Think of de-forestation . It then gives off a lot of smoke giving off carbon gases , etc , polluting the atmosphere , and in addition , those gases and smoke also cause various health issues :cry: .
In South Africa , we swear by Camelthorn wood ---- Camelthorn is a protected tree – but also anything that makes a nice , sustainable coal on which to braai your meat .
Here in the Western Cape , Rooikrans – Acacia cyclops , an Australian invasion species , is used extensively . It was introduced in the 1850’s , in order to vegetate sanddunes , but the problem is , that it literally spreads like wild-fire :shock: . It drops a lot of leaves that dries under it , and every year makes lots of hard seeds . In dry summer conditions , it burns fiercely , and the high heat during fires , make it easier for seeds to germinated afterwards .But the wood , makes great coals , and is great for braaing :) .
Now , the grape vine has more use than just the making of wine … :dance:

In France , I have seen that dried vine prunings tied into small , tight bundles , and then used for barbecuing . It burns well , but does not leave much of a coal , although , it imparts a great flavour to the food .

And here , in the Cape Winelands too , not only is the fruit of the grape put to good use , but also the vines itself . Winefarmers periodically have to replace old unproductive wines , and then those old “ wingerd stompies “ , are sawn- or chopped up , and used for making fires and for braais . It makes a good coal , and even then , still imparts some flavour to the meat :) .
So , every year , whenever we visit Kruger , we bring with us our own special firewood , our “ wingerd stompies “ , and of course , a carton or so of red wine .
And when you see us somewhere , an old guy and his wife , sitting there next to a stompie braai , with a glass of red Cape wine in hand , then you will know , we are surely enjoying the perfect braai :D .
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Re: Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by Grantmissy »

Thanks DB and all the contributors for a most interesting topic, the favourite of many - A Perfect Sanparks Braai :D I would say that a relaxed atmosphere and good company are priority for a best braai.

Okie I am enjoying your writings on the perfect Braai :clap: :clap: :clap: :thumbs_up:
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Re: Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by colbol »

We camped at Balule one time and at braai time I lit our braai with a -firelighter and hardwood, sat back with a drink and enjoyed the mesmerising flames coupled with the sounds of Africa to accompany us- bliss :D
Our young neighbour from the Cape region was having an awful time trying to get his fire started, there where many matches being used - a lot of puffing and blowing, which would produce a small flame then a lot more smoke and so on it went . :roll:
So I eventually offered him our firelighters and some wood :)
His reply -"ahh thanks but no - I am making my braai using this elephant dung and matches only it can be done apparently " :lol: :lol:
He did perservere for a long time , but he had cold meat and a beer in the end .
At least he tried :clap:
:D
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Re: Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by Grantmissy »

Colbol at least your neighbour did not go the bed hungry :lol: Thank you for sharing your Kruger Park story :thumbs_up: Whether elephant dung is a good way to start a braai fire I do not know :D
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Re: Just how does one make the perfect SANParks Braai?

Unread post by okie »

Elephant dung :oops: Now where did he pick it up :shock:
When I was a kid , we used to make fire in our woodstove from cow-dung , and therefore buffalo-pats should work very well -- but for a braai :hmz: :hmz: :hmz:

Just shows you all the different ways people try to cook their food .
Why , on TV you even see some of them ambling around naked in the bush for 3 weeks , trying to make a fire by rubbing two sticks together , and then toughing it out on eating a couple charred pieces snake meat :roll:
You get all sorts in the bush :lol:
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