Your built-in braai: Installation and usage
When deciding to upgrade to the blissful experience of having your own braai room or area, it is time to consider a few things before installing your built-in braai. Your braai installation does not have to be a headache. Here are a few pointers and ideas on how to go about upgrading your braai room and installing your braai.
Installing a built-in braai would be a considerable expense for most of us and careful consideration as to the entire project is of great importance. Things like budget, area to utilise, type and size of built-in braai, design, builder and installer, etc. requires to be fully investigated.
1. Location, location, location!
Where your braai area is located will ultimately determine the particulars and long-term success of your project.
Deciding on an outdoor braai, you will want to allow for plenty of room for cooking. Your preparation area should be close and easily accessible while also allowing enough space to entertain your guests. A decent amount of space should be allowed around the grill as well, for when the braaimaster has to step away from the heat. Consider the following when planning your outdoor braai area:
- Shelter from predominant winds, rain and direct sun. Cape Town would mostly look at a north-westerly partition.
- Ample space for preparing and serving your braai masterpieces.
- Seating and dining area for your guests. Enough space to comfortably entertain as well as providing easy access to join the braaimaster around the braai.
2. Looks aren’t everything, or is it?
When designing your braai you have several options to look at. Our favourite is the freestanding stainless steel unit because of the lovely look of shining stainless steel in almost any setting.
Other notable options include:
Concrete building block enclosure with mild steel build in braai.
Plastered and painted.
Exposed braai on table top. A cover is recommended to prolong the life of a mild steel braai.
Exposed braai installed under cover.
3. Braai where you want to.
The freestanding braai is perfect if you have various suitable (seasonal) positions where you want to host a braai. The freestanding braai is not fixed to a permanent structure or position and can be moved to where you want it to be, when you need it to be there. A freestanding braai should not be confused with a mobile braai. Installing it in a new location requires preparing a suitable position and installation of the flue and cowl.
The freestanding braai is supplied with an optional stand (made from the same materials as the braai itself – 3mm mild steel or 2mm stainless steel). You simply have to move the stand and braai to where you need it and voila.
4. Built-in braai installation.
Installing a braai can normally be left to the builder who constructed your enclosure.
If, however, you wish to handle the installation yourself or if this is a complete DIY job then we have a few suggestions:
- Find the right ground clearance for you. 800mm to 900mm usually seems right to us.
- Allow for moisture drainage and vents in the enclosure.
- Ensure that the surface the braai will be resting on is sturdy and heat resistant. Concrete slab or lintels, thick stone and clay bricks will all work.
- A minimum of 2 cm space is required between the braai and the building material of the enclosure. This ensures that there is no direct contact between the braai and the building material and allows ventilation for excess heat to escape. Think Pink Aerolite can be used as an insulating agent.
5. Time to braai
Well not quite yet. The first step would be to initiate your new braai with a small and slow fire. The purpose of this first initial fire is to burn and clear away any residual paint and factory debris. You will notice a little excessive smoke which will indicate that the debris is clearing. The second purpose is to allow the braai and surrounding structure to “cure”. As the braai and surrounding structure heats it will expand slightly and then settle again once it cools down.
Use the ember maker to start your fire. Place the logs in the ember maker and your firelighter directly underneath the ember maker. In no time you will have embers ready for braai’ing.
Do not make your fire on the very base of your braai as this will directly transfer extreme heat to the braai structure. Warping of the braai structure can be caused.
After your braai, you can simply close the door lids and tidy up. When it is time to clean the braai, the ash should be swept into the ash drawer through the ash trap in the ash pan. The ash pan can then be emptied into a disposal container or mixed into your compost heap.
6. Now it’s time to braai
Start your fire in the ember box as described above. After a little while you can shake the ember box with the poker in order to have the embers fall into the ash pan. Now you can spread out the embers under the grill as you require. In this fashion you can control the temperature of your grill.
The grid usually has three levels to further control your grill temperature. The lowest level is ideal for chops and steak, the second level for sausages and chicken, and the top level for braaibroodjies, roasts, stews and lastly use the potjie hook if you are making a potjie. Some built-in and freestanding braais also offer a casserole stand higher up where you can keep your already prepared food warm.
You can further utilise the oven qualities of your braai to prepare slow cooking meals. To achieve this, you can make a small fire in the ember maker. Now position your dish (potjie, bread, pizza, etc.) where required. Now close the braai doors and just keep an eye on your fire in the ember box, topping up as required.
And that is all there is to it. How you use your braai and what you prepare in it is completely up to you. The options are almost limitless.