The South African Braai (barbeque)

The South African braai can be loosely translated as a barbeque but it is much more than that.  A braai is a South African tradition and is always, a man’s domain.

Braais are not usually done on gas fires.  Wood fires are traditional because the start of the ritual lies in the building of a perfect fire.  No man tolerates another messing with his fire, adding to it or poking around in it.  They each have their own style of making a fire and believe their way is best.

While the Braai Master builds and tenderly cares for his flames, it is customary for him and his buddies to drink beer.  The women meanwhile busy themselves in the kitchen making salads and side dishes.  Usual accompaniments include rich tomato and onion gravy, potato salad, green salad, garlic bread, bread rolls and pap (similar to a polenta, made from corn).  The meat can include steak, lamb chops, chicken portions, ribs, pork rashers, kebabs  and boerewors (a South African specialty sausage for which all butchers have a secret recipe).  Meat preparation also differs from man-to-man.  An assortment of spices and marinades may be used.  Some men like thick steak-cuts and others prefer them thinner.

Snacks are essential and include potato crips, dips, peanuts and biltong (a salted, dried meat similar to jerky but much tastier).

If large quantities of beer are consumed, logs would be added to the fire indefinitely until the kitchen intervenes.

A visitor may ask the Braai Master if he needs help turning the meat but it is generally considered in bad taste.  Unless of course the Braai Master suddenly falls down dead.  Strict etiquette is followed around a braai and all South African men instinctively adhere to it.

Once the all the meat is cooked it is placed on the table with the side dishes and the feast commences.  Most of the time there is way too much and the left-over meats become creative others.  Such as my After-Braai, Stir-Fry.    I simply chop all the left-over meat into small little chunks, give it a quick swish in the pan over high heat with some cream and cayenne pepper and, voilà!  The smoky flavour of the different meats is simply yummy on fresh bread, potatoes, rice or couscous.

If you ever find yourself in South Africa, and you are invited to a braai, do yourself a favour and go.  It is as South African as our sunny skies.


From braaivleis (“grilled meat”), from Afrikaans braai (“to grill”), from Dutch braden (“roast”).



braai (plural braais)

  1. (South Africa) A barbecue, the Afrikaans word for grill.
  2. (South Africa) An open outdoor grill built specifically for the purpose of braaing.
  3. (South Africa) A social meeting, including the braaingof meat.
    Come over to our place for a braai.


braai (third-person singular simple present braais, present participle braaing or braaiing, simple past and past participle braaied)


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