As South Africans we love to braai. Seeing as National Heritage Day, also known as National Braai Day is right around the corner, we know that there is nothing quite like a juicy, well marinated piece of meat.
When we talk about gravies and sauces, we have to include marinades because a braai isn’t a decent braai without some kind of delicious sauce.
So, have you mastered the art of braaiing? For some, this traditional South African cooking method takes years to perfect. But in all our communities we enjoy the outdoor art of cooking with fire.
Marinades – Liquid Braai Magic
Shall we start with the marinades? Ask any braai-enthusiast and they will tell you about some special recipe for a marinade that comes from an aunty or a best friend who won a braai competition.
In the old days one just put meat on the fire, maybe with a bit of salt and pepper, but now, a braai just isn’t a braai without a marinade or two.
We know they are used for flavour and tenderness and range from long-term marinades to over night marinades to the quickies. But they all have certain elements in common. A marinade usually has three elements – an acid, an oil and flavours. (Some experts also like to add a sweetener to balance the acidity).
Acid, Oil and Flavour
Acids work in multiple ways to help flavour penetrate meat. Acids help break down the connective tissue which can slightly tenderize the meat and allow deeper penetration. Acid elements include vinegar, wine, citrus juice, and tomatoes. You can also use an enzyme like pineapple, mango or papaya to enhance flavours and change the texture.
Using olive oil in your marinade has the unique ability to help pull the fat-soluble flavours out of some ingredients like garlic and onions and help impart them into the meat or vegetables you’re marinating. You can also use other oils like sunflower oil or sesame oil as well as coconut milk and full fat yogurt. Fats help ground flavor profiles and keep sharp or acidic flavors from being overwhelming the experience
The flavour element is provided by herbs and spices to your taste. This is where the marinade really comes to life. There are endless possibilities, but a good place to start is with aromatics. Aromatics like garlic, onion, or shallots provide a deep flavor base on which other flavors can be built. Herbs and spices, either dried or fresh, can be added to the marinade for extra layers of flavour.
Salt is also an important part of the seasoning process. Salt helps magnify the other flavors added to the marinade. Chilis are a common ingredient in marinades because they add a uniquely spicy kick that can enhance many flavor profiles.
Sugars, such as honey, brown sugar, molasses, or agave nectar, are sometimes added to marinades to balance the acidic component.
For the tastiest, most tender food, marinate your meat overnight. This will allow the meat to become infused with the rich flavour of the marinade. If you’re unable to marinate overnight, allow the meat to soak in the mixture for as long as possible prior to braaiing. Always store meat (marinated or not) in the fridge until you are ready to cook it.
Braai and Marinade Tips and Tricks
- Clean your braai grid. You can use a brush, or half a lemon or raw onion to scrub it down while it’s on the fire.
- Never use a fork to handle meat on the braai. Forks pierce the meat and you’ll lose all that delicious juiciness. A good pair of braai tongs should be in your braai inventory.
- Par cook the chicken in the marinade and just brown it off on the braai. This is quicker and leaves you with delicious juicy chicken.
- For yummy rosemary and lemon lamb chops (works on chicken as well), layer a braai grid with fresh rosemary sticks and slices of lemon. Add a layer of meat (lamb or chicken) and salt to taste. Add another layer of rosemary and lemon. Braai until meat is cooked.
- Acidic marinades might actually toughen chicken. So, when using a highly acidic marinade for chicken, add a little olive oil and/or minimize marinating time. Two hours is usually more than enough time to marinate chicken
- For a killer braai hot sauce, braai some green chillies and fresh garlic, wrapped in foil, then toss in the blender with added mayo. Use as basting sauce when braaing
Here are some Marinating Times and Tips plus 5 Easy Marinade Recipes
Watch June Hlongwane explain all about marinade meat for your braai.
Basting Tips and Tricks
Here is a generic recipe for a simple Braai basting sauce. It will keep meat moist during cooking and enhance the flavour.
The main thing to remember with basting is to turn the meat frequently and be careful of too much heat because the sugar in the sauce or marinade tends to burn and blacken.
If you are lazy, you can use any of the many bottled sauces available at our supermarkets, but it is always tastier if you make your own. Yes, it’s true – some marinades can also double as sauces.
When we think braai sauce, we usually imagine a spicy tomato-based gravy that is the perfect accompaniment to pap.
All this mouthwatering talk about marinades and flavours and braai food depend on the braai equipment you have. If you want a new or better grill, pop into Household Plastic and take a look at our range. We also stock, wire brushes, tongs, braai-mats and other equipment.