How to braai the perfect mielie

Posted on 19 July 2021

You’ve been braaiing mielies wrong your entire life. But luckily, Reuben Riffel is here to tell you how to do it right, with an excerpt from his book, Reuben on Fire.

Photo by Craig Fraser.

Photo by Craig Fraser

From the master himself:

The following statement is sacrilegious, I know, but I’m going to say it anyway. I think putting mielies directly on a braai actually dries them out. There, I said it, but it’s true and I can back it up. When you braai directly over coals, the juices in the mielie kernels heat up and they sort of implode, leaving you with a husk that only carries the memory of flavour. Even though you get the nice smoky flavour of a braai, the vital juiciness of the mielie dripped out onto the coals.

This dish goes some way toward getting the best of both worlds by retaining that crisp element and the smokiness you want as well as maintaining juicy mielie kernels. It originated from a Mexican restaurant in Cape Town called El Burro (which means The Donkey in Spanish) and decided to recreate it on the braai.

The trick is simply to coat the mielies in béchamel and smoked paprika before whacking them on the braai where the béchamel dries on the mielie. The bready pastry-like layer of the béchamel catches the mielie juices if the kernels burst, like a protective paste that also acts as a vehicle for flavours. Classic stuff, like béchamel, developed a bit of a bad rep as it was used to save money by stretching sauce, but it can be used very successfully in dishes like this. Béchamel should not be discarded because it’s old school. If we did that, then Hugh Bladen would have been out of a job years ago.

Reuben Riffel’s ‘The Donkey’s Mielies’

Serves 8


  • 8 medium-sized corn on the cob, cleaned
  • 4 pinches sea salt
  • 100g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika

For the béchamel sauce

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp nutmeg, grated
  • ½ cup cake flour
  • 500ml warm milk

Cooking method

  1. To make the béchamel sauce, melt the butter and lightly fry the garlic, smoked paprika and nutmeg. Add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon. Slowly start adding the milk bit by bit, whisking continuously with a balloon whisk – the sauce will start to boil. Keep whisking over medium heat for five to seven minutes.
  2. Place the corn on a grid over medium-high heat until it starts to darken and crisp on the outside and the kernels are soft. Season with salt.
  3. Dunk the corn in béchamel sauce and place back on the grid. Grill all sides.
  4. Top the corn with cheese. Wait until it’s melted, sprinkle with smoked paprika and serve.


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