What are the different types of braai wood and their heat output characteristics?

Hardwood is the preferred wood for keeping a good braai running due to its density and low humidity. This allows it to easily ignite, burn well and. This allows it to ignite easily, burn well and create hotter, longer fires with less smoke compared to softer woods. Hardwoods produce a higher temperature, which creates constant embers to roast meat for an extended cooking period.

The wood must have had at least one year to dry, leaving it with a moisture content of less than 20%. Hardwoods are very dense; they have more potential heat energy per volume of firewood. Therefore, they are usually the best types of firewood for heating and cooking. However, they are more difficult to ignite, generally cost more and take longer to dry than soft wood.

As for braising, the additional advantage of Namibian hardwoods is that they burn much hotter and for much longer than blue rubber and black bush. For many shoppers who buy wood by the bag at stores like Woolworths, Spar, Pick n Pay or the nearest gas station, when they need it, the decision of which wood to buy is likely to be based on what is available in the store. To counter the possibility that retailers may not cook enough wood, both Taylor and Botha recommend that shoppers consider hardwood from Namibia, especially for open fireplaces and brasses. If wood isn't the main source of heat, many pit experts find that adding the pieces of wood to the embers once they're hot, and the meat and thermometers are ready, is the easiest way to start producing smoke.

People are obsessed with the type of wood they use for smoking, so you can imagine the distress that occurs when the suggestion of mixing woods is mentioned. If you've split wood before, you probably understand the frustration of having the blade stuck in the wood. The amount of wood you should add to the fire and when you should throw it away will also depend on the type of smoker you use and whether wood is your main source of heat or not. You have to choose between pieces of wood, chips, granules, discs and whole logs, and that's before you even decide which of the dozens of varieties of wood to use.

Dehydration occurs before the wood catches fire, so at this time the wood must be exposed to heat from an external source, such as burning wood or a match. Kameeldoring is often referred to as “The Rolls Royce” of braai wood because it is 26% very dry and heavy. On the other hand, a little moisture in the wood can help the wood burn more slowly, which can make it a little easier to control the temperature. The high moisture content keeps the level of wood burning low and steam carries away the impurities in the wood.

To keep things simple when you start, it might be a good idea to stick to one type of wood and get an idea of the flavor that each type of wood has. The choice of wood is a little more important if you're using an “old school” style wood smoker. Cherry wood burns slowly with good heat production in a fire or wood stove and gives off a lovely scent. Some fires burn more slowly than others, while certain woods offer a distinctive aromatic scent that adds a little more to the braai.

Nelson Hillered
Nelson Hillered

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