One of the great joys of life is cooking steak over a wood fire. Taking the time to build a good fire, and letting it burn down until the coals are white hot. Carefully nurturing it while everyone else works on dinner, chatting to mates around an open flame. It’s all you need. No knobs, no dials.
Building a good fire, let alone a good cooking fire, should not be taken lightly. Everyone has their own special technique, be it the classic log cabin method or a tepee setup. It is tricky and takes practice, and requires total involvement and all the senses. Grilling over a wood fire is sweaty, smoky, eye-stinging work. But it’s fun.
There’s something about the flavour you get from cooking steak over a wood fire that can’t be duplicated using gas. The blistering heat from the coals, with wisps of smoke infusing its earthy goodness into the meat that makes the taste unforgettable.
BUY PROPER MEAT
From a proper butcher. Get some fillet if you really have to, else you can’t go wrong with a thick, dry-aged ribeye steak. Try to always buy the best grade meat you can afford – it’s worth the extra cash. Then - you want to grab some boerewors, and maybe some lamb loin chops. Sorted.
Any braai structure is fine, but preferably one with adjustable grill heights. Webers are cool, but you better get your grill times right. A good set of tongs, and a bucket of cold beers.
With wood, yes. That thing with the gas is not braaiing. Take your hamburger patties, and chuck back to ‘merica. Braaiing with wood creates beautiful flavours and aromas for your meat. My favourites are kameeldoring or rooikrans.
It’s important to make one big fire, rather than a small fire and then constantly adding wood. Your coals will only really be as good as the last batch of wood, and won’t last very long. Use firelighters if you must; I prefer good old kindling. It’s also a good idea to make a small fire on the side to provide extra coals if you find yourself running out.
Your meat should be at room temperature by the time it goes onto the fire. So if it was in a fridge, take it out in advance. I don’t like to spice or marinate the meat too much; some good (Maldon) salt and pepper does the trick.
The order of the meat depends on your vibe. I like to slap some thin boerewors on first, and serve as wors d'oeuvres (aka nibbles) to the kind spectators who have been serving me cold beers.
If you want all the meat ready simultaneously, throw the chicken on first over some medium coals. Then you can put on the boerewors and chops, leaving the steak for last – over the hottest coals in the middle.
As a rule – flip as little as possible; to avoid losing the meat’s precious juices. The exception is boerewors, which cooks more evenly if you turn it more.
Don’t be the fool that brings a whole chicken to a braai; you’re stealing prime steak real estate. Go for chicken pieces rather – they’ll be ready when the juices run clear. 15minutes.
As mentioned before, wors cooks more evenly if you turn it more. So flip every two minutes. Boerewors is done when you can snap it easily with the tongs. 10 minutes.
Only Karoo lamb loin chops will do. Rub in olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper and then rosemary. 5 minutes on both sides, then braai fat-side down for 2 minutes.
I use a simple timeline for 1-inch steaks. After 3 minutes turn steaks. Another 3 minutes – turn. After 2 minutes, turn. And then a final 2 mins. Rest for 5 minutes.
That’s it! The steak should be left to rest for about 5 minutes, to allow its juices to redistribute (and continue cooking a bit). Everything else can be eaten straight off the braai. Enjoy!