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A brief braai story

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Being such summer-lovers in South Africa, many of us adore spending quality time with our friends and family in the sunshine, and what better way to celebrate the return of everyone’s favourite time of the year than with a good ol’ braai?

But the modest braai has some not-so-humble beginnings. When you think of all the wonderful times you’ve spent at braais, it is so much more than just a way to cook your meat and mealies. That’s why we thought we’d give it a nod in this month’s blog. Here’s all you ever wanted to know about the braai.

The early days

We’re going way, way back to the time when controlled fires began. Using fire as a means to cook food was a major turning point in human history and, although this is one of the oldest archaeological debates, evidence suggests that our ancestors purposely used fire about a million years ago right here in Swartkrans in the Cradle of Humankind. However, back then, it’s not likely that they were able to yet make fire on their own. Rather, they might have collected burning branches from fires caused by lightning and used this to cook meat and keep predators away.

The braai today

Many anthropologists reason that our ancestors’ brains grew larger due to the greater number of calories that cooked food provides over raw food; braaiing has literally made us who we are today. So it’s no surprise that a braai still forms an integral part of South African social life; it’s not just a way to cook food – it’s in our DNA.

Perfecting the braai

Braaiing is a weighty responsibility, so it’s important to know exactly how to cook all kinds of meat in all kinds of ways to ensure that your guests are satisfied. Here’s a handy guide:

When is the fire ready?  

You can test the heat by holding your hand over the grid before the temperature gets too hot to keep it there. How long you do this for depends on what kind of meat you’re cooking:

  • Steak: 5 seconds
  • Boerewors and chops: 7 seconds
  • Chicken: 10 seconds

Of course, you want everything to be ready at the same time, so put the chicken on the outside of the grill first, then the boerie and chops closer to the centre, and lastly, the steak in the centre.

What should you braai with?

There are a few options on the market; which one you choose depends on how you want your meat to taste, how much money you’re willing to spend, and how long you want to braai for.

  • Gas: To the braai purist, this is a no-no, but it does have its perks. You don’t have to wait long to get it at the right temperature, also making it easy to control, and there isn’t any ash to clean up afterwards. But, you miss out on that delicious, traditional taste that wood imparts.
  • Wood: The ultimate braai material, wood gives food a taste that can’t be replicated with any other material, plus it’s how humans were doing it when braaiing began. The downside, though, is that you need to ensure you select the right kind of wood, otherwise you’re not going to have long-burning embers. It’s also more difficult to control the heat.
  • Briquettes: These are convenient – you can buy them at any local supermarket and they last long, so you don’t need a lot to keep a fire going. The downsides? You’ve got a lot of ash to clean up and it can take a while to get them temperature-ready.
  • Charcoal: If you want that woody flavour without using wood in its natural form, charcoal is for you. It lights quickly and is fairly easy to control the temperature. But, you might need more of it because it burns quicker and it’s more expensive than briquettes.

However you decide to braai, make sure you put safety first –you don’t want to have to put in a claim on your building insurance if your fire goes a little wild.

Have fun

You can perfect your braaiing abilities and claim your place as Braai Master, but the most important part of the braai is to share and enjoy the quality time with your friends and family.

Remember that with Dialdirect’s Household Insurance, your guests’ belongings are covered if they’re stolen while they’re at your house for a braai, so make sure to get Home Contents and House Insurance quotes from us today so you can be covered throughout the year.

 

Information obtained from http://www.ibtimes.com/when-did-man-discover-fire-ancestors-modern-humans-used-fire-350000-years-ago-new-1758607; http://www.braai.co.za/blog/generalbraai/history-and-importance-of-the-first-braai/; http://braai.com/braai-information/historyofbraai/; http://www.capetownmagazine.com/cape-confidential/your-guide-to-becoming-a-braai-master/123_22_19041