Big Green Egg or binchotan, asado or braai – there’s more than one way to stoke a fire. We ask chefs for their hot tips and tricks for summer grilling.
There’s more than one way to stoke a fire. We ask chefs for their hot tips and tricks for summer grilling.
My number-one barbecue rule is that the person barbecuing makes the fire, always. This is followed closely by a general rule that we have in South Africa: when you’re a guest, the only help you’re allowed to give is to make sure the person cooking always has a drink in his or her hand.
Braai, South African barbecue, is not always about the food, but it’s always about the booze (in my case chilled reds and cheap beer). My father taught me to barbecue. We used to braai four or five times a week when I was growing up – I was always around fire. In fact, we pretty much moved our lounge room outside, television and all. These days at home I have a set-up of three Webers, all used for various types of cooking: smoking, spit-roasting, grilling. I also have a cast-iron pot, called a potjie, that sits over an open fire, and a skottel, an outdoor South African wok.
I really love hot-smoking a chicken in my Weber. I serve it well rested and at room temperature with a coleslaw, or with iceberg lettuce and anchovy dressing. I always season my birds with sea salt, white pepper and thinly sliced fresh bay leaves. And I season before cooking, during and after the bird is cooked – that part is crucial. It’s quite easy to undercook the legs of poultry, which is why you have to make sure you rest your bird long enough. The more juices you save, the more likely you can make a kick-arse chicken dressing with them, too.
This summer I’ll be doing plenty of cauliflower, leek, beetroot and cabbage as sides – basically anything that can take direct flame without too much attention. That’s the thing with braai – you want to be attentive but not too attentive. I hate when people keep turning things, prodding the meats, screwing around with the fire. When it’s good to go, it’s good to go. Just relax and let the embers do the work.