Meat cooking on a grill

Spice Up Your Braai – Part 1

Bored of the same-old-same-old and tired of bland? Bring some great tastes to your grill and spice up your braai.

Good quality meat is absolutely delicious cooked over coals but to really add some flair to your fireside skills and spice up your braai you’ll want to introduce more flavours.  Think of barbecue spiced ribs, lamb teamed with garlic and rosemary, peri peri chicken and fish with delicate lemon and herbs and you’ll get the idea of the places you can take your favourite cuts of meat to.  You can even elevate vegetables beyond plate garnish or a bore with well chosen herbs and spices.

If this is new territory to you, how will you get all those flavours into your food? There are three basic methods: marinades, dry rubs and pastes.


A marinade is a liquid mix applied to food to infuse flavour.  At its most basic level, a marinade consists of an acidic ingredient such as vinegar, wine or citrus juice combined with oil and then aromatic ingredients like herbs, spices, seasonings and condiments are added to finish the flavour.  The acid helps to break down tough fibres, the aromatics build the flavour and the oil carries those flavours and aromas evenly around the meat.  A marinade also helps to prevent food from drying out and adds moisture to tougher cuts.  Meat should be left in marinades containing pineapple, papaya or yoghurt for a short time only as they can break down the structure of the meat turning it mushy.

Dry Rubs

Dry rubs are a combination of spices, herbs, salt and sometimes sugar that are ground together and rubbed directly onto the surface of the meat.  As the name suggests, there are no oils, liquids or ‘wet’ ingredients involved in a dry rub.  A dry rub is a great option on foods that won’t necessarily benefit from tenderisation or that is cooked faster over hot coals – think prawns, fish and steaks.  A dry rub can be used to add flavour to the surface of a good steak without tinkering with the natural flavours and juices within the meat or add a crunch and burst of flavour to fish fillets without losing the delicate taste of the fish on the inside.  They also add great flavour and a crust to larger, fattier, slow cooked cuts of meat – slow cooked American barbecue classics like beef brisket spring to mind here.  A dry rub can be made in larger quantities in advance and stored in an airtight container in a dark place for several weeks.


Pastes, sometimes referred to as wet rubs, are somewhere between a marinade and dry rub – basically, by adding a small amount of liquid to a dry rub you get a paste.  You could add just enough oil, vinegar, condiments like mustard, fruit juice, honey and even beer or wine to a dry rub mix to create a thick paste which you rub over the outside of your meat.  Alternatively, combining ‘wet’ ingredients like onion, garlic or fresh herbs with oil, seasoning and spices in a food processor creates a paste – think pesto as an example of this.  A paste adds moisture to slower cooked bone in meats whilst giving a slight charred outside, like spare ribs, pork chops or bone in chicken pieces.  It can also be used on quicker cooking foods that may be dried out by a dry rub (chicken fillets) or turn mushy in a marinade (fish, seafood, vegetables). 

Follow us to Part 2 to find out more about how to spice up your braai.


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