How Jan Braai became a braai master MzansiBride

Winona Griggs


How Jan Braai Became a Braai Master

Jan Braai doesn’t mess around with gas when it comes to braaing. He’s a traditionalist through and through. He even jokes about calling chicken a veggie – quite the funny guy. But there’s more to him than just his sense of humor.

Jan Braai is much more than a comedian, though. He’s also a fitness guru, with a workout routine designed to get you in the perfect shape for braaing. And let me tell you, he can cook a steak like nobody’s business. Rain or shine, he’ll have that meat cooked to perfection.

But there’s one thing that sets Jan Braai apart from the rest. He’s a record-breaker. That’s right, he once braaied for over 28 hours straight. Talk about dedication!

But why does all this matter? What’s the deal with Jan Braai and his wood fires?

Jan Braai has a mission. And it’s not just about cooking delicious food. He wants to bring all South Africans together. How? By encouraging everyone to gather around a simple wood fire on one special day each September.

The idea is genius in its simplicity. Forget about our differences and just enjoy good food, good company, and the warmth of that wood fire. It’s a day to celebrate our country and our shared love for braaing.

And it seems like Jan Braai’s dream is closer to reality than ever before. National Braai Day on 24 September is gaining more support every year.

So, get ready to fire up those wood fires, South Africa. Join Jan Braai and let’s make this National Braai Day one for the books!

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When I studied accounting and worked in finance, I didn’t expect that my life would take a turn towards promoting something as simple and enjoyable as a braai. But that’s exactly what happened. At the end of 2005, I made the decision to resign from my job and dedicate my time to National Braai Day, an initiative that I started seven years ago.

Believe it or not, a recent market research survey revealed that 33 percent of all urban South Africans over 18 actively celebrate National Braai Day by having or attending a braai on 24 September. When I saw this result, I couldn’t help but feel motivated and inspired. It’s amazing to think that something as small as a braai can bring people together and create a sense of unity.

Of course, National Braai Day is just one part of my life. While I spend a lot of my time promoting this special day and sharing my love for braais through my book, “Fireworks,” there is more to me than meets the eye. I have a deep passion for sosaties, wood fires, and cultural diversity, but I also have other interests and dreams.

As a reader of Getaway and a viewer of his show, Jan Braai vir Erfenis, you might know about his straightforward and humorous personality. He’s the guy who effortlessly flips a coil of boerewors with one hand while holding a beer in the other. But it hasn’t always been that way for him.

I remember the first time I tried to make a fire on my own. It was in our garden, and I thought using wet leaves would work. Well, it didn’t go as planned. There was a lot of smoke, but not much fire. Since then, I’ve learned to avoid wet wood at all costs.

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Fortunately, Jan’s father came to the rescue. He taught him how to braai, and those early years were spent honing his skills under the guidance of his grandparents. His maternal grandfather showed him how to braai with wingerdstompies (vines), while his paternal grandfather would gather wood from the veld outside Kleinmond.

It’s fascinating to see how someone goes from struggling with wet leaves to becoming a braai master. It just goes to show that practice and the right guidance can turn anyone into a pro.

‘I never even used firelighters,’ he remembers. ‘I would just pour some paraffin on the wood and light it.’

Nowadays, I don’t limit my braaing to just the weekends. In fact, when I’m filming for my show, I braai almost every day. I’ve braaied fish, lamb, veggies, pasta… you name it. And I have quite a few favorites too.

When it comes to lamb, my go-to is either the loin chop or a deboned and butterflied leg. For beef, I love a dry-aged T-bone steak or an oxtail potjie. As for pork, you can’t go wrong with neck chops or spare ribs. And let’s not forget about Portuguese-style peri-peri chicken, which is always amazing. And from the sea, I’ve been braaing a lot of yellowtail lately, but snoek and peri-peri prawns are always on the menu as well.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel extensively in search of extraordinary dishes. One story that really stuck with me was about a butcher in Stockholm that dry-ages rib-eye steak for a whopping 10 weeks. Now, in South Africa, four weeks is considered a long aging process for a steak. So, as soon as I had the chance to visit Europe, I made a mental note to go there. And two years ago, I finally did. Believe it or not, the Ryanair ticket I used to fly to and from Stockholm from Frankfurt was actually cheaper than the 400-gram steak itself! I wasted no time gathering wood and braving the cold to have a braai in the snow. Talk about an expensive and freezing experience!

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Fireworks by Jan Braai

I’m excited to announce the launch of my first book, Fireworks. Published by Pan Macmillan, you can get your hands on it for just R250 at the leading book stores. In the book, I share my journey and experiences in writing it. And, if you’re feeling a bit lucky, you might even have a chance to win a copy!

Recipes from Fireworks

Hey there! I’ve got some awesome recipes and an extract about the ultimate braai kit from Fireworks that I want to share with you.

Check out these tasty dishes:

  1. Chicken Caesar salad
  2. Lamb curry sosaties
  3. Flambéed peaches
  4. The ultimate braai kit

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