Here’s How to Start a Charcoal Fire For a Braai

Master the Art of Starting a Charcoal Fire for a Perfect Braai

Starting a charcoal fire for a braai may seem daunting if you’re not familiar with the process, but with a bit of practice and the right technique, it becomes a simple, enjoyable part of the cooking experience. Here’s how to ensure your fire is ready to perfectly cook everything from succulent Curry Sosaties to a hearty Braai Potjie.

Gathering Your Supplies

The first step in any successful braai is preparation. You will need:

  • Charcoal: The amount depends on the size of your braai and the number of people you are feeding. Opt for more if you’re hosting a large group.
  • Fire Starters: We recommend white paraffin blocks, available at most supermarkets, for their efficiency and ease of use.
  • Lighter or Matches: Essential for igniting the fire starters.

Setting Up Your Braai

Location is key when setting up your braai:

  • Find a Safe Spot: Place your braai on a flat, stable surface away from flammable materials. Good ventilation is a must.
  • Check Local Regulations: Always check for any fire restrictions in your area to ensure compliance and safety.

Lighting Your Fire

Properly lighting your fire is critical to preparing a good braai:

  • Place Fire Starters: Put a couple of paraffin blocks at the base of the braai.
  • Add Charcoal: Initially, add just enough charcoal to cover the blocks.
  • Ignite: Light the fire starters with your lighter or matches.

Managing the Fire

Now that your fire is lit, it’s time to manage it for optimal cooking conditions:

  • Allow to Heat: Let the fire starters burn and begin heating the charcoal. This initial flame is crucial for setting the stage for a stable fire.
  • Add More Charcoal: Once the first layer of charcoal starts to glow red and turn grey, it’s time to add more to cover the base of your braai.
  • Wait for the Right Moment: The coals need to reach a glowing red state with a light grey ash on top. This usually takes between 20 to 40 minutes depending on the conditions and the amount of charcoal used.

Preparing to Cook

While your coals are getting ready:

  • Food and Gear: Get your food and any necessary gear ready. This is the perfect time to enjoy a cold drink and anticipate the delicious meal to come.

Cooking Time

With your coals glowing perfectly, you’re set to start cooking:

  • Spread the Coals: Spread the coals evenly to ensure consistent cooking heat across the braai.
  • Control the Heat: Maintain a steady temperature by managing the air flow, either by adjusting vents or by spacing the coals correctly.
  • Begin Cooking: Place your food on the grid and let the braai do its magic.
  • Long Cooks: If you are cooking something like a whole chicken or big lamb ribs, feel free to had a handful of charcoal when you notice your coals are starting to fade.

Safety First

Always prioritise safety from start to finish:

  • Never Leave the Fire Unattended: Always keep an eye on your braai.
  • Post-Cooking Care: After cooking, ensure the fire is completely extinguished.


By following these detailed steps, you’ll find that starting a charcoal fire for a braai is not just about cooking; it’s about creating an experience. Whether you’re a seasoned braai master or a first-timer, each braai offers a chance to hone your skills and enjoy great food. Happy braaiing, and remember, every awesome meal starts with a good fire!

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