Inspiration for braai awesomeness from Justin Bonello

During a recent catch up with our favourite road-tripping foodie, we asked Justin Bonello for some key components to consider for a truly awesome braai experience. Turns out, there’s more zen to braaing than the element of fire.

Louis Hiemstra photography of Justin Bonello

1. Light my fire

The open flame is the only way to go for the true braai flavour and experience. It’s real wood and therefore real charcoal that results in chargrilled, smokey goodness. We’re still clinging to European methods of cooking our grub but with stellar days like these, let the open flame be your oven. Embrace Africa.

2. Marinade or mari – nada?

When cooking game, consider the notion that it tastes better the longer it soaks up the marinade. As an alternative to the store-bought variety, try papaya as a natural tenderiser or even yoghurt, which breaks down the enzymes, softening the meat. That having been said, marinades have a place but not everything needs a dunking in sauce before it hits the fire. Sometimes salt and pepper are all you need and allow you to taste what you’re eating. Cooking fish? A drizzle of olive oil and coarse sea salt and you’re good to go.

Louis Hiemstra photography of Justin Bonello

3. Don’t kill it twice

Game meat caters for a far more holistic way of living off the land as it’s difficult to ‘feed lot’ so, according to Justin Bonello, it gets first prize where braai meat is concerned. Now, game is meant to be eaten rare (so is beef steak for that matter) as it just gets tougher and tougher the longer you cook it. Best practice? Drizzle with olive oil, season and sear on the grid to lock in the juices. Then slice this into smaller portions and cook to personal preferences, if you must cook it further at all.

Louis Hiemstra photography of Justin Bonello

4. Quality is king

As far as possible aim for game, it’s free range already and far richer in flavour and leaner in fat. If you are going with beef, lamb or chicken, free range, organic meat far outweighs its farmed counterparts where tastebuds and of course health come into play. Sourcing meat from places like Food from the Karoo will up the level of your braai game by many, eco-friendly notches and help narrow the gap between farmer and consumer.

Louis Hiemstra photography of Justin Bonello

5. Plan. Prep. Cook. Serve.

Every good tradition needs a mantra and this here is Justin Bonello’s ethos for effortless braaing. There is a prevailing stigma that men rule the roost when it comes to braaing, as they are the meat flippers and fire stokers, but to quote our fire-loving friend, ‘women are actually the braai masters’, as they are often the ones gathering the odds and ends and producing fantastic salads while entertaining, thereby bringing the braai home. We’ll take that compliment, thanks Justin.

Louis Hiemstra photography of Justin Bonello

6. It’s not all steak and chops

Fresh ingredients are just as much a part of a good braai as the meat, for without the lovely roast veg, potato salads and gentle greens, there would be no supporting act for the main event. Take some inspiration from seasonal veg and the herbs in your garden when concocting those tasty braai salads and give these two potato salads a whirl.

Justin Bonello braaing with mates on the Ultimate Braai Master

And finally, a word of inspiration from the braai master himself – ‘there are no bad cooks – only friends who aren’t hungry enough’. Braaing may not be as easy as turning a knob on a stove but learning how to relate to the fire and keeping the heat source regular, pays off in leaps and chargrilled bounds.

To the braai, folks!

Head this way to find out more about Justin Bonello’s latest adventures.
Check out Justin Bonello’s latest book, The Ultimate Braai Master.

Special thanks to Louis Hiemstra of Cooked in Africa for supplying these beautiful images of Justin in his element.