Braai Day Cometh! Everything You Need to Know to Enjoy the South African BBQ

24 September every year sees South Africans celebrate Heritage Day, a national public holiday where we celebrate diversity… but wherever you turn in this beautiful land you’ll hear it called by a name even closer to the locals’ hearts – National Braai Day. If you’re going to make the most of your South African Holiday this year, it’s essential that you brush up on your braai etiquette and learn to eat like a local. No South African experience would be complete without it! Fortunately, Go Touch Down Travel and Tours is here with your ultimate guide to the art of the braai.

Braai “season” starts as soon as it’s warm enough to stand a night in the open air (and even a bit before for the more intrepid socks and sandals wearing crowd) and lasts well into the cool season. If you can still manage to grip your obligatory beer through the shivers, then it’s time to braai.

Firstly, let’s get one thing straight. Whether you call it BBQ, roast, or anything else, it just isn’t a barbecue. A braai and barbecue may have surface similarities, but that’s where it ends. Love of braai culture unites a sometimes divided land, and brings people from all walks of life together. There’s a reason Heritage Day has become so synonymous with the braai.

It’s an art and a science that every “braai master” will assure you only he (only a few intrepid ladies claim the title) has perfected. Be gone with your self-cleaning grills, electric fryers, and new-fangled mod cons. You braai with a few bricks, a grill, charcoal and determination. Extra points if the fire gets going through matches and force of will.

Now it’s time to chat. Don’t expect a speedy resolution – traditionally, you should be at least a little tipsy before the first sizzling chop hits the plate. Salads will be laid on – though some cheese, sauce, potato, bacon and pasta concoctions will test the limits of the word “salad” – but don’t expect to eat too much of them unless you’re a vegetarian. There’s always at least one non-meat eating soul to feel awkward at the start of the braai, but don’t stress. The true braai spirit is about partying, not the food, and you’ll have free reign of the delicious side dishes pretending to be salads, too! Just grab an extra beer and join in gently ribbing the know-it-all nature of the braai master. The braai is for everyone!

When all you can do is roll away – and traditionally, you should be a little too tipsy even for that – then you can rest assured you’ve experienced the true South African braai in all it’s spirit. But how do you make sure you’re the most polite guest at the braai? Here are our tips.

Braai etiquette do’s

  • Know what you need to bring. Ask the host, don’t assume.
  • Bring quality meat, and enough to share if the evening is a “bring and braai.”
  • Keep the party close to the braai masters, and their drinks topped up. They’re the ringmaster of the evening’s circus, after all.
  • Help set up and clear.
  • Compliment the marinade – it’s always a family secret!

Braai etiquette don’ts

  • Be a party pooper – the music, setting and schedule are the host’s domain. Just get into the spirit and have some fun.
  • Give unsolicited cooking advice, unless it’s to tease the braai master. Only in good fun, though!
  • Bring others unless the invitation was open.
  • Avoid being the awkward soul, unless you have genuine special dietary needs. Your fish or veggie packet will always be accommodated, but it makes a fine balancing art of timing even finer… leave the space for those who genuinely need it!
  • Micromanage – it’s the braai masters show, and your job is to just enjoy the fun. Every braai is a little different.

If you’re travelling with Go Touch Down Travel and Tours this September, be sure to line up your National Braai Day experience on Heritage Day, and enjoy the unifying fun of this national pastime.