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Just the sound and smell of the wood and charcoal crackling on the braai is bound to get your neighbours peeking over the garden fence looking for a good time. Who can resist the tempting aroma of steak seared on the braai grill? Soon, what started as a quick steak for two has turned into the loudest stokvel the neighbourhood has heard since David Kramer’s ‘Meisie Sonner Sokkies’, hit single came out! And all because you put a steak on the braai! There really is nothing better than a South African braai; it’s a tradition that has seen in many a new-born, celebrated countless weddings, and united South African families in times of need. Our steak braais are without doubt the perfect celebration of life’s hatches, matches, and dispatches!

Now that we’ve determined last night’s party was all your fault, we thought it time to discuss the main ingredient that caused all the problems—the steak. In the world of braais, there are good braais, and then there are steak braai’s. What goes into a steak braai that puts all other braais to shame? Some braai connoisseurs insist the secret is in the quality of the steak; others say it’s the marinade or the braai spice, and traditionalists argue it’s the wood and charcoal that create the sumptuous flavours of the South African steak braai. Actually, it’s a combination of them all. How do you combine them all to ensure your steak is braaied to perfection? You’re about to find out.

Check out the list below for some handy information you will need at your next South African steak braai.

South African braai

Top 5 tips and myths debunked for the perfect steak

  • Seasoning your steak with salt before braaing does not make it tough.
  • Only poor quality meat or overcooking makes a steak tough.
  • Steaks need to be cooked on extremely hot coals.
  • Your braai should be made with real wood to enhance the meat flavour.
  • Use tongs to turn the steaks; a fork pierces the meat and causes moisture loss
  • Steaks need to rest after braaing; this allows the juices to settle.

Braai spice versus braai salt

Some braai experts claim that you need a braai salt or braai spice to perfectly braai steak but what’s the difference between the two, and do you actually need them? A braai salt is a combination of salt and various spices, while braai spice is herbs and spices. Long ago, Ouma would mix up a quick batch before the Saturday braai with spices she had in her pantry. Today you can conveniently purchase these tasty mixes online and in many South African shops.

If you prefer to mix your own braai salt, you can use equal parts of Coriander, dry mustard, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper, pour into a recycled spice bottle, and generously sprinkle it over your steaks just before you pop them on the grill. Whether you actually need a braai spice or salt is up to you and your personal preference; we’ll let you decide.

We’ve put together a tasty steak recipe along with some key tips to help make your next steak braai equally as good as the last one.

Braaied rump steak with garlic butter

Ingredients

  • Rump steak (5cm thick) approximately 250g of steak per person
  • Braai Salt 
  • Whole garlic – one bulb per steak
  • Olive oil
  • 1 Sheet aluminium foil
  • 100g Fresh Oregano finely chopped

Method

  • Remove the steak from the fridge and bring it to room temperature, approximately 15 minutes before the braai.
  • When you remove the steak from the packaging, use a paper towel to dry off any excess moisture.
  • Peel and cut the garlic bulbs in half, drizzle olive oil over the garlic and wrap in the aluminium foil.
  • Place the foil-covered garlic into the braai coals.
  • Season the steak with braai salt.
  • Carefully place the steaks onto the hot braai and cook for 8 minutes on each side for medium-rare steak. You can adjust the cooking time to allow for thinner steaks or prefer your steak well done.
  • Place the steaks on a wooden board to rest once cooking is complete.
  • Remove the foil-wrapped garlic from the coals and allow it to cool for a few minutes.
  • Place the soft cooked garlic in a bowl, add the fresh Oregano and mix into a paste. You can add a dash of butter if you prefer a richer taste.
  • Use a basting brush and spread the paste over the steak; allow to stand for five minutes so the garlic can soak into the meat.

Steak goes well with many side dishes; the great thing about steak is that it can be dressed up or down as you like. Serve with mielie pap and gravy on a relaxed Saturday evening, or dress it up with Beetroot and butternut salad and avocado for a fancy Sunday lunch with friends.

Tip: If serving the steak as a starter, slice it into thick strips and place it on a serving platter for guests to help themselves. 

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