Introduction: How to "Braai" Meat the South African Way

Picture of How to "Braai" Meat the South African Way

(Or how to barbeque meat for the rest of us)

To "braai" or barbeque (Bar-B-Q) meat is a South African tradition. We usually do it once or twice a week, probably more. It's a chance to get your friends and/or family together, sip some wine or down a couple of cold ones.
In this Instructable, I am going to show you how, with a little preparation and some scientific genius, you can "braai" like an expert and serve up the most succulent meat.

What you will need:
Some red meat, preferably rump, fillet or sirloin. I got rump.
Some Pineapple juice
Some Balsamic Vinegar
Other Spices

Before starting wash your hands, the work area, the dish and fork. General hygiene rules apply when working with food.

Get everything together and lets start 

Step 1: Preparing the Meat: Pineapple Juice

Picture of Preparing the Meat: Pineapple Juice
Place the meat in the dish and perforate it with the fork on both sides. Then add 5 to 10 drops of Pineapple juice onto each piece of meat and perforate them again. Do not turn the meat over this time but leave them for 10 to 20 minutes. Turn them over, add the Pineapple juice and perforate again. Wait another 10 to 20 minutes before going on to the next step.


Step 2: Preparing the Meat: Balsamic Vinegar

Picture of Preparing the Meat: Balsamic Vinegar
After the Pineapple juice, do the same with some Balsamic vinegar. This step is not essential but it does add a nice flavor to the meat.

The pineapple juice and balsamic vinegar are slightly acidic and this is what softens and tenderizes the meat. The "acid" helps break down the meat structure. Any acidic fruit juice or liquid will do, even lemon juice works well. Its very natural and makes the meat taste wonderful. Do not leave it on too long or it might even cure the meat. The fork creates the holes for the Pineapple juice and Balsamic vinegar to run into and penetrate deeper into the meat where it is needed the most. I am using Pineapple juice for a specific reason, which we will get to later.


Step 3: Preparing the Meat: Spices

Picture of Preparing the Meat: Spices

Once you have finished with the Pineapple juice and Balsamic vinegar, its time for some spices. Add some salt, pepper (or black pepper), coriander and other spices to suite your taste. First on one side, then flip the meat over quickly and do the other side. If you have more time, rub the spices into the meat with your fingers to make them penetrate more deeply.

Tip: You can sprinkle a little bit of brown sugar over the meat so make it taste irresistible as I will explain later.   

Step 4: Preparing the Meat: Olive Oil

Picture of Preparing the Meat: Olive Oil

Seconds before you place the meat on the hot grill, sprinkle a few drops of Olive oil (10 to 20) over each piece of meat. This is going to cause a wonderful chemical reaction which, along with the Pineapple juice, is going to make the meat taste absolutely wonderful.

Step 5: Place on Very Hot Grill

Picture of Place on Very Hot Grill

Wait until the fire you have made has formed coals. Usually we use wood, charcoal or briquettes to make the "braai". In the case of charcoal and briquettes, wait until all the flames have died down and a fine layer of gray ash has formed on them. Your "fire" should then be ready to "braai". When you hold you open hand, palm down an inch or two (2 to 4 cm) above the grill, it should become uncomfortably hot within 5 to 8 seconds. You need very hot coals for the first few minutes of the "braai" to creates temperatures of above 150°C (302°F) for this "trick" to work. If you are using some other method like a hot rock, gas or electrical "braai" unit, just make sure you heat it up to slightly above 150°C (302°F) before putting on the prepared meat and you should be fine.     

Now quickly place the pieces of meat on a very hot grill, oil side at the bottom. The flames might rush up briefly but that is fine. Even if they continue for 10 to 20 seconds, leave the meat alone. What we want is the Maillard reaction to happen.

This reaction is named after chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, who first described it in the 1910s while attempting to reproduce biological protein synthesis. The sugar, to which we have added the Pineapple juice, reacts with the amino acid in the meat, and forms a complex mixture very similar to caramelization. This reaction is the basis of the flavoring industry.

However it only happens at temperatures of 150°C (302°F) and above and that is why the grill must be very hot. It does not have to have flames, although they do help. The purpose of the Olive oil is to briefly cause the coals to flame up chasing the temperature above 150°C for 10 to 30 seconds. Searing the meat and sealing the juices and flavor inside while at the same time causing the Maillard reaction on the outside. 

Step 6: Turning of the Meat

Picture of Turning of the Meat

Do not turn the meat over too often on the grill. All in all you should not turn the meat more than 4 times before taking it off to enjoy. The best way is if you can get it done by only turning the meat once or twice before taking it off the grill. Turning the meat 4 times should give you well done maybe overdone meat. The more you turn the meat over the tougher and dryer it becomes because juices cook out of it.

Place the meat on the grill, wait until you see quite a lot off juice collect on top, then turn it over. When juice collects on top again you can check it for doneness as explained in the next step. Take it off when the doneness suits your taste. Otherwise turn it over once or maximum twice more before taking it off.

Step 7: How to Determine How the Meat Is Done

Picture of How to Determine How the Meat Is Done
How do you determine when meat is done? There is a simple and easy way to do this.
Poke the meat with your forefinger. Now take your other hand and place the thumb and fingers together. As you move from one finger to the next, you will get the consistency of the meat as it should be done.

With your hand open but relaxed feel the heel of your hand just below the thumb with the forefinger of the other hand. This is the consistency of raw meat.

Now touch your forefinger and thumb together lightly, and poke the heel again with the forefinger of the other hand. This is the consistency of rare meat.

Touch your middle finger and thumb together, the heel is now the consistency of medium-rare meat.

The thumb and ring finger together represent medium meat

And the pinky and thumb together is what well done meat will feel like.

The description of the meat doneness is as follows:

Extra-rare or Blue (bleu): very red and cold
Rare (saignant): cold red center; soft
Medium rare (à point): warm red center; firmer
Medium (cuit): pink and firm
Medium well (bien cuit): small amount of pink in center
Well done: gray-brown throughout; firm
Overcook: blacken throughout; crispy

If you have an internal thermometer that you can stick into the meat, then the doneness temperature for this cut of beef is as follows:

Rare: 52°C (125º F)
Medium Rare: 55°C (130º F)
Medium: 60°C (140º F)
Medium Well: 72°C (155º F) 

Remember that the internal temperature will rise by about 3-5 °C/º F during resting before it will start to cool down.


Step 8: Enjoy What You Have "braaied"

Picture of Enjoy What You Have "braaied"

Take the meat of the grill, allow it to rest for 5 to 10 minutes but enjoy it while it is still warm at least. It is very important to rest the meat for a period of time to allow all the juices to evenly distribute throughout the meat. Although I prefer my meat medium to medium rare I prepared this cut to be medium to well done. It was succulent, juicy and soft. Try it yourself, you will not be disappointed.


TimG158 (author)2017-03-11

Korean girl tries a South African Braai!

CraigB4 (author)2014-11-10

This is a brilliant instructable, would you mind If I repost on my website ( Im looking to add a Braai related how too section.

Andre Coetzee (author)CraigB42016-06-02

I cant believe I missed your post. You are welcome to use it on your website.

JohnT308 (author)Andre Coetzee2016-06-21

Very interesting! I am interested in how you handle large pieces of meat, aside from cutting them into smaller pieces for quick cooking. I have a blog on US barbecue -- whole hogs, pork shoulders beef briskets, pork ribs, etc. -- cooked very slowly over a wood fire. Is that common at braais? The blog is .

stephenniall (author)2012-08-05

You guys sure know how to eat !

Read this for a friend, Who's african + I'm having over for a BBQ tomorrow..
(Didn't want to dissapoint him with out english 'burgers & sausages')

Great Instructable!

Try it out! You will love it and want to prepare all your meat like this from now on. You will have people coming back again and again.

I had a braai on Monday, I don't like Pineapple, Or pepper, Or vinegar for that fact. But i loved it, Am going to try your instructable on Vetkoek Next time !


Vetkoek is brilliant! You will love it. You can put anything inside depending on your personal preference.
(1) Grated cheese and jam,
(2) Grated cheese and marmite / oxo / bovril,
(3) mince,
(4) Curried Mince,
(5) Honey,
(6) Syrup,
(5) + (6) with cheese, ...

Well anything you can make a sandwich of you can put in a vetkoek. Cut the vetkoek in two and make an interesting burger. Eat it hot with the butter melting inside. Tuna works well as well.

I am very sure you will impress us. Just do it!

I had a braai on Monday, I don't like Pineapple, Or pepper, Or vinegar for that fact. But i loved it, Am going to try your instructable on Vetkoek Next time !

Mutantflame (author)2011-10-06

Dang, I miss South Africa. Such great food, and people too


5 stars

Howzit, Mutantflame! Thanks for reading the 'ble now go try it and give me some feedback.

I will do! But I hope to get hold of some borewors and some buck or ostrich to do at the same time. Mind you, Its getting cold here in rainy old England, you guys are lucky with summer pretty much all year round. When I was there in July/August everyone was shivering but it was nearly as hot as summer is here in England.

Yep, boerewors will do the trick. and ostich is mmmmmmmmmm "lekker"! We are big babies in South Africa when it comes to cold weather. We think 5 degrees is very cold. I grew up in the Free State province where the temperature goes below zero. However, when South Africa receives snow its big news.

Ok, I would agree with you that 5 degrees is cold, but when we were there the temperature was hitting 20 most days. I remember when flying from Joberg to East London we saw quite a lot of snow on the Drakensberg (did I spell that right?).

The only problem with ostrich here is it is really expensive. However it is really really mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm so it is well worth it... And don't get me started on ostrich biltong!

We are lucky, though, to have a South African butcher near to where I live, which means that we can get these great meats and boerewors. Not quite the buck boerewors that my uncle makes, but it is still delecious.

I am now very hungry.

Sorry, Mutantflame, that came out wrong. I meant that we do not get as cold as the UK. Here are the average minimum and maximum temperatures during summer and winter for some cities as supplied by the weather service.

City Summer:Max Min Winter:Max Min
Cape Town 26 16 18 7
Bloemfontein 31 15 17 -2
Johannesburg 26 15 17 4
Pretoria 29 18 20 5
Durban 28 21 23 11
Pietersburg 28 17 20 4

We do get snow on the Drakenberg mountain nearly all year round. It is however not easy to get there. (Draken - meaning dragon and berg meaning mountain(s), so Dragon mountains or Mountains of the Dragon(s) would be a correct translation.

Getting back to food, ostrich is very tasty, very healthy and unbeatable when it comes to impressing your friends. It is poultry but the cuts look and taste like fillet if prepared correctly. It absolutely just melts in your mouth. I think I will make an instructable on that.

takeoza, I think those temperatures are about right for what is was when I was there last.

I never knew that the Drakenberg mountains were named after dragons- but then again I never really looked into it. You learn something new every day, I suppose! We considered driving up there to see some relatives, but after hearing it was hard to get to we drove all the way from East London to Plettenberg bay, Knysna, Ooutswaren and some other towns like that instead. Basically we went from East London to almost all the way to Cape town and back.

I think I would agree with you on that- It is delecious and apparently it is something like 40% more lean than beef or something. I personally think that it tastes better than beef. Unlike most birds it is red meat, which surprised me at first.

In one day, if I recall correctly, we had ostrich fillet for lunch (yum), rode on an ostrich at one of those tourist farms (awesome), ate ostrich biltong on the way back to where we were staying, and had ostrich burger and something-wors for supper (yumyum).

If you are making an instructable on ostrich, make sure to send me the leftovers (if there is any)!


shteef (author)2011-10-07

Just did my best to duplicate the recipe, didn't have any pineapple juice so used lime juice, I have to say it worked perfectly, absolutely wonderful.
I will never bar-be-que again, it's Braais all the way from now on!!

Andre Coetzee (author)shteef2011-10-07

shteef, buddy, thats the way to do it! Improvise, it what cooking is all about. Lime / lemon juice work just as well, I have used it a few times. The day you find some pineapple juice, get some. It makes the meat just a little bit sweeter.
Chefs Secret Tip: When you use lemon/lime juice sprinkle some brown sugar on the meat as well, that also provides that "sweetness".

epicrey (author)2011-10-05

What a fantastic instuctable.
i read this yesterday and bought and cooked a nice bit of rump on the "braai" today and it was fantastic!
A very handy trick with the hand too. that will be very useful in future :)
Thanks a bunch.

Andre Coetzee (author)epicrey2011-10-06

Hi epicrey, you're welcome. Thanks for taking the time to read the Instructable and trying it out yourself because thats what its all about. Now go out there and impress you friend and family with your new found cooking skills. They will be thrilled not to say impressed! Jamie Oliver here we come! ;-)

rimar2000 (author)2011-10-03

Interesting instructable, especially your fingers method, thanks for sharing.

Here in Argentina we roast the meat over embers, not flame. Coal must be totally red, otherwise it produces carbon monoxide that permeates the meat and after eating causes headache.

Generally we turn the meat only one time. The moment for turning is when you feel a bit warm the upper raw meat, touching it with the back of the hand. If the piece is thick, obviously the cooking time increases. As sauce we use almost exclusively "chimichurri", or merely table salt if failing. Chimichurri has many different but similar recipes.

Andre Coetzee (author)rimar20002011-10-04

We also use coals. We only use flame for the first 10 to 30 seconds on each side the first time you put the meat on. I also advise only turning once but it all depends on how you like your meat, rare, medium or well done. There is a fast food chain in South Africa called Steers and Nando's that pride themselves on flame grilling their meat and chicken. They claim it makes their food taste better.

rimar2000 (author)Andre Coetzee2011-10-05

Here, all tourist sites have "parrilla" (grill) restaurants where you can see lambs, piggies and/or ribs cooking at open fire. But at home that is rare, people roasts using coal. The "parrillas" use open fire because it is much more visually attractive.

Unfortunately I can not give you a chimichurri recipe, because I actually bought it. You can find many recipes on the Web, and translate them with Google Translate.

Andre Coetzee (author)rimar20002011-10-05

Muchas gracias, voy a encontrar la receta en línea. Estar bien.

80$man (author)Andre Coetzee2011-10-05

The problems I have with flame grilling is that your basting/marinade/sauce must be made for flame grilling so that it does not burn (adding oil++), and getting the right moisture content in your cooked meat is quite tricky, especially if someone wants their meat "well done" (read: well ruined).

I know charcoal is the most repeatable method of preparing a good braai, but there is no replacement for the heat and smell of Namibian hardwood. I prefer "Kameeldoring" [translates to Camel Thorn] is a hardwood like Mesquite a wood praised by American BBQ enthusiasts.

Andre Coetzee (author)80$man2011-10-05

Yep, you are right about the sauce or marinade burning. I just use spices and because I normally do not have a lot of time to braai, I use charcoal which turns into coals much quicker. Most avid "braaiers" use "Kameeldoring" or "Harde Kool" (hard coal) which are both types of hardwood, as you suggested, but it is not always freely available. The wood "braais" are the best for hanging around the fire, sipping a drink, talking nonsense with your friend and just relaxing. More and more "braais" are becoming gas or electrical. Its just not the same. I was at braai which used gas and from lighting the burners until the meat was well done was 20 minutes. No time for "kuier" visiting which takes away part of the appeal of a "braai".

Andre Coetzee (author)rimar20002011-10-05

Hey rimar2000, that "chimichurri" seasoning looks delicious! You should put up an Instructable on how to make the stuff so I can try it out here in South Africa! I hear you guys have the best beef. A pity you can't Fedex me a few kg. ;-)

roulopa (author)2011-10-05

Thank you for sharing this very accurate definition of meat cooking (medium, rare etc).
I did not know of the finger tips and the right temperatures either.

Does the finger tip works for other types of meat (veal, duck, game)?


Andre Coetzee (author)roulopa2011-10-05

Hi mguer133, the fingertip test does work for all forms of red meat (beef, pork, lamb, sheep, game, etc) I am not sure about poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, etc).

80$man (author)2011-10-04

South Africans Unite! Braai Pappa Braai!
Nothing beats a good braai! Well done on preparing the meat for the fire, nice combination of ingredients, I prefer waiting for the flames to die down thought.
I am working of a basting sauce for pork ribs using molasses, will post in Dec.

Andre Coetzee (author)80$man2011-10-04

"Ja, boet" :-), I also wait for the flames to die down before I start to braai, but you need that quick flare up of flames that the olive oil (or any cooking oil really) creates to chase the temperature up above 150°C (302°F) briefly to get old Mr Maillard to do his pork. I can not wait to check out your basting sauce "tjomma". Keep it coming!

nachobobs (author)2011-10-04

Great instructable! Like the idea of pineapple juice to aid the Maillard reaction.

Just a little pointer - the steak you cooked is actually medium-well. True definition of medium-well is pink but no blood, medium should have a little blood in it but no translucency.

Anyway, great job, going to give this a try on the next sunny day down here in Melbourne!!

Andre Coetzee (author)nachobobs2011-10-04

Thanks for that nachobobs I just did not have a finger left ;-) I will add a verbal description to the Instructable for those that are interested in it.

sunshiine (author)2011-10-03

Very good Instructable! Thanks for sharing and have a super Monday! I tried to rank but there is not an option. I will check again later.

Andre Coetzee (author)sunshiine2011-10-04

Thanks, sunshiine! It's always nice to hear from you.

sunshiine (author)Andre Coetzee2011-10-04

You welcome and thanks! Have a super Tuesday!

fegundez1 (author)2011-10-04

nice marbling on the meat, what exactly would that cut be though, rump as in rump roast? If so that is some serious tenderizer you have!

Andre Coetzee (author)fegundez12011-10-04

Nope, not rump roast. It seems what we call rump in South Africa, is called something else in the US. I have uploaded a picture in step 1 identifying the cut, maybe you can put a name to it?

zurichko (author)2011-10-03

Thank you for the "handy" (lame pun) meat tip!

Andre Coetzee (author)zurichko2011-10-04

Its a pleasure! Now go and enjoy some wonderfully prepared red meat!

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