The braai is a South African tradition and way past the level of being a favourite weekend pass time

It’s the best time to introduce your new bae to friends and family, a delicious excuse to surround yourself with the people you love most for no serious reason and there just isn’t a better team-building exercise out there.

Everyone thinks they know how to throw a braai, but 3 hours of small talk and a few pieces of meat in rolls, smothered in tomato sauce later and you must admit, you can do better. Here’s how…

Read more: Gourmet Father’s Day braai treats everyone will love

Perfect timing

How well your meat is to be cooked is a matter of taste in most cases (not chicken, there is only one way of cooking chicken – until it is done) but that is not the only thing you should be concerned about when hosting a braai.

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While the process of cooking the meat is part of the spectacle, you should make sure not to leave your guests milling about with stomachs growling. Providing appetisers will keep things moving while your guests wait for the meal to be served.

Try quick and easy to make tartlets and serve them with patters of veg and dips, cheese and crackers and Charcuterie boards

Roasted Tomato and Puff Pastry Tartlets recipe

It’s not all about the meat

While it is a lot about meat, it isn’t all about the meat. Your side dishes matter, and not just for the guests who won’t be eating the meat either.

Great side dishes to accompany your meat make a meal out of your braai and set a tone for your gathering. Whether it’s a proudly South African traditional braai and chill with chakalaka or tomato relish on pap or a more worldly food experience with a couscous salad and veg, your sides matter.

Besides, you have to agree, your meat tastes so much better with something other than tomato sauce dripping off it, even in a boerie roll.

Curried chakalaka recipe

Keep it simple

While your sides make the meal, if you’re having a braai, the point is usually to have a relaxed meal or get together with little fuss.

Keep things simple with side dishes and salads you can prepare beforehand and leave only the meat to be prepared when your guests arrive. That way you can enjoy your braai too.

Pap is nice, not necessary

Who doesn’t love a good serving of pap? It’s the traditional braai accompaniment. Aside from it being a simple and cheap but filling food to make for a crowd, pap goes well with just about anything.

We love pap! Even so, other alternatives work just as well. You can keep things light and healthy with salads, couscous or an assortment of veg you can prepare on the braai. Bread rolls artisan bread and even idombolo are also great with your braai and could arguably do more justice to a fish braai.

Spiral Twist Bread Rolls recipe

It really does matter what you burn

The first thing you learn when you are gearing up to host your first braai is how to make a charcoal pyramid peppered with firestarters. The next thing you learn is that this doesn’t always work.

Getting a good fire going is essential, no fire, no braai, but have you considered burning something else?

While just about any fire will get things cooking, the quality of your coal or wood can also change the taste of your food. Woodfire, for example, adds a delicious smoky taste to your braai and could be just what you need to set your occasion apart.