Braai Time: The Braai and the tools
Summer is here in South Africa and that can only mean one thing: Braai Time
Cooking over an open fire is the oldest cooking method known to mankind, and is the only method of cooking that actually allows fat to fully release itself from what is being cooked. But braaiing, as opposed to the US or UK Barbecuing, has become a little more sophisticated and perhaps a little easier in the last couple of decades and as we all know the braai is much more than just the fire on which the meat is being cooked.
There are essentially 2 types of braai commonly used in South Africa: the open fire braai with a grid or the kettle braai with a lid. Either braai is suitable but if you want to use real wood it is best advised to use an open braai with a grid. The kettle braai or often called the “Weber” because of one of the best known brands in the industry is a superb way of cooking in a more oven-like way or set and walk away style whereas an open fire braai, that can also be done on a kettle braai, requires the meat of food to be turned more often. The type of braai used often depends on what is being cooked and of course whether the braaier intends to stand, cook and talk around the fire with friends.
Once you have chosen the braai most suited to your needs one needs to consider the equipment needed. Yes a knife and fork can be used but nothing beats a good pair of tongs or better still, ask any braai master, the cat’s claw or pig tail for turning the meat. Manufactured specifically for the purpose of turning meat and braaiing, claws and tongs make the cooks job a great deal easier and safer.
But it is not just turning the meat where tools are needed, to move the coals around a coal scoop or braai rake is essential. Even before the meat is placed on the grid proper braai tools make things easier and top of the list for this is the grid brush that removes all the nasty (some say tasty) bits from the last braai that are stuck to the grid. The tools needed to braai properly are basic but essential.
A decent knife is vital, of course it is used to slice into the cooking meat to see if it is cooked or not and generally, but not always, used to cut off a small piece of the food to test the quality – often a small piece each for all the men standing around the fire. The cooking of the meat and testing is a truly scientific process that any man will struggle to explain to a woman and having all the right tools to braai with is essential.
Making sure all the right braai equipment is used is almost as important as having a decent fire around which the entire world’s problems are solved but no matter what a braai is the time and place good friends gather. Enjoy your braais this summer and bon appetite in advance!