Having a braai at home with friends and family is a time-honoured South African tradition and one which is arguably becoming more entrenched with the advent of load shedding. Braai designs, areas and accessories have come a long way over the years and it is now possible to cook an entire meal in style.
If you’re considering building or upgrading a braai area, it’s a good idea to establish which products and finishes you need to do the job properly. The first step is to decide if you’re going to have the braai outside or inside your home. Although it’s perfectly possible to create smart ‘smokeless’ indoor braais, most people still err towards outside braais due to the perceived smoke and mess and because South Africa enjoys good weather virtually all year round.
Outside braais can be finished with a variety of materials including brick, stone, slate, granite and clay. However treated natural stone tiles remain a popular choice as they can withstand harsh weather conditions and do not fade if exposed to the sun. Treated natural stone tiles are also ideal for braai areas because they are impervious to grease and liquids if sealed properly, create a luxurious look and can last a lifetime if properly treated. What’s more is that every natural stone tile is unique which means that you braai area will be completely unique too.
In terms of the braai itself, there are a variety of options available on the market ranging from standard mobile and built-in braais to combination built-in braais, griller braais, freestanding braais and impressive built-in spit braais. Ultimately the type of braai you go with depends entirely on your personal taste, how often you intend to use the braai, how you want to fuel your braai, what you plan to cook on the braai and how much you can afford to spend.
How you seat your family and friends also plays an important role in planning your braai area. Your furniture choice will largely depend on whether or not it’s exposed to the elements and how much you can afford to spend.
Aluminium won’t rust or fade, particularly if it is powder coated. It’s also light and easy to maintain but usually isn’t cheap. Wicker can be natural or synthetic and ranges in price. The upside is that it’s light and weather resistant wicker is quite durable. Wood is durable as it doesn’t retain heat but it can fade if left uncovered. Wood furniture prices vary depending on the brand and type of wood used. Plastic is cost effective and easy to store but it doesn’t always look particularly appealing or stand up to the elements very well.
Other tips to remember when planning your braai area include:
· Plan your braai space well in advance and ensure there is adequate protection from the elements for your guests
· Ensure there is enough ventilation. Nobody likes to be smoked out at a braai or go home smelling like the meat they were served
· Choose the right size braai for your lifestyle
· Provide proper, balanced lighting. Proper lighting can make the difference between burning or undercooking food and properly cooked food. What’s more is that your guests want to see what they’re eating but don’t want to be blinded by overly bright lights either
· Buy quality braais and associated products which carry guarantees and can be easily replaced
· Before you braai with a gas braai, place some tin foil on the drip tray and fill it with river sand. The sand will absorb any dripping fat which will prevent a grease fire from flaring up
· Always keep your gas grill clean to prolong its life
· Have a reputable gas company service your gas braai at least once a year.