'Ultimate Braai Master' judge Benny Masekwameng's tasty braai tips

The celeb chef shares his plans for his Christmas feast and advice for cooking over the coals this festive season

10 December 2020 - 08:30
Chef Benny Masekwameng is an ambassador for BIC lighters and firelighters.
Chef Benny Masekwameng is an ambassador for BIC lighters and firelighters.
Image: Supplied

This Christmas my family and I have decided not to travel anywhere, so we’ll be home for the holidays.

For Christmas I’ll be making big joints of meat prepared on the coals, like pork belly and beef brisket, rather than individual portions. These cuts take time, so I’m going to cook them long and slow over a low heat for ultimate succulence and tenderness.

I’m happy with a traditional malva pudding for dessert but I’ll be giving it a twist by adding blueberries and serving it with an Amarula custard – simply add a shot or two of the liqueur to ready-made custard after you’ve served the kids. I’ll also be serving the kids' favourite, ice cream.

My favourite meat cuts are almost everything cooked on the braai but pork is a big favourite, along with short rib, rib-eye steak and not forgetting boerewors.

Beyond salt and pepper, my secret to seasoning meat on the braai is to add the heat and unique flavour of Cajun spice and, for the ultimate smokiness, smoked paprika.

Over the festive season buying braai meat in bulk will save you money and time. Apart from the prime cuts like rump and rib-eye, consider some of the cheaper forequarter cuts like chuck and short rib, which can be marinated beforehand to tenderise the meat. Before placing over the coals, wipe off any residual marinade, which can burn easily. Remember, if you’ll be serving the meat with the remaining marinade as a sauce, it is essential to bring it to boil in a pot on the stove for at least five minutes beforehand.

Instead of steaks and chops, think of lighter options like skewered boerewors, seafood, chicken or vegetables that cook quickly on the braai. If you are using wooden skewers, a tip is to soak them in water for 15 minutes beforehand which stops them burning.

My three favourite braai accompaniments are potato salad, coleslaw and my homemade chakalaka (click here for the recipe).

The secret ingredient in chef Benny Masekwameng's chakalaka? A tin of baked beans.
The secret ingredient in chef Benny Masekwameng's chakalaka? A tin of baked beans.
Image: Christoph Hoffman

Meat will cook quicker if you take it out of the fridge an hour before braaing to bring it back to room temperature. Chicken is best kept refrigerated and removed just before cooking.

Take the guesswork out of getting the coals just right for all cuts of meat by dividing them, so that on one side of the braai there are hot coals for quick browning and on the other side coals that are ready for cooking. The coals are ready when they are chalky and grey and take 30-45 minutes to get to this point, so planning is crucial.

When catering for a large crowd, using a gas braai is way easier, as it allows you to control the cooking temperature. It may not be the traditional wood or charcoal, but gas offers the same delicious smoky flavour to the meat.