Cooking on a charcoal grill can be slightly more challenging than using a gas or electric griller, especially if you are new to flame-grilling.
Here are some hot tips that could make you the next braai master:
- Take your meat seriously: When it comes to braaing, the ingredients are the key aspect. Learn your cuts of meat, flavours, spices, basting and marinating. All of these are based on personal preference. Pre-marinating meats will ensure that it is well-flavoured and juicy; this is top of the braai master’s preferences!
- Know your audience’s cooking preference: Every person has their preferences when it comes to flame-grilled meat. A braai master knows the different cooking temperatures and done-ness of meat. Whether it is rare, medium-rare, medium or well done, with practice, you will learn the different cooking times intuitively. In addition, a food thermometer can be handy in ensuring the most accurate amount of done-ness.
- Use a chimney starter: This is a device that is used to ignite charcoal. The chimney starter works by placing newspaper underneath the grate and igniting it. The fire rises through the grate and ignites the charcoal. This will ensure well-lit coals in less time without having to use firelighters. You can also make your own D-I-Y chimney starter.
- Use the correct charcoal: It’s always better to use a longer burning charcoal. The South African market has a wide variety of charcoal brands to choose from. You get briquettes, instant-light charcoal and lump charcoal. With the trial of different charcoal brands, you will experience different charcoal consumptions and cooking effects, while finding a brand which best suits your taste buds.
- Oil and preheat the griller: The braai master title goes with the best presentation, both on and off the grill. Making sure your grill is well-oiled and preheated will give you the ultimate presentation of cooked meat and accompaniments. Oiling your grill will remove your previous braai’s flavours and residue; vegetable oil such as sunflower or canola seed oil are your best options.
- Learn how to vent: Air flow and circulation is the essence of lighting and maintaining a well-lit fire. Too much air circulation can cause coals to burn extremely hot and fast but die out too quickly. Too little air circulation can cause coals to burn slowly and give off too little heat. To ensure adequate air circulation and flow, place your braai stand in an area that is least vulnerable to weather elements or find ways to block off excess wind around your grill.
- Know the difference between direct and indirect heat: When cooking with charcoal, there’s no thermostat for heat and temperature control. Different cuts of meats require different cooking temperatures. Build a two-fire zone by moving the hotter coals to one area of your braai stand to ensure a hot-direct area for cooking and a cooler-indirect area to prevent overcooking or burning. Deal with flare-ups caused by fat dripping from meat by moving your food to the cooler-indirect area.
- Enhance flavour: To elevate the flavour intensity of your food, use wood, lava rock and other available options for that smokey, deep flavour and aroma.
- The last step on becoming a braai master: Food cooked on charcoal is best served whilst hot. Once you remove meat from the braai, do not slice or carve immediately. Leave the meat to rest and allow the natural juices to settle in, thus ensuring a more succulent cut of meat. You can use a chafing dish or even just a pot from your kitchen to keep food warm by placing the pot on the cooler-indirect heat area on your braai stand before serving. Chafing dishes are affordable food warmers that use hot water and gel-fuel burners to keep your food warm without drying it out. These are perfect for larger families or your next hosting event.