8 New Year’s resolutions for braaiers

Posted by Jan Braai on 28 January 2013

Forget typical New Year’s resolutions like fitness, sobriety and giving up smoking. I say we should make more smoke … braai smoke! Here are eight sure-fire ways to get you started.

1. Stock up on wood

As much fun as braaing is, making fires with wet wood isn’t fun at all. (In this context, I’m not talking about damp wood. Wet wood refers to wood that was recently cut, so you can also call it ‘green’ wood.) Last-minute wood shopping at the petrol station frequently results in a wet-wood fire. Buy wood by the bakkie load and leave it somewhere in your garden for a few months; like a good steak, it improves with age.

2. Eat a dry-aged steak

I’m sure many of you have a resolution in some way related to eating less in 2013, so why not start by buying steaks that were properly hung in a cold chamber for at least 21, but preferably 28, days. Sure, the meat will be more expensive than its wet-aged, vacuum-packed supermarket cousins, but the flavour is so much better. Just buy smaller steaks.

3. Learn to braai fish

There is more to braai than steaks, chops and wors. It’s a widely accepted fact that the best way to prepare a fresh fish is to braai it (it’s delicious basted with a little lemon and garlic butter – do this a few times during the braai). Here’s a bonus tip: plan your fish braais for the day before the rubbish removal van comes. Fishy leftovers left to simmer in garbage bags for days is a temptation too big for the neighbourhood cats to ignore.

4. Buy a potjie

Yes, potjies do count as braaing and they vastly increase your repertoire of menu options on the fire. Start by perfecting one iconic dish, such as a chicken curry or lamb-neck potjie.

5. Measure the internal temperature of meat

The single biggest mistake South Africans make when they braai is to overcook meat. As you braai meat, the internal temperature rises and once it reaches a specific internal temperature, it’s fit for consumption. Braaing meat beyond that point means you’re just drying it out and will eat a less juicy and flavourful meal. Use this guide to tell when meat is ready to be served (measured in degrees Celcius): steak (55 to 57), lamb (63), pork (71) and chicken (77).

6. Get new braai tongs

They don’t have to be expensive, just new. I think of braai grids and braai tongs as women think of shoes: you can never have too many. Why bother with old, rusty tongs when you can rock a flashy new pair?

7. Use good-quality salt

It blows my mind when a person is happy to spend his weekly savings on braai meat, but spoils it with cheap salt. Go for high-quality sea-salt flakes. My favourite is the Maldon brand (in the white and green box); this expense is still insignificant compared to the cost of good meat.

8. Find the most scenic public braai spot in your area

A public braai is like the deluxe version of a picnic. Whether it’s in a park, next to a river, at the beach or on the top of a mine dump with a great sunset view of other mine dumps, there are some superb braai areas in South Africa. Use them!

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