There's nothing like a great braai, sitting out in the garden with friends and family and some awesome food. So, if you're in the market for a new braai, or ‘barbecue’ if you prefer the American version, then you should probably read our below tips because we're here to tell you exactly how to choose the best braai for you!
From burners to the great charcoal/gas debate, we've got everything that you need to know to find the perfect grill. But a word of advice: You're probably going to be spending a fair amount of money on your braai, which means that you're going to need to check out your home insurance policy in order to make sure that your policy covers garden equipment or items stored in out buildings, just in case that brand new grill gets stolen! Also, and god forbid, if the grill causes a fire, you want to be covered!
Gas or Charcoal?
Your first big decision is whether you want to go for gas or charcoal, and there are pros and cons to each. Gas grills cook faster, you can start cooking immediately without waiting for them to heat up which is pretty convenient. But gas braais are also generally more expensive, as well as more expensive to run, since gas canisters cost more than charcoal does. Another upside, is that Gas braais are more environmentally friendly.
Charcoal braais are cheaper to buy and cheaper to run, and most will probably say that the meat tends to taste better when cooked over charcoal. However, controlling heat on a charcoal braai is more difficult, making it tougher to grill, and you'll need to light the braai and then wait for a good 30 to 60 minutes before you can use it it. Additionally, there’s the mess of making the fire and cleaning it afterwards.
As a rule of thumb, gas grills are best for beginners, and charcoal grills are great once you've had some practice – so long as you don’t mind the mess.
Hood or No Hood?
Second decision: whether to get a braai that has a hood or not. Having a hood on your barbecue will mean that you can cook meat better, since you'll be able to control heat better. It also means that you can get more of that smoky taste to your meat, as well as keeping the flies off! It might cost you a little more though, but it's an investment that's probably worth making since you'll have more versatility with a hooded model.
Size and Burners
The size of your braai is sort of up to you. The more people you generally cook for, the bigger your grill will need to be. If you're looking at braais with multiple burners, three is the general recommendation. This allows you to have one burner at full heat, one at half heat and one turned off, so you can move meat to the appropriate area as you're cooking.
You'll need to think about energy too though. More burners and a bigger grill equals more energy use, and therefore more expense. The BTU rating of your grill will tell you approximate energy use, and you should aim for around 12,000 BTU per burner. If energy saving is something tht interests you (which it should if you want to save money and try prevent those blackouts) , check out our article on how to save electricity.
The very first thing you need to look at in a model is stability. You want your braai to stand safely, with no danger of tipping over. Give the model you're looking at a push, lean on each corner, and make sure that it stands properly. Then comes the question of material – what is the braai made of. You'll probably have a choice between stainless steel, cast iron or aluminium, or sheet metal.
Stainless steel is what restaurants use for cooking their equipment, it's hygienic and easy to clean. Try get the “304 stainless” which is considered the highest quality – the way to check, is by attaching a magnet (magnets stick to 304 stainless steel). However, it may rust, and will probably be quite expensive so ask for a cover as well – these shouldn’t cost much. Sheet metal braais are usually cheaper, but can be flimsy, whilst cast iron grills tend to be very heavy. Cast aluminium is usually your best bet, since it will last a long time whilst being solid but not as heavy as cast iron.
Special features are what really add to the price of the braai that you're choosing, and there are plenty of options. Features include a rotisserie (for roasting chickens, for example), lights, food preparation surfaces and tons of additional options. Think about whether you're really going to be using these features before you pay extra for them. Are there any features that we especially recommend? Well, food preparation surfaces can be good to have, since it means you can do all the work right there rather than hopping back and forth from the kitchen and a thermometer can be helpful although not crucial.
As mentioned, a cover is a good thing to have. Some braai will come with covers, whilst others won't, though you can usually buy covers separately. If you're going to be storing your braai outside, a cover is generally a good idea, simply to extend the life span of your investment. A good cover will keep your grill dry and help prevent rust, so it could be worth spending a little extra.
A good braai can be a good investment, and should last you for more than a couple of seasons. It's worthwhile checking out warranty options, as well as the availability of spare parts and customer service, since these will all mean that you can keep your grill a little longer. Once you've made a decision, install your barbecue on level ground, not too close to the house, and you're good to go. Happy grilling!
Main subject: braai