How to light a braai

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How to light a braai

If there’s one thing everyone should know how to do, it’s lighting a kettle braai because cooking over an open fire really is one of life’s greatest joys. You don’t need to call your dad to talk you through it because we’re breaking down just how easy it is.

Let the air in

The first thing you want to do is make sure that your braai has good ventilation, so open all the vents and clear any airways of ash and dust. Remember, a good fire needs oxygen to burn so remove anything that could be a possible blockage.

Build a base

Once you’re ready to light your fire, place two firelighters in the centre of the base grid and carefully build briquettes on top of them into a pyramid shape. Carefully light the firelighters and watch that the briquettes are catching. Leave the lid off at this point.

Let it burn

Leave the coals to do their thing, checking every now and then to make sure they’re still burning, and after about 20 minutes they should start to look greyer (and in some parts, white hot). You shouldn’t be able to see actual flames, just red embers. Once the coals are at this point, you can spread them out slightly and place the grid on top. Leave the grid to get hot before cooking your meat.

Things to remember

  • Don’t use the lid unless you’re certain you know what you’re doing. Putting the lid on will drastically affect the fire’s temperature, so only put it on to reduce the heat.
  • The tried-and-tested method of using your hand to gauge whether the fire’s ready or not is still one of the best ways to check the heat. You should be able to hold your hand over the fire for about 7–10 seconds before putting any meat on.
  • Use half an onion to clean your grid when it’s hot.
  • Don’t ever use lighter fluid to light the fire, it’s dangerous and can impart a strong petrol-like flavour to the food.

Find our ultimate collection of braai recipes here.

Jess Spiro Article by: Jess Spiro

Jess Spiro is a freelance food writer, chef and restaurant critic based in Cape Town, who can often be found in search of the next great plate of food. Follow her on Instagram @jess_spiro to see what she's eating.

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