We at Dollas are not big on Braai. Mister Dollas has a thing about meat, he believes if you can make meat better in the oven, Ma should do it. Also, braai is something you do with friends.
First things first, just because everyone can braai, does not mean everyone should.
It is a subtle art, a fine art, that separates the boys from the men, the posers from the originals. It is more than timing, more than temperature control, more than knowing when to turn and what to turn, it is so much more than you ever thought.
- The Fire.
Some may say this is the most important part of the braai, but they are wrong. The fire is as important in the Braai as concrete is in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
The fire is the footwork, the foundation. If it is not sturdy everything else falls down. Fire is not lazy work, you must know the flame, the wood if you use wood, the briquettes if you use briquettes. They will speak to you if you listen.
2. The Weber
This depends on the man. If you use gas webers or electric webers you are not a braaier, you are a fryer, please learn the difference.
A weber says a lot about the braaier, the way they pack it too.
Insider tip, when it is a bit wonky, too small or too weird, know one thing, the braai is brave, confident, self-assured. You do not need state of the art equipment, some braaiers can make a fire over a hole dug in the dry sands of the Kalahari and it will be a thousand times better than anything your friend in his high-end double top shiny monstrosity can cook up in a hundred years.
A man is not a weber, and a weber is not a braai, though make sure to study it. A clean weber means it is not used a lot. A dusty moldy weber means the same. You are looking for that sweet spot between neglect and overuse, believe me, it is there. When the top is opened or the man moves it, you will smell braai.
It is not a bad smell it is not a meat smell either or smoke smell. It is a braai smell, look for it, once you know it, you will be at least 10% more Afrikaans, more South African, more earthly, more manly, more womanly. It’s in our DNA, its in our hearts. When you smell you will remember.
3. The Drinks
There is nothing wrong with fancy drinks, Dollas love cocktails, shooters and all sorts, but a good braaier is a clever drinker. He/she sets the tone for the other drinkers. If he/she starts early, the others will follow and the time of consumption will edge on inch by inch.
Do not trust a loopy braaier. They are irresponsible. He can sip some beer, she can enjoy her whiskey or vodka, but it must be a careful sport. Drinking is a complex thing, a chemical science in some ways and a discerning scientist is the best kind.
Slow sips, truly enjoying the flavor of the drink, not gulping it down or letting it stand somewhere to forget about it. Also when the braaier can fetch their own drink beware, they are the master of fires for the day. They must be vigilant, near religiously watchful.
It is an attitude game and a bad attitude is a bad braai.
4. The meat
A good braaier does not need prize cuts, he can heat up a burger patty from some generic American chain store and you will thank him for it. But a bad braaier.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, they are among us. They look like us, and they talk like us. They are generally lovely people, with a great sense of humor and true enjoyment of life. They are not bad people and they do not intend to hurt others, but they do. They can’t help it, they refuse aid and guidance from others. And our culture is rigged so that we can’t help them either.
The principal is as follows, drunk guests won’t notice if the meat is ruined. And trust me they ruin meat, the prize cuts, the braaibroodjies, they will even ruin viennas and potatoes.
There is just something inside them, some evil force, some terrible thing that can’t be stopped. It is your job as a foodie and a person to escape these people. You can have them over, go to their house if you must but do not braai.
Braai is sacred, it’s lore, it’s a link between modern man and caveman, it is oxygen turned into a serviceable wonder for a single day and a celebration of friendship and community. Stop the bad braaiers, avoid them. Pray they learn the error of their ways.
It is easy to spot them.
The first giveaway is the children. They will have a faraway look on their faces. They will consume too much bread in anticipation of the main meal. They will drink copious amounts of soda, to savor the feeling of moisture in the mouth.
The second giveaway and the surest is the meat, you do not want to wait that long and be disappointed forever. The meat will have what the Americans call bark. A coarse black shell that when it is dished into your plate will clink. The bone will be brittle and it will turn to ashes in your mouth and you will remember why the world is such a hopeless place.
Tips to avoid the bad braaier
This is a Dollas favorite. Always travel with a seasoned braaier. Mister Dollas must see to us always. We take our own meat and he braais it for us. It makes for awkward visits sometimes. He will be finished and then the others are just getting into the flow of things. We have finished our juicy life-giving steaks and our refreshments and then the other braaiers will be turning the meat over and hearts break all over our fine country.
Eat the wors.
Wors is one of the great mysteries of life. You can never be sure of what is inside, is it meat or bone or donkey or chicken or beef or pork. Seeing as Mister Dollas is one of those rare South African men who are allergic to pork, we do not follow this tip.
You can also eat chicken. But beware of sosaties if you have similar intolerances than our darling Mister Dollas.
As a rule, we are skeptical of sosaties. It is just meat, just bacon, and some fruit but someone put it on a stick and the world collectively lost its mind.
Anyway, the last tip and the one we hold to most faithfully.
Tip number 3.
When you find a bad braaier and believe me you will. Avoid him or her, do not meet for a braai, do anything else. Maybe a taco night, or pizza. Just get the bad braaier away from the fire.
Mister Dollas is not a connoisseur, when we serve him our exotic flavor combinations we must coax an opinion out of him and will usually receive straightforward answers for our trouble. Things like nice, or lekker, very good and I think this one is better.
But our travel-friendly designated braaier does value salt, especially Braaimix and he recommends Dollas Braaimixes.
Although unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that good salt can save a bad braaier, but give it a try.
Happy braais everyone, may your meat always be juicy and your company clean.