A braai refers to the method or apparatus used for cooking meat outdoors on hot coals. Most braais are freestanding units which can be moved around and they are made from any suitable materials that can contain fire. Some braais are made from metal drums which are sliced in half and laid down horizontally to form a suitable holder for the coals, with a grid propped over the coals on bricks or other supports. Other braais can be incredibly sophisticated with various sections and platforms for different levels of heat, electric rotation devices for rotisserie style cooking and electric or gas elements.
It is very rare for a South African home to be found without a braai, or the facilities to braai. Most newly built homes have built in braais or braai areas. Quite often the braai is a feature in the garden or outside the house, and built in braais are then used. It has become fashionable to build braais into a functional wall with a chimney in the middle. These braai units can be opened both from inside or outside which will allow the braai to take place inside or outside of the room. These braais can also serve as fireplaces in winter and provide heat to the home. In most cases though the braai is built in outside, usually around a leisure area such as a pool or an area specifically made for braai purposes.
Traditionally, built in braais are made with wood or coal, but like the modern fireplaces, braais can now be fired with various fuels such as gel, gas or electricity. However it is widely believed that meat does not taste as good when using other braai fuels – wood just seems to be the best. Gas braais are usually the preferred alternative as the gas is odourless and tasteless, and gel can sometimes leave a chemical taste on the meat. The mindset is also that if electricity is used, that the meat can just as well be cooked inside the home. It is for these reasons that the most widely used built in braais are usually the traditional style wood braais or gas braais.