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Friday, February 07, 2020, 11:37
The thrill of grilling in the great outdoors
By Rebecca Lo
Friday, February 07, 2020, 11:37 By Rebecca Lo

Everything Under the Sun has marketed a device that helps to grill meat to the desired degree. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

There is something primeval about cooking over an open flame. Every culture has its own recipes and methods for barbecuing, as the ancient technique remains popular among diners even in this age of food deliveries. If take-out is about convenience, then barbecue is about slow food, enjoyment of the outdoors, and making memories with family and friends. 

“In South Africa, the braai master is usually the male of the household—or whoever it is that owns and controls the grill tongs,” says Craig Pallister, managing director at outdoor equipment store Everything Under the Sun, adding that “braai” comes from the Dutch word for cooked meat. The transplanted South African grew up with a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef as a mother and a keen affection for barbecue. 

Braai master Craig Pallister. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

After many years in Hong Kong with his local wife and family, Pallister has noticed major differences between barbecuing in South Africa and here. “In South Africa, the braai master is in charge of the cooking. Another will be in charge of cocktails and still another minds the children. Here, we all sit around and chat as each person cooks whatever they want to eat — usually that means chicken wings and fish balls,” he says.

In Hong Kong, people lack space at home. “That, together with our unfortunate disposable culture, means that people go for single-usage skewers and eat with plastic utensils. Plus, Hong Kong people mostly grill in beaches and country parks and bring everything along to the dedicated barbecue pits there,” he says. 

Some like Pallister are lucky enough to have outdoor space at home where they can barbecue. He grills once a week at home. “For me, it’s not about the social aspect — I just like being outdoors on a nice evening with a roaring fire in front of me,” he says. “I cook on a coal-fueled cast-iron grill that I have seasoned over time.” Small table-top cast-iron grills can fit even the smallest Hong Kong balconies or terraces, he adds. 

Fireplace with chimney and open grill. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Next up are the accessories to facilitate an expert cook. “First, you need a good set of tongs — they should be long enough to reach items while maintaining a properly safe distance from the fire,” he advises. “You should always use separate tongs for the food and coals. Second, a good smoke tube is a great accessory. You load it with soaked flavored wood chips — apple, mesquite, whatever you like — and place it into the coals. It is ideal for injecting aroma and smoke into food. Smoke tubes are reusable and there’s no cleaning required, plus they can easily be taken to a campsite or beach. Third, I would recommend a temperature probe with an app that connects to your phone. For big cuts of meat like leg of lamb or a whole turkey, a probe will get you the exact medium rare you seek.”  

As a veteran braai master, Pallister says barbecuing is both an art and a craft. “It takes practice and knowledge. It is not about just cooking steak and chicken wings. I make bread in my barbecue. I use a potjie — a South African cast iron pot with three legs — for stews. I do brisket for eight hours or ribs low and slow. It’s like how others approach brewing craft beer. Barbecue is a passion.” 

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