Around the world, you’ll find most countries have a signature dish. A dish that proudly emulates the spirit of the country. On this plate you’ll find history laced in aromas that conjure up feelings of familiarity and comforting memories. It’s a dish you call home. For South Africans, it’s potjie!
Our rainbow nation is diverse, colourful, and unique. So are our potjies! You will quickly find out who is passionate about making potjie by just having a simple conversation – to add patty pans or not, to make your potjie in layers or not, do you stir your pot, etc. Every single South African in our diverse cultures has their own way of making their signature pot.
So, what is a potjie exactly?
A potjie is a stew-like dish made in a cast iron three-legged or flat-bottomed pot. A potjie is traditionally made on an open fire, synonymous of the great outdoors, and takes anything between 2-4 hours to cook. A potjie is served with a starch as a side like rice, pap, samp, or bread.
How many portions can I cook in my potjie?
On the outside of every Megamaster cast iron three-legged potjie pot, there are rings around it. The rule of thumb in the potjie world is to multiply the number of rings by the number pot you have. For example, our Nr 3 Potjie has 4 rings = 12 portions. Let’s say you’re not that many people for lunch, use the rings as an indication of where your ingredients should stop inside your pot. Using a flat-bottomed pot is a little trickier, so we did the math for you. Our Nr 10 Flat Pot is 3 litres and can feed 2-4 people.
¼ Potjie |0,7 litres | 1 portions
Nr 3 Potjie |7,8 litres | 12 portions
Nr 4 Potjie |9,3 litres | 16 portions
Nr 10 Flat pot | 3 litres | 2-4 portions
What must I do before I use my potjie for the first time?
Potjie Pots are made of cast iron, so before your first cook, you need to prepare it correctly. Our potjies are coated either in oil or wax to protect them from rust during production till it is welcomed into your home. It is therefor crucial that you burn in your pot and season it before the first use. The factory residue, wax or oil can be very toxic to people. Not only can it discolour the food you cook in it, but it can also affect the taste, in some cases even make you sick.
- Wash out with hot soapy water and steel wool. Dry thoroughly.
- Coat the inside with any cooking oil and place on heat until oil begins to smoke.
- Allow to cool.
- Wipe with a paper towel.
- Repeat until the paper towel comes out clean.
It is a tedious process, but we cannot stress enough how important this step is. A bigger pot can sometimes take 2-3 times before your pot is ready for use. Cast iron is very much like a raw wood salad bowl that needs to be treated with tenderness, love, and care.
How do I make sure my potjie pot lasts long?
It is very important to do maintenance on your pot, keeping it clean and storing it in a dry place. The more you use your pot, the better it is for the cast iron. Therefore the more you use it, the more you season your pot. Cast iron is porous, meaning that every time you heat it up with oil or fat, it will start filling the small, microscopic holes in the surface – making it a non-stick pot or pan over time. A brand-new cast iron pot won’t be non-stick because it must mature in its seasoning. All good things come with time.
After each use
- Wash with hot soapy water.
- Dry thoroughly with a hand towel.
- Heat up your gas braai or kitchen stove and place the cast iron pot or pan on it to heat up slightly. The heat will ensure that all the moisture has evaporated before storage.
- Let it cool.
- Lightly coat with any cooking oil.
- Store with a crumpled-up newspaper in a dry place.
How do I remove rust from my potjie?
If you find rust, scrub the rust off with fine wire wool and hot soapy water until the rust is removed. Remember that cast iron will rust easily if there is any moisture in it when you store it. Refrain from ‘drip drying’ your pot. Dry off and follow the steps again to store your pot. Be sure to repeat the curing process before cooking in it again.
What if my pot is rusted very badly on the inside
- Scrub with fine wire wool on the rusted sections.
- Fill with water 2/3 of the way full. Place on the fire and let the water boil until it has evaporated.
- Let the pot cool down.
- Wash with warm soapy water. Dry thoroughly.
- Lightly coat with cooking oil and let it set for a few hours, even better overnight.
- Repeat this process till the rust comes off. On badly rusted pots and pans, it can take 3-4 times.
Hot pot tips
- The idea is to layer ingredients. Meat is always the first layer. After that, ingredients are thrown in from longest cooking time to the shortest. The closer to the bottom of the pot means closest to the fire and longer cooking time.
- Never stir a potjie, allow flavours to stew without tampering.
- Place your coals outside of the potjie pot legs and the heat will do the rest.
- Keep the lid on. Resist the urge to look inside the pot, no matter how delicious it smells.
- Fry your spices before adding the meat. This brings out the flavour.
- If you want to save time, fry off any meat and partially cook potatoes ahead of time.
- Keep your fire small - if the pot gets too hot you will burn the food.
- Don't boil your potjie, it is meant to simmer for a lengthy period.
- Keep a potato aside and put it in last, right at the top of the pot. When this potato is done, the rest of the pot should be done too.
- If it goes wrong for some reason, chutney can disguise almost any mistake.
What should I never do with my pot?
- Don’t put your potjie pot or pan in a dishwasher.
- Don’t use sharp metal utensils in your pot.
- Never ‘drip dry’ your pot or pan. Always dry off immediately.
- Never leave unattended when there are kids around. Cast iron gets extremely hot and can be dangerous.
The final stir
Potjie is a slow meal that takes nearly an entire day to prepare, cook and then finally enjoy. It’s a ceremony that brings people together.
“I love a good potjie. In fact, I consider potjie to be one of the purest parts and fundamental ways of having a braai.” - Jan Braai, Cookbook Author
“A potjie is something I cook when I'm at home with my family. It's a wholesome meal that brings us all together.” - Terror Lekopa, Head Chef at the Saxon Hotel