Braai like a meat hero

Who are we kidding, you know you’ve been that person at a braai, awkwardly taking a sip of your drink when words like marbling, wagyu, and rendered fat came up.

There’s more to meat than just buying the most reputable brand or the best price. It’s about understanding the cut, respecting the produce, and supporting local farmers for the best quality meat to braai. It’s about treating the meat you braai as a craft, an artisanal activity to braai it the way it was supposed to.

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Introducing Kevin Wright, the Meat Ranger. Entrepreneur at heart with a passion for South African heritage, the bush, and open fire cooking. Starting out as a Game Ranger in the Kruger National Park, shadowing his uncle, and cooking just about anything under the African sun.

‘Open-fire-cooking’ is not only about the meat though, but also about the source, the story and personality behind the meat. It’s about respecting the produce and treating it with the love it needs for its ultimate flavour to shine. It’s about knowing the farmer, the butcher, and the community. That, it what it’s all about.

Best braai meat cuts

There are eight primal cuts of beef, from which they are then divided into sub primal cuts and portioned into what we know and buy at a butchery. The primal cuts are chuck, rib, loin, round, flank, short plate, brisket, shank.

Each cut is then portioned into some of the popular names that we know and love like rump, fillet, sirloin, porterhouse, T-bone, ribeye, brisket, short rib and many more! In short, here are the differences between four of the most popular cuts of steak.

Fillet: Located in the lower middle of the back of the cow and forms part of the tenderloin. This muscle doesn’t do much work, so the connective tissues are not toughened making a fillet one of the most tender cuts available. Because it is so lean, it doesn’t have such an intense flavour and will need extra love when it comes to spicing or adding a dry rub beforehand.

    Rump: A more flavoursome steak with marbling, medium toughness and won’t break the bank. The rump is part of the top hindquarters of the cow and sometimes lean, but not as lean as a fillet. One of the most sought-after cuts is a picanha steak, or rump cap, situated in the top cap of the rump.

      Sirloin: Found in the loin section of the cow and can be divided into many different cuts of steak depending which section it’s from. It is a good combination of affordable, medium tenderness, and flavoursome. The main difference between a rump and sirloin steak is the rump has less marbling than a sirloin, and usually a bit cheaper than a sirloin.

        Ribeye: The Meat Ranger’s favourite! A ribeye comes from the rib section in a cow and has three sections: longissimus dorsi (heart), complexus, and spinalis. The spinalis is known as the king of steaks or the crown and has the most marbling than other cuts. Marbling means fat, which means flavour.

        How to braai the perfect steak

        • Never douse your steak in sauce or marinade. Respect the meat and use good quality spices if you want to add more flavour.
        • Salt draws moisture out of meat, so salt your steak just before it goes on the braai.
        • Add a sprinkle of brown sugar over your steak for ultimate caramelization. The sugar will burn away, leaving behind a glistening of golden brown colour.
        • Rule of thumb, to braai a medium-rare steak of 25mm thick 3 and a half minutes per side.
        • If you’re braaiing a sirloin steak with nice piece of fat on the side, remember to salt that too. Crisp up the fat at the end of your cook and remove from the heat.
        • Create a flavour crust on your steak, caramelized to perfection, by leaving it for the full duration on the one side. Avoid flipping it too often.
        • Always rest your steak for 8 minutes before serving. If you cut into it sooner, it will lose all its juices. To some, it may look like blood seeping from the steak, but it’s all the flavour getting lost.

        How to braai whole fillet steak:

        1. Sear each of the three sides of the whole fillet steak for 2 minutes on very high heat.
        2. Turn down your heat and gently braai till the internal temperature of your fillet reaches 54°C for medium rare. 
        3. If you have a braai with a lid, we suggest closing the lid, so it creates a convection of heat to help you cook your fillet quicker.
        4. Rest for 8 minutes.
        5. Slice into 25mm medallions and serve.

        How to braai rump steak:

        1. A steak with fat needs salt. Make sure to season your rump and the fat well with good quality salt and pepper.
        2. Braai for 3,5 minutes on a side.
        3. Finish off for 2-3 minutes on the fat side to crisp it up.
        4. Rest for 8 minutes.

        How to braai sirloin steak:

        1. Season with salt and pepper, place on high heat. Sear for 3 minutes on each side.
        2. Finish off by searing the fat side of your steak until golden brown. You don’t want to keep it too long on more heat to change the doneness of your steak.
        3. Remove from the heat and rest for 8 minutes.

        How to braai a ribeye steak:

        1. Always choose a ribeye steak that is at least 25mm thick.
        2. Season with salt and pepper, place on high heat. Sear for 3 minutes on each flat side.
        3. Because a ribeye steak has a few layers of fat, you can sear it for a minute on the sides as well. This will not only caramelize your steak, but seal all the juices on the inside.
        4. Remove from the heat and rest for 8 minutes.

        Braai tips from the Meat Ranger

        • Always braai your meat at room temperature, not directly out of the fridge or frozen. It allows for a more even cook all the way through.
        • Never cook chicken in the microwave before a braai. You can easily overcook your chicken that will make it dry.
        • Chicken pieces can take 18-25 minutes on the braai to cook through. Rest for 5 minutes before serving.
        • Never put a crispy lamb chop in a meat dish to keep warm while you wait for the rest of the meat to braai. The crispy fat will go soft.
        • Get a Meat Thermometer (link product) and take the temperature of your meat before you remove it from the heat.

        How to experiment with new cuts of beef

        • Ask your butcher what their top cuts are.
        • Don’t start too big, ask your butcher to portion it for you.
        • Go on a Saturday morning, they usually have specials or new cuts to try out.
        • Ask your butcher how they would braai or cook the cut you’ve chosen, even what seasoning they would suggest.
        • You need the right equipment (obviously a Megamaster Braai and accessories)
        • That which you don’t know, Google.

          Become a meat artisan and push yourself to try braaiing new cuts of meat. It can sometimes be scary, but nothing that trial-and-error can’t teach you. Our country is rich with flavour, all you must do is find it. For more recipes, ideas, or advice, follow the Meat Ranger's journey on Facebook, Instagram and You Tube.