Knowing what kind of braai wood to use and knowing where to get it are sometimes overlooked, even though they play such a big role in the outcome of a braai…
For such a long time wood was always just wood and braai wood was always just braai wood, I’d never really thought about what kind of wood was good for different uses and more importantly I’d never considered what wood would be best for a braai.
In my young age, which I’m sure you’ve all also experienced, when we decided to braai it was always a spontaneous decision and no one really took the time to think about what wood we would use and how much we wood need.
It was always a rush as everyone was assigned a specific task in contributing to this spontaneous and fantastic decision. Besides that, we all know a braai is not just about the wood or the food, its about the experience and about getting the friends and loved ones together, or in my younger age – just an excuse to drink and jol with the manner.
So through my experience and research I have put together a comprehensive article on what to consider when buying your braai wood and for what purpose and I have outlined some details concerning the various and most commonly used woods in this beautiful county of ours.
As with all my posts – I encourage your participation as I know I myself am still a laatie when it comes to braai’ing and would love your input to further my knowledge and the knowledge of the readers.
These next 4 factors are used to explain the different kind of woods by means of the braai woods heat generation, coaling qualities and lighting ability.
factors in choosing braai wood
1 Wood dryness/wetness
This is quite obvious but Wet wood is a no good for a braai, other than its inability to burn correctly it also creates way too much smoke.
Dry braai wood is best and will burn easier and you’ll be able to get a fire going with much less effort. The dryness of the wood is determined by the amount of time the wood has been drying for, the longer the better.Anything that has been drying for a full season or a year is enough for some lekker braai wood.
2 Wood density
You need hard wood to start a great fire. Hardness is determined by how dense the wood is. Gauging the weight of the wood is a good way to see if it is hard/dense wood. Less dense wood is alright to get the fire going initially but not great to braai on, unless you looking for a quick midweek braai.
Heavier, more dense wood, is ideal wood for a slower braai, especially if you are not in a hurry to get the fire going and want to enjoy fire making and a few cold ones while doing so.
Hard wood burns at a higher temperature for longer, this is party due to the fact that the longer wood burns for the hotter it gets. Hard/dense wood will also leave ample time to cook and to restart the fire at a later stage in case someone arrives a little late.
Dense wood is it is usually more expensive and hard to get at times but in the end because it burns for longer, you will use less and it’ll probably work out to be the same amount of money but with a better outcome. Use soft wood for a camp fire where it can burn out quick after you’re done and it makes for a great high flame bonfire.
3 Lumber Size
Try and use wood of the same size. This consistency will ensure they all burn at the same rate. The largest ones should come last and the smallest first.
4 Pack Size
This will obviously vary depending on how big your fire is and what type of wood you are using so I’m generalising with reference to decent hardwood.
5kg : x1 braai session : 2-4 people
10kg : x2 braai sessions : 2-4 people
20kg : x4 braai sessions : 2-4 people
choose your wood
Known for burning quickly makes it ideal as a braai starter but not to use as the main wood, pine cones are even better & give off an earthy scent.
Kameeldoring has the lowest moisture content of any well known braai wood as it’s baked by the African sun to between 0 to 1 % moisture content. Unnaturally dried local wood usually ranges between 20 – 30% moisture which compared to Camel thorn is much more moist. This wood is extremely dry and heavy which is why it takes so long to burn and at such a high temperature. Other awesome facts include that it creates almost no smoke, has a natural musky fragrance, creates a large amount of hot burning coals and wastes no energy burning off the moisture.
Another great hardwood, even though you might struggle to get the fire lit, it’ll be worth it. Interesting facts include that this wood is termite resistant and can be found in most areas north of South Africa such as Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
The natural oils which are unique to sekelbos are known to enhance the flavours of the meat, this will obviously depend on your ability to braai. Unlike kameeldoring – sekelbos is yellow in colour and has bark. As these trees usually occur in desert areas they are naturally dried in the desert sun making this is a great hardwood for braai’s and potjies.
As black wattle is an alien invasive plant it is encouraged to be used and cut down, making it eco friendly firewood. Thick pieces of wattle are great for hotter and longer fires, especially for a braai and the more thin pieces can be used to make a big flame, for something like a bonfire. Black wattle is also excellent wood for pizza ovens, potjies and fireplaces.
This is quite difficult to come by these days but if you do, its a great source of firewood. It makes awesome pizza oven wood and has its own sweet aroma that is known to flavour the meat and what ever else you are cooking.
Unlike the above mentioned wood types, blue gum does not burn for as long as the other hard wood, although it is known to burn very hot. A slightly damp blue gum would work great if you are going for longevity over heat.
Very popular in the western Cape; It usually comes in log shapes and is also a great hardwood for a braai.
NOTE: If you are unsure of the wood type, check if it is safe to burn first. Some wood types can be noxious or poisonous.