The burning question: gas or charcoal braai?

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Slip into your slops, mix up some G&T’s and crack open a beer, folks. It is summer and the festive season is upon us, which means it’s braai time!

The big question is: are you going to cook up a storm on a gas or coal braai?

Gas Braai vs Charcoal Braai

Whether it is a lunch-time affair with the family, an afternoon sundowner social or an easy dinner with the boys – any and every proudly South African event is always a good reason to gather around the fire.

As you get your balcony or veranda ready to entertain this December, we are going to help you find your shisanyama soulmate by answering the burning question: gas or coal braai?!

Gas Braai Vs Charcoal Braai
The perfect cooking temperature varies for different types of meat, which is much easier to control on a gas braai.

Just the right temperature

If cooking with flames is your forte and you have a little case of special spices, a home-made marinade and a vast repertoire of barbecue favourites, then it is probably safe to say that you have reached braai master level.

You have perfected your fire-starting method, you know which brand of coals work best and you can smell when the heat is just right to start cooking some meat.

This kind of expertise calls for coals. If, however, you are a fire novice and just want to have a good time with your mates and enjoy some flame-frilled boerie and a juicy steak, we would suggest you go with the gas option. At the push of a button, gas is ready to go and will give you the perfect, constant temperature almost instantly.

If you are cooking a selection of different meats, gas makes it super easy to change the temperature to suit steak, chicken or fish. Temperature control on coals takes a lot more practice and time.

When it comes to getting the shisa just right, gas is definitely quicker, easier and basically fool-proof.

Beef likes heat, so make sure to turn up the flames for that tender, juicy steak.
Beef likes heat, so make sure to turn up the flames for that tender, juicy steak.

Consider the location

If you are living in a swanky bachelor pad and your braai is going to reside on your veranda, you want to think about the smoke factor.

Not only do most flat buildings not allow braaing on verandas, your neighbours will also not appreciate being smoked out of their homes while you are having a party below.

To avoid trouble with the body corporate, forget the coal option and rather go for a gas braai. Also, with no actual open flames, a gas braai is a safer choice in a flat environment or under a thatched lapa, as the chances of an accidental fire hazard are much lower.

Do make sure that your gas connection is set up according to the regulations and safe to use. A gas braai is also much easier to set up and compact to store away, making it ideal for a smaller space.

Gas or coals - choose the option that suits your lifestyle best.
Gas or coals – choose the option that suits your lifestyle best.

Ready for some elbow grease?

Cleaning a braai is a hack, but a necessary evil. Regardless of whether you choose gas or coals, the grid needs a good scrubbing after every use.

This is where a sturdy grill brush comes in real handy coupled with a spritz or two of braai cleaner liquid. The beauty with gas is that the cleaning mission starts and ends with the grid.

On a traditional braai, you will need to clean out the burnt coals. So, when it comes cleaning a gas or coal braai, we proclaim gas the winner.

If you and your mates enjoy making a fire, then coals are a good option.
If you and your mates enjoy making a fire, then coals are a good option.

Crack open the piggy bank

Let’s talk money. When it comes to price, a coal kettle braai is definitely going to be gentler on your wallet. From as little as R599, you can buy yourself a Weber kettle braai versus the rather steep starting price of roughly R7,999 for a gas option.

Check out this bundle on sale now!

You will also have to consider the cost of installing the gas cylinders safely and connecting them up to the braai. While the initial cost for gas is higher, it is safe to say that it will balance out long term.

Depending on how often you light the braai and the size of the gas cylinder, you could get away with only refilling once a year or even less. There is no need to constantly buy charcoal and firelighters, which is a major cost-saver in the long run.

For ultimate temperature control, opt for a Weber with a built in thermometer.
For ultimate temperature control, opt for a Weber with a built in thermometer.

The romance factor

There is no denying that sitting around a fire does strike a chord deep in our caveman-rooted instincts. The cosy feeling of watching the hot red coals glowing in the night while sipping on some red wine or a cold beer certainly creates a romantic atmosphere and makes you feel at home and relaxed.

When it comes to charm, gas certainly can’t hold a candle to the traditional coal and fire. If, however, you are not wooing a love interest and don’t care much for rom-com moments, the gas braai will do just fine.

The verdict:

Choosing between a gas or coal braai is a personal choice and depends largely on the space you have available and your skills.

If smoke is not an issue and you have lots of time on your hands to sit back and relax while waiting for the fire to reach the right temperature, then coals is the way to go.

Should you just want to barbecue two tjops and a little chicken for you and your bae on a Wednesday evening, the convenience of a gas braai is unbeatable.

Braai masters will argue that gas cannot compare to coals when it comes to that traditional flame-grilled taste, but you can try adding some smoke chips to the gas braai for a smokey flavour.

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