The Braai versus The Barbeque

The word braai, which comes from the Dutch braden, meaning ‘to grill’, is an abbreviation of braaivleis meaning ‘grilled meat’. It actually means to roast over coals and comes from the word braaivleis. The fact that the word “vleis (meat)” is part of it must not be misconstrued as excluding everything else. If it can be cooked in the kitchen it can be cooked on a braai!

The origin of the word “barbecue/ barbeque” comes from the Caribbean word “barbacoa.” Originally, a barbacoa wasn’t a way of cooking food, but the name of a wooden structure used by Taino Indians to smoke their food. The difference between barbecuing and grilling,” says Hueston. “When you barbecue you are cooking with a slow circumvented unit of hot air with the lid closed. Grilling is done with the lid up and you’re cooking with direct heat on the bottom, instead of all around the source.

Here are some of the key differences between a South African braai and a BBQ:

Man Makes Fire

The main difference between a braai and a BBQ has to be the fire. A braai just isn’t considered a braai if cooked on a gas grill. The fire also remains lit for the duration of the braai and after the food’s been cooked. Peole will gather around the fire after eating and spend the rest of the day or evening there.

South Africans don’t need an excuse to Braai

Most South Africans braai at least once a week and don’t need a reason to light up the fire. We braai on Sundays because it’s relaxing, and any other time is a good excuse to have a braai:  Birthday braai, Christmas braai, going away braai, welcome home braai, a Wednesday night just to get a few friends together braai, a graduation braai, a housewarming braai, these are all perfectly acceptable times to have a braai.

Come rain or shine

Unlike a BBQ, braais are not strictly reserved for warm weather. We can braai on a covered patio, making rainy weather irrelevant to the occasion. Many of us also have indoor braai areas. This is especially evident in Cape Town because though very windy, not braaing is simply not an option.

It’s a process with strict rules

A braai revolves around the fire, and the food. The food is cooked on (as the name of the gathering would suggest) a braai, which is basically a grill. But you won’t find gas on this grill! In fact, better not mention the word gas or you will get looked at like you just passed some! A major difference between the two types of  Cooking is that South African’s use wood or briquettes (charcoal) when they braai. At most braais, there’s only one “braaier”, normally the host, who regards himself as the Braaimaster! Backseat braaing is seriously frowned upon. Each braaier has certain methods and gadgets that they always use, and not allowing anyone to tell them otherwise may be an unspoken rule.

South Africans can braai anything, anywhere!

South Africans love good food, and we’re great at preparing and cooking it. Grilling options can include boerewors (“farmer’s sausage”), steak, chicken, lamb, pork and often game meat as well as sides that include anything from baked potato, mielies and gem squash (Salted & buttered in Foil) to stunning fish. We even braai chickens on top of beer cans!
Braais are made in the yard, on a balcony, on the beach, at a rugby/cricket match, in parking lots, on the street and in the bush, to name few!

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South Africans braai in anything!

It isn’t a braai without the “dop”

Dop” being any alcohol. Favourites of which include: Beer, Wine and Brandy ‘n Coke.

South Africans braai any time of the day

Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, or midnight, there’s a braai taking place somewhere. Whereas a BBQ typically constraints. We even make our coffee and breakfast on a braai when in the bush, we braai on weekends as well as for weeknight dinners, and we sometimes even braai after an evening out!

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The atmosphere is fantastic and more than just a meal!

A braai is all about having a good time and catching up with friends, a combination of everything we South Africans love—family, friends, good food, and drinks. A braai also often revolves around another event, like a rugby match, ensuring a lively (and loud) atmosphere. Waiting for the fire to produce the right amount of heat takes time, then there’s eating, drinking, and more drinking. This is the whole point of a braai: a long social gathering that can last for hours on end.

It’s a tradition built in us South Africans

Braaing in South Africa cuts through cultural and racial lines. Regardless of language, race, or culture, the love of meat cooked over a wood fire is something that all us South Africans share. It really is a South-African tradition.

So, you decide whether you want o BBQ or Braai!

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