I’ll be honest – Braai Day (or Heritage Day, as it is formally known) is one of my favourite holidays in South Africa! I’m happy to admit that I am super patriotic and love my heritage. I am from a mixed-language family – my mother was very English before she got married to my dad….who was very Afrikaans. I grew up with Afrikaans as my first language, but luckily I became extremely bilingual when my parents put me through an English school.
I think it is also very important to let you in on a little background as to why I have authority to give advice on “braaing”:
Since before I was born, my family has had the tradition of braaing 4 times a week, which is why I consider myself quite an expert on the topic. My dad is the “braaimaster” in my family, and he knows exactly how to cook every cut of meat perfectly on a braai. I consider him a “whisperer” of sorts because he is able to sense when the fire is perfect; too hot or too cold – and he can predict how long specific cuts of meat will take to cook on the fire. He does not work by formulas or cooking time – but rather on feeling…because every cut of meat is different.
The objective of this post is simple.
I want you to have the BEST “BRAAI DAY” EVER! I want you to relax and enjoy the day with the people who matter the most to you…around a fire – laughing and chatting with drink in hand, and music playing 🙂
Therefore, I have compiled my TOP 10 tips for having a killer Braai Day 🙂 Enjoy!
1. Plan ahead
Make sure to invite everyone at least 5 days before the braai. This will ensure you know how many people will be attending, so that you can plan ahead for side dishes and drinks in terms of numbers. Knowing how many people are coming is key to a good braai so that you can cater accordingly. For example, if you’re entertaining a small group of people – you could opt for better quality sides or substitutions: like having fresh ciabatta bread instead of plain rolls, or a more intricate dessert.
2. Make things that can be made in advance
The most important thing is to enjoy the braai, and to relaxed! You don’t want to spend the entire afternoon in the kitchen prepping the meat, making the side dishes or the dessert. NO! Ideally, you should be outside in the sunshine, enjoying the company of your friends and family – with everything already prepped and ready.
For the side dishes: Okay, so salad isn’t really something that can stand overnight – so think about making the salad an hour or so before your guests arrive. An ingredient like avocado can be added before serving (or add lemon juice to keep it from going brown).
For the meat: Personally, I like my meat plain without any sugary unhealthy marinades – but if you’re unlike me, I suggest marinating the meat the night before so that the meat is ready to go the next day.
For the dessert: I suggest making something that can be made the night before…or bought. Because it is Heritage Day, you could think about making something traditional like Malva Pudding or Milktart. And if you’re entertaining a massive group of people – perhaps a stack of delicious Koeksisters will be just what the doctor ordered! What’s awesome about this idea is: you could save time by purchasing them from the supermarket – AND save on cleanup, because they are eaten by hand.
For something awesome – make your favourite traditional treats…with a TWIST. Here are some epic examples:
Malva Pudding with an Amarula Twist (from Snappy Chef):
6 Different Types of Milktart (from Food 24)
3. Make a killer playlist
What’s a party without good music? No party at all! The perfect playlist will depend on your audience, as well as your desired atmosphere. If you are having an upbeat braai party with a bunch of young people, your playlist will differ from one for a chilled braai for family.
Personally, I enjoy having a good balance between upbeat hits and chilled classics. I love my Queen, Dire Straits, Bon Jovi, Bob Marley…but have to admit that I also like some catchy new songs from the likes of Justin Bieber, Maroon Five, Imagine Dragons, Mumford & Sons, Ed Sheeran….and so forth. I also enjoy a very festive occasion, so I would kick off with some relaxed music, and then fade into some more upbeat music.
Below is an example playlist I have put together (trust me…it’s a GOODIE):
4. Minimal Cleanup
Woah! This is a BIGGIE!
The party is always fun…but who has the energy to clean up on a Sunday night?!
My advice: make it easy on yourself by limiting the number of things that need cleaning.
– Use paper plates instead of normal plates (especially for large groups)
– Serve foods that don’t require plates or cutlery (like “boerie” rolls and koeksisters for dessert)
5. Ask friends to “bring and braai”
Trust me – this will make your life so much easier!
I know that sometimes we enjoy entertaining…and making a big effort, but from personal experience, I can tell you that a good deal of planning needs to go into doing this. Like AMAZING time management skills.
You need to plan properly if you’re going to have a good party AND actually get to enjoy the party (and not be in the kitchen the entire time). So asking friends to bring something along makes things run a whole lot smoother. Another VERY IMPORTANT benefit is that the party will become a whole lot CHEAPER as well!
I come from an Afrikaans family, and we entertain every Sunday with an awesome braai. The protocol is – “bring and braai”. This means everyone has to bring their own meat and drinks. Another South African term for it is: “chop end dop” – which literally means “meat and drinks”. My mom would then make the side dishes like a good salad and perhaps a potato bake or veggies with cheese sauce. We would also provide a few rolls as well. Believe me – my family has this ritual down to a TEE!
My dad’s side of the family is HUGE! And we regularly have to entertain 40+ people at home – that is one heck of a lot of people…and one heck of a lot of meat to braai (my poor dad). This is where experience comes in handy. My mother will often provide the meat (this also makes the braaier’s job easier because all the meat is the same), and then ask other family members to contribute: the one brings the salad, the other brings a vegetable bake, and the other brings the dessert. The result is that one massive obstacle actually becomes manageable 😊
On the other hand, if you have a relatively small group – you can go CRAZY and impress your friends with your mad cooking and entertaining skills.
6. Have a signature drink
This is possibly at the top of my personal list because I love a good drink on occasion. It’s a great way to up the “gees” or “festiveness” of the party. Of course, this one is entirely up to your preferences.
It’s Heritage Day!!!! So think about providing a Proudly South African drink for your guests. If it is too expensive, you could just make it your own “personal signature drink” or you could tell everyone to bring your chosen signature drink for the party.
My favourite picks for this Braai Day is:
– Brandy & Coke = my favourite drink ever (although, I opt for Coke Zero)
– A Proudly South African easy drinking wine like HPF’s Die Posmeester (click on the bottle to buy for 100ZAR)
7. Make epic braaibroodjies
CARB LOVERS BEWARE: If you’re on carb watch…these probably aren’t for you…because they are HIGHLY ADDICTIVE and delicious!
There is something about making “toasties” on a braai that is impossible to recreate. They have the perfect texture: crispy, soft and cheesy!
If you want to take your braaibroodjies to the next level…here are some tips:
– Use a good bread that will hold and not fall apart on the grid.
– Use a grid. This will make them a lot easier to turn, and will also prevent them from falling apart.
– Grate the cheese instead of slicing, for evenness.
– Add some amazing fillings…
Here are some ideas:
- Tomato, Onion, Mozzarella and Cheddar
- Brie and Onion Marmelade
- Bacon, Apple and Cheddar
- Bacon, Gherkin & Cheddar
- Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella
- Jalepenos, Bacon and Cream Cheese
8. Make it an afternoon braai
This is probably an obvious one, but I thought it needed mentioning nonetheless. Usually, we braai in the evening, but since this Heritage Day is on a Sunday…let’s have a sunny day braai! If the weather is good – South African sunshine will be the best medicine 😊
9. Use forgiving cuts of meat
ALSO A VERY IMPORTANT TIP!
The scenario: You are enjoying the sunshine, the fire is going, the meat is on…one of your friends is braaing. He is enjoying his brandy and coke and chatting to his friends. Meanwhile, someone’s delicious fillet steak is cooking on the fire and is starting to look like charcoal! NO!
A Heritage Day Braai is meant to be enjoyed. You should be able to chat with your friends and family without running the risk of spoiling a good cut of meat.
Bad choices of meat that can overcook very easily:
– Pork Chops
Good choices of meat that don’t overcook too easily:
– Lamb Chops
– Chicken (not breasts!)
On our Sunday family braais, we always braai chicken because then we can all relax and socialize and still end up with delicious succulent chicken.
10. Make a good fire
I feel this one is also something worth mentioning because having a bad fire can spoil things quite a bit.
Remember…it is Heritage Day! The whole focus of the party is the fire…the BRAAI! It creates the atmosphere. Therefore, you need to pay it some attention and make sure it doesn’t die – or get cold before you’ve put your meat on the grid. I would suggest keeping the fire blazing until about an hour before you want to eat. This way you will have enough coals to use by the time you want to put your meat on. And in my opinion – rather too big a fire than too small a fire. You can always move some of the wood to the side when you need to braai, but it won’t work putting on new wood if you have cold or too few coals (unless you want to wait a couple of years and leave everyone starving).
Also…for a good traditional braai – use WOOD not CHARCOAL!!!!!!!! Otherwise, you might as well not be celebrating this holiday heehee.
!! IT’S TIME TO GET FESTIVE !!
Turn up the fun for your Heritage Day Braai by rocking it in some festive attire…perhaps a Springboks rugby jersey?
Let me paint the final picture:
For this year’s Heritage Day Braai, you will enjoy the company of your closest friends and family in your Springbok jersey around a blazing fire, enjoying the music while holding an ice-cold brandy and coke or Castel Light Beer. Later you will enjoy a delicious meal consisting of boerewors, lamb chops and braaibroodjies…perhaps with a “pap” and sweetcorn bake, and koeksisters for dessert. What an awesome Sunday it is going to be in our South African sunshine 😊