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How to choose the perfect braai

Selecting a suitable braai involves taking into account various factors. Malcolm Sims, managing director of Infiniti Fires, presents his top tips for picking the right braai that aligns with your lifestyle.

Location and size

Selecting the right location for your braai can be intricate, considering your home’s layout. The ideal spot allows for braaing regardless of weather conditions, and a covered patio with seating area suits this purpose. Braaing is not just cooking but also a social activity, so wind and smoke extraction need attention, impacting your braai choice.

For outdoor placement without cover, stainless steel or rain-resistant coated mobile braais work well. Rain can damage built-in braais with heat-resistant paint, so using enamel paint on exposed sections helps durability. Optimal braai size should accommodate regular guests plus two more, preventing excessive fuel use and space consumption. Gas or ember maker-equipped charcoal braais allow continuous cooking until food for all guests is ready.

Gas or wood?

The majority of steak houses use gas grills for cooking meat. While we enjoy the food at these places, the debate between the taste of meat cooked over coals versus gas isn’t usually a concern. When deciding between a gas or wood-burning braai (grill), it’s important to understand their functioning and choose based on your lifestyle.

Many charcoal/wood braais require lighting the fuel in the ember tray below the cooking grid, taking about an hour to create hot coals for cooking. Some braais have ember makers, resembling short chimneys, which speed up the process, producing cooking-ready coals in around 40 minutes.

Gas braais need around 10 to 15 minutes to reach cooking temperature after ignition. They’re quick to start, making them suitable for busy lifestyles, while wood/charcoal braais create a more atmospheric, social cooking experience if you have the time.

Combo braais

Combo braais cater to families or businesses seeking versatile cooking options, offering both wood/charcoal and gas cooking capabilities. This versatility allows for various cooking styles. Due to accommodating both methods, these braais are larger and require more significant housing and patio space. They are ideal for extensive social gatherings and entertaining, especially if you have a big family or a large group of friends.

A working platform

Built-in braais typically include doors that can be closed when the braai is not in use. This feature conceals any mess and prevents ash from being blown around. Some of these doors can also function as platforms for holding cooking items. However, the design of these doors varies; some models have long doors that hang down when open, offering a spacious work surface but potentially requiring leaning over the braai. On the other hand, doors that slide into the base of the braai when open allow for an adjustable and ergonomic work platform based on your cooking needs and comfort.

Light fitting

Ensure that the built-in braai you’re purchasing comes with a quality light fixture, enabling clear visibility while cooking at night.

Types of steel

In South Africa’s varied climate, the material for built-in or portable braais should be chosen carefully. In dry regions like the Highveld, Karoo, and Free State, mild steel is suitable for covered braais, offering longevity and appearance with occasional painting. Coastal areas, prone to corrosion, benefit from 3Cr12 (rust-resistant steel) or stainless steel braais, providing enhanced durability and aesthetics compared to mild steel.

Meat tray and ash disposal drawer

When purchasing a built-in braai, consider adding a rotisserie motor option upfront if you anticipate using it. Arrange for your electrician to install power with separate switches for the braai light and rotisserie motor during the braai installation, as retrofitting power to these components can be challenging.

Cooking options

Essential accessories for your braai include a spit motor and spit for effortless cooking of chickens or meat joints over the flames. Spit baskets are useful for chicken flatties, chops, and deep baskets for larger cuts. Roasting domes aid in roasting and slow-cooking meat and vegetables. Braai plates serve for breakfast items, stir-fries, prawns, and fish. Clip-in warming grids are perfect for keeping meat warm or warming bread during cooking.

 Outdoor braaing

Portable braais are ideal for homes lacking space for a built-in braai on a covered patio or for locations where mobility improves views during entertaining or protects against coastal winds. Opt for rust-resistant materials to ensure both visual appeal and the longevity of the braai.



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