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

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(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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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"

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.