Celeb chefs on the 7 braai mistakes most people make & how to fix them
Reuben Riffel, Justin Bonello and Jan Braai share tips that’ll make you a better braai master
MISTAKE 1: USING TOO MUCH SUGARY MARINADE
That sweet marinade is likely to blame for braaied chicken that’s black on the outside but raw on the inside.
Sugar burns quickly, which is why it’s best to cook chicken to about 90% done before adding any marinade or basting sauce, says Jan Braai, the man behind the National Braai Day initiative.
Reuben Riffel, author of Braai: Reuben on Fire (Quivertree Publications), suggests that you lightly brine chicken rather than marinating it. “You can still add sweetness, but the flavour permeates the meat, rather than sitting on top of it,” he explains.
Another advantage of brining is that it helps to keep the chicken juicy while it’s sizzling over the coals. You can then baste it with your favourite basting sauce towards the end of the cooking time, says Riffel.
MISTAKE 2: BRAAIING MEAT STRAIGHT OUT OF THE FRIDGE
Allowing your meat to warm to room temperature before braaiing it helps it to cook more quickly and evenly. This especially applies to steak, says Riffel.
MISTAKE 3: LETTING THE FIRE DIE OUT
“Most people wonder if their braai coals are hot enough. My answer is simple: if at any stage of the braai you’re wondering if your coals are hot enough, then they’re not hot enough,” says Jan Braai.
“There’s nothing worse than running out of hot coals midway through a braai,” agrees Justin Bonello, host of The Ultimate Braai Master. “Always keep a charcoal kettle on the go. That way you’ll have hot coals on demand.”
MISTAKE 4: BEING OVERLY AMBITIOUS WITH YOUR BRAAI MENU
“I want to eat whatever was braaied as it comes off the braai,” says Riffel. If you feel the same, you’ll need to work out your timings beforehand so that everything will be ready to serve at once. This becomes increasingly tricky if you’re trying to braai too many different things simultaneously.
Riffel makes another practical point: you need to consider the size of your braai grid. “If you need to get all the food done at the same time, you need to make sure you have enough space to finish it all at the same time.”
It’s also essential to have enough hot coals on hand to complete your braai mission — see point three.
MISTAKE 5: PRICKING THE BOEREWORS CASING
A spiral of boerewors can be rather unwieldy to handle with tongs, so it’s tempting to use a fork to turn it, but pricking the sausage casing is a no-no if you want to keep it juicy. That’s why Riffel recommends cooking it in a hinged braai grid instead.
Jan Braai also cautions against manhandling the boerie too much. “Turn your wors just four times,” he says.
MISTAKE 6: DRINKING TOO MUCH WHILE WIELDING THE TONGS
Lay off the strong drinks until you have finished your tong-master duties. “Nobody takes an inebriated braaier seriously,” says Riffel. “Remember, even if it doesn’t look like it, you’re the centre of attention, the main act.”
MISTAKE 7: TRYING TO RUSH THE COOKING PROCESS
“People forget that old and most important braai rule: the longer your friends wait for the food, the better it tastes. A braai is not a race; it’s a social engagement,” says Bonello.