How to Braai like a Banting Beaut

Heritage Day is our day to come together and celebrate the many cultures, traditions and beliefs that make up our beautiful country.

Like biltong, bunny chow, and walkie-talkies, the braai has become synonymous with South Africa, and for good reason!

According to scientist Dr Bob Brain, who has been lead excavationist at the Swartkrans Cave site, at the Cradle of Humankind, for the past 30 years - some of the oldest signs of controlled fire in the world have been discovered right here and date back about one million years.

Apparently, like all great inventions, the first braais happened by accident, when meat was dropped into open flames, somehow removed, and then eaten. What was discovered was that not only did the charred meat taste better, but that it could be chewed easier.

So, like South Africans have been braaing for a million years, ek se? Hayibo, no wonder it’s in our blood!

This is one massive achievement, but our braais have come a long way in a million years.

The Real Meal Revolution’s top tips for the best Banting braai are: quality meat, a decent set of tongs, coals at the perfect temperature and great Banting side dishes!

Favourite braai meats include boerewors, chicken and steak. But, steak is often the most confusing, so let’s break it down:


Some cuts of steak:

Sirloin: comes from the upper middle of the cow, and doesn’t do as much work as the other areas, making it tender and well-marbled with fat.
Fillet: comes from the underside of the sirloin. It is often seen as the most prized-cut and is the leanest and most tender of the steaks.
Rump: not quite as tender as fillet or sirloin, but it is considered to have the best flavour.
Rib eye: comes from the cow’s rib section and is usually tender with a rich flavour. There are pockets of fat in the steak, which requires a bit more cooking and resting time than other cuts.


What makes a good steak?

The more mature the better: If a piece of steak is bright red, it means that it hasn’t had any aging time – you are looking for a deep maroon almost purple tinge to the meat – because that’s where all the flavour’s at. The longer the meat has aged, the more tender it will be.
The layering of fat: Just as aged meat changes colour, so does the layer of fat surrounding it. Creamy to yellow fat is a great indication that the fat will be full of flavour. Grass fed steak has yellow fat because of the carotenoids, which give it its high nutrient density. Fat is an important component as it flavours the meat, adds to the natural juices and keeps the meat moist.
The marbling effect: The network of fat that is travelling through the meat gives the meat its rich, juicy, tender flavour. This melts away during cooking but, the more marbled – the better the flavour. Avoid steak with brown spots in the fat or on the edges.
The scent of a steak: The steak should smell meaty, and slightly musty, but not sour or rancid.
The source: The best steaks are from grass fed cows that haven’t been given any hormones or antibiotics. What the cow eats, lands up being what you eat too – which is important to remember. The happier the cow, the better. Making friends with your local butcher is a great idea.


Tips on how to cook the perfect steak:

Size does matter: Thinner steaks will dry out quicker, make sure your steak is at least 2.5cm thick.
Room temperature is the perfect temperature: Make sure your steaks are at room temperature before cooking so that they cook evenly.
Season your meat: Seasoning meat just before braaing, with salt and pepper, will help the steak develop a crust when it’s cooked.
Marinade burns meat: Marinades with high sugar content burn meat. It is best to just use salt and pepper or some olive oil and lemon. Instead of using a brush, use a rosemary or thyme bushel, for extra flavour.
Test the temperature: Steaks generally love very hot coals. If you can hold your hand 10cm above the grid for 2 – 3 seconds, you are good to braai.
Turn round for what: A succulent piece of meat is not turned too often. Every time you do this you slow down the cooking process. Just turn it once to seal in all the flavour.
Braai tongs are your best friend: A fork, knife or any other sharp object will pierce the meat, making it lose moisture, which will make it dry even if you have braaied it perfectly. Braai tongs are the tool to get the job done right!
Test by touch: The softer and squishier the meat, the less done it is. The firmer it is, the more it is cooked.
Rest is best: Meat contracts as it cooks, by allowing it to rest, you are giving the meat time to relax and for the juices to stay inside the meat – making it taste delicious. Resting time should be about 25-30% of the total cooking time. Cooking time for medium-rare is about 8 minutes on either side, so resting time is about 5 minutes.
Carve across the grain: Make sure that you cut across the muscle fibres, so that you are eating a tender piece of meat and not one with the texture of a balloon.


Banting Braai sides:

There is no such thing as a boring Banting braai!

Garlic, cheesey black mushrooms: Place a single large black mushroom on a square of tin foil, add garlic, butter, seasoning and cheese, seal the parcel and place on the braai until the cheese has melted and the mushroom is cooked.

Cauli "potato" salad: replaced the potato for cauliflower in your favourite potato salad recipe. We love adding boiled egg and spring onion. Remember to make your own mayo using healthy oils.

Sweet potato bake: A braai is not complete without a potato bake. Replace the potatoes with sliced sweet potatoes and add cream, mushrooms, onion, mustard and season with salt and pepper.

Aubergine braai broodjies: The good old braai broodjie gets a revamp as the bread is replaced with 2 thick slices of aubergine. Lay one slice on a square of tin foil and top with tomato, onion and cheese and season to taste. Place the other aubergine slice on and fold up the parcel. Put on the braai until the aubergine is cooked through. Remove the tin foil to allow the aubergine to get some authentic braai marks.

Talk about some kwaai sides, ne?!

Wishing all of you budding Banting braai masters, a lekker Heritage day!

For a ton of other beautiful Banting recipes, why not sign up for the free week of our online Banting course today?

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