How to do a South African Barbecue or braai

A close up view of beef spare ribs, sausage and chicken cooking on a open braai or barbecue on a warm summers day
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A braai is a traditional South African style of cooking that is often referred to as a barbecue. It is more than just a cooking method; it is a social gathering and an important part of South African culture. Braaing typically involves grilling meat, but it can also include vegetables, seafood, and even bread.

The braai itself is a grill or a metal grate that is placed over an open flame or hot coals. Traditional braais often use wood or charcoal as the fuel source, as they impart a distinct smoky flavor to the food. However, gas grills are also commonly used for convenience.

Braaing is not just about cooking food; it’s also about creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. It brings friends, family, and communities together. People gather around the braai, sharing stories, laughter, and good company while enjoying the aromas and flavors of the cooking food.

Meat plays a central role in a braai, and popular choices include beef, lamb, chicken, and boerewors (a type of South African sausage). The meat is often marinated or seasoned with spices and herbs to enhance its flavor. It is then placed on the grill and cooked to perfection, often with occasional basting to keep it moist and add extra flavor.

As the meat cooks, it sizzles and releases tantalizing aromas, creating an irresistible allure. The cooking process is typically accompanied by the sound of crackling flames and the occasional turning of the meat. The goal is to achieve a delicious balance between a charred exterior and a tender, juicy interior.

Once the fire is ready and the meat is prepared, it is time to begin the grilling process. The sizzling sound of meat meeting the hot grill is accompanied by enticing aromas that waft through the air, stimulating the senses. Skilled braaiers carefully tend to the meat, expertly turning it with tongs to ensure even cooking and achieve the desired level of doneness.

Braaiing is an art that requires patience and skill. The goal is to achieve a perfect balance between a caramelized, charred exterior and succulent, juicy meat. Basting with marinades or brushing with flavorful sauces during the cooking process adds an extra layer of deliciousness.

As the food cooks, friends, family, and guests gather around the braai, engaging in lively conversations and laughter. It is a time for relaxation, celebration, and connection. In South Africa, the braai is not simply a meal but an occasion to cherish and share with loved ones.

When the food is ready, it is served buffet-style, often on large platters or wooden boards. The tantalizing spread includes the grilled meat, accompanied by an array of side dishes such as salads, bread, roasted vegetables, and condiments. It is customary for everyone to dig in, creating a convivial and communal dining experience.

The essence of a braai lies in its ability to bring people together, fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie. It is a celebration of food, culture, and the joy of sharing a meal in the great outdoors. A braai is not just a culinary event; it is a cherished tradition that reflects the heart and soul of South Africa.


  • 2 pounds (900g) of beef steak (such as sirloin, ribeye, or rump)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • For the marinade:
    • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional, for a spicy kick)
  • For serving:
    • Fresh lemon wedges
    • Chopped fresh parsley or coriander (cilantro)


  1. Start by preparing the marinade. In a bowl, combine the minced garlic, grated ginger, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, brown sugar, lemon juice, paprika, cumin, thyme, oregano, and chili powder (if using). Mix well to combine.
  2. Place the beef steak in a shallow dish or a resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the steak, making sure it is evenly coated. Cover the dish or seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or ideally overnight, to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat.
  3. Preheat your grill or braai to medium-high heat.
  4. Remove the marinated steak from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
  5. Drizzle the steak with olive oil and season with salt and black pepper on both sides.
  6. Place the steak on the preheated grill or braai. Cook for about 4-6 minutes per side, depending on the thickness of the steak and desired doneness. For a medium-rare steak, aim for an internal temperature of 130-135°F (55-57°C).
  7. While cooking, baste the steak with the remaining marinade to enhance the flavors and keep it moist.
  8. Once cooked to your liking, remove the steak from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to redistribute.
  9. Slice the steak against the grain into thin strips.
  10. Serve the sizzling braai steak with fresh lemon wedges and sprinkle with chopped parsley or coriander. You can also serve it with your favorite side dishes like grilled vegetables, potato salad, or coleslaw.
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