What is a braai?

Chicken on the braai

My Dad & Sister 1989

If you are a South African, you definitely know the answer to that question. So what’s a braai I hear you ask?

Braai (short for braaivleis) is Afrikaans meaning a barbecue or picnic where essentially we cook and consume a lot of meat.

Braai = cook. Vleis = meat.

To braai means to grill (mostly meat) over an open fire or coals. South Africans have a strong preference to cook over coals rather than gas barbecues which are more common in Australia.

Braai Food Odyssey

Growing up in Queensland (which has pretty much summer all year round with a few weeks of under 20ºC weather that we refer to as winter) we would braai frequently during the week and have family and friends over most weekends. I don’t know if this has more to do with my South African heritage or the fact that it’s too bloody hot to eat inside during summer.

My childhood is filled with memories of snags (Aussie for sausages) and a never ending bowl of the world’s best potato salad…


At my house, I braai.

Mine, mine, MINE! And no one is quite dumb enough to argue to the point.

Traditionally speaking the man of the house braais.  The braaing (cooking) of the meat is not the prerogative of all the men attending, as one person would normally be in charge. There can be only one! He will attend to the fire, check that the coals are ready, and braai (cook) the meat.

The women are generally in the kitchen preparing (or supervising) the pap and other sides while the blokes are out by the braai drinking beer and basically speaking crap while looking important.

On a side note: unlike Australian culture the braaier doesn’t stand there incessantly poking, turning the meat and generally cremating the meat. The braaier knows how to control the heat and only turns the meat once so it’s cooked to perfection. Charcoal Meat IS NOT perfection, just saying.

Growing up at my dad would braai at our place and at my grandparents place it was my oupa’s braai! The common theme was that they would both be outside with a cold beer in hand ‘supervising’ the other cooking. I was generally in the kitchen with sister helping Mum and Gran. By helping I mean snacking on lunch/dinner for quality control purposes, taking the meat to braai and setting the table.

Gas vs Coals

My BraaiThere is absolutely no contest–coals all the way. It is a bit of a labour of love for great tasting food though.

We own both a gas barbecue and a coals kettle which doubles as a smoker.

What’s on the menu

Check out my braai recipes 🙂