From spit-braais to potjies, shisa nyama and snoek-braais South Africans love getting together around a fire to cook some food, share some fellowship and more. All over South Africa there are braai buffs and grill enthusiasts who profess to be the best at our national pastime before the social occasion takes place, and even more so once a few alcoholic beverages have been consumed. We all have our own theories and methods, which have grown out of the many cultures and foods available in South Africa. We even have a National Braai Day and a TV programme Braai Master. Industries have been born with the many and varied braais, accessories, sauces, tools and implements that are available for us to purchase.
Recipes abound and none more so for our famous sausage, boerewors. For those of you that don’t know, the word boerewors comes from the Afrikaans words boer (farmer) and wors (sausage). Even the art of cooking boerewors is hotly contested. And how often have we been tempted to buy a boerewors roll when the smell of the ‘lekker boerewors’ being cooked at an event or outside a shopping centre wafts through the air?
Picnic spots in South Africa are renowned for their natural beauty and the opportunity they provide for peaceful escapes and of course to braai and socialise.
Chad-O-Chef manufactures a range of stainless steel built-in and free standing gas braai units
A deluxe entertainer with rotisserie
Ultimately though, it is the great outdoors of South Africa – locations and weather – that we love, and cooking on a fire, whether it is gas, wood or charcoal, and the cooking and taste outcomes are all part of the experience.
According to Jan Braai, our self-declared Braai King, the history of braaiing, the origin of fire and the controlled use of fire are all pretty connected, not only to each other, but also to South Africa. Scientifically speaking South Africans are not only the best braaiers in the world, but braaiing also originated here, he says.
The theory is that the first braais happened when meat was accidentally dropped into fires, later removed and then eaten. The early humans found that the meat not only tasted better than raw meat, but could also be chewed more easily. The rest is history, as our ancestors started dropping meat on and into fires on a regular basis. An additional advantage of their control of fire was that they were now able to ward off predators. The early humans also crafted stone tools like axes and cleavers. Their control of fire, together with the tools, also meant that they could leave Africa and travel into the colder northern hemisphere.
MD Ron Hollander with his nephew Louis Minaar
Gas braais in production
With summer just around the corner, it is time to get the coals out, or turn on the gas, and light a match to get ready for our favourite past time – braaiing. In the past, braaiing was just another way to cook meat.
Nowadays it is a lifestyle. It provides relaxation, the smell of the meat cooking, the sociability of friends and family, and the flames of a real fire. It is where we can prepare an entire meal and come together. Patio areas, balconies and entertainment areas form part of the house, and this has created the need for well-designed and modern braai products.
Whether winter or summer, we love to braai. Yet, with all the technological advances when it comes to what we braai on, a braai is no longer just a braai. There are built-in, freestanding, charcoal, ceramic, gas, dual, combo and grill options, to name a few. Although the types of braais vary dramatically, there are really only two categories, which have resulted in two very distinct camps of fans – gas or charcoal.
Although everyone has their reasons, and whether you see gas as a quick fix or charcoal as an authentic way to braai, choosing a braai option that is right for you is essential for your entertainment and braaiing needs.
Chad-O-Chef manufactures a number of the components for their products
On the welding side Chad-O-Chef invested in a Motoman HP 20 robot with an NX100 controller. Welding ensures that braai units are longer lasting as it will exclude the grease that is always present when cooking, and also helps to reduce the areas where moisture is likely to collect
Nothing can quite beat the smell of wood or charcoal burning while anticipating a great meal. For those sitting firmly on the more traditional side of things, braaiing is not braaiing without wood, charcoal, camaraderie and tradition. The whole process holds a particular statement to us as South Africans and as such, for many of us, charcoal and wood braais are the only way. They symbolise our relaxed culture and the art of making a fire – for which we are renowned the world over.
Charcoal and/or wood are the most popular to use when you have time to relax and light a fire. A charcoal braai does give more ambience than gas and many South Africans also perceive gas as unsafe. We still like the tradition of making a fire and seeing braaiing as an art and not a rushed, quick way to cook meat.
At the flick of a match
Moving on to the other side of the camp fire, gas has revolutionised how we braai and has made it easy, clean and quick. Some people claim that charcoal braaiing gives a better taste to the meat. However, it is said that a good gas braai ignites some of the fats and marinades coming off the meat, which flavours the meat. Others say that on a blind fold test, 99% of people would not be able to distinguish between the same meat cooked on gas or charcoal.
Gas braais can range from simple units to some state of the art technological braaiing monsters. These seem to be able to do almost everything from braaiing to grilling, and some even come complete with an in-built skottle or rotisserie, and even a potjie holder. The gas braai has added a new dimension to braaiing, creating a fresh surge in this much loved task.
Very diverse and slightly different in price range, your choice will ultimately depend on how you use your braai, and when and what for. The in-thing today is to have the best of both worlds in one unit, ‘gas and charcoal’ braais are becoming very popular.
Different components machined on the CNC lathe, a Compact 480 with a 45° inclined bed, from Knuth Machine Tools
The CNC lathe, a Compact 480 with a 45° inclined bed, from Knuth Machine Tools
Gas braais are slightly more bulky and require more precautions when it comes to location and extractors. Apart from how you use your braai, your location is key to its success and how and when you use it. As with most things your choice could be final, but your location is another story. Your next decision will be whether to choose a freestanding or built-in unit.
Again this is a personal choice and is dependent on how you like to braai. If you enjoy your entertainment area and like to braai come rain or shine, a built-in unit offers you a perfect solution. Built-in units create the feel of a permanent addition to your home, which adds value to your property. If you like the flexibility of a freestanding braai that can be moved almost anywhere and used beside the pool, on the patio, in the garden or even in an undercover gazebo, then a built-in unit will not work for you.
However, landscaping experts have predicted that outdoor kitchens will be a major trend in 2015. This fits in rather nicely with the South African lifestyle. Our warmer months are perfect for dining outside and everyone knows South Africans love getting together around the braai. Built-in units then become the focal point and form part of the design with food prep, countertops, storage areas and dining area all blending in, while still allowing the chef never to be alone, always surrounded with friends and socialising.
Stylish braais and fireplaces
One such company making braais that fit into a stylish outdoor kitchen area is
Chad-O-Chef which manufactures a range of stainless steel built-in braai units, and believe that home cooking will never be the same once you have put your skills to the test on their equipment. But the company does not just manufacture braais. Through experience and evolution the company has added fireplaces to its mix.
“Back in the good old days you would wheel the grill out of the garage, fill it with charcoal, douse the briquettes with lighter fluid and start a glorious fire to cook on. While many grill masters today still extol the virtues of charcoal, others enjoy the convenience of gas braais and grills,” says MD Ron Hollander.
One of the main focuses of Chad-O-Chef is on sheetmetal and they have always had the equipment to perform the various tasks. This includes an Amada RG 80 press brake and an Amada Aries 224 turret punch press
A classic plain black vent free fireplace manufactured by Chad-O-Chef
“Today this has all changed. Through the proliferation of imported products and local manufacture the consumer has a wide choice of many different variations. Each manufacturer has their theory as to why their design is better than the next.”
“The products generally need to be a mixture of attractive and functional features, and the coatings used in modern braai manufacture address both of these design considerations.”
“But it is not just these features that make a ‘good looking and practical braai’. Surface finishes need to be durable and resist scratching and general knocks while in use. They need to be hard and corrosion resistant, as well as being unaffected by the heat when the braai is in use.”
“Braais are a product that humans use so manufacturers clearly should be making their products comfortable to use and efficient in use (ergonomically well designed). For example portable braais are moved around before, during and after use and so a variety of considerations will be in a designer’s mind. Height of the product, height from the ground if it is supplied on a frame, size and feel of the handles and the control knobs used for adjusting the temperature (on gas powered units), or the air-flow controls and even the ash removal device levers and controls.”
“If you were designing a product that had to be weather resistant overall and which would also be moved around on hard surfaces that were often very uneven, with the possibilities of short drops between surfaces when the braai was being moved as with steps, you have to consider what materials you would use for the wheels.”
“Are the work surfaces large enough? Are all of the controls accessible with the minimum of effort? Are materials used likely to be good thermal insulators? Do parts of the design fold away when not in use?”
“Chad-O-Chef was established 32 years ago almost by accident. I had been a draughtsman for my entire working career. My brother was doing interior design work, and one of his clients was Steers founder, George Halamandaris, who introduced the first steakhouse concept to South Africa with his restaurant Black Steer, and later the franchised Steer restaurants. At the time I was doing contract draughtsman work with an emphasis in the armaments industry. Halamandaris asked my brother to find somebody who could design and locally manufacture the gas char grillers that were being imported at a great expense.”
A contemporary tiled black vent free fireplace manufactured by Chad-O-Chef
Accessories such as extractor hoods are also manufactured by Chad-O-Chef
“My brother turned to me because of my draughting experience. This led to me designing a two burner domestic gas grill and manufacturing it locally. Shortly thereafter a young entrepreneur who had an idea of manufacturing potable hot dog units approached me as he needed gas grills. Suddenly I was in the business of designing and manufacturing gas grills. This was followed by a big order of 150 units and so we began manufacturing on a bigger scale. However this order was cancelled before we could deliver any of the units, but nevertheless we managed to get retailers like Randburg Gas and Equipment to put them on their showroom floor. They stood for a while but then they started to move.”
“This prompted us to look for more uses for the gas grill units, and it was the beginning of our venture into gas braai units. Our first braais were made of mild steel that had the covers powder coated and the grids were chromium plated. They were very basic but practical.”
Stainless steel only
“Through research and development, and design and capability improvements, the braai units have evolved into aesthetically pleasing and stylish must have items that would not look out of place in any home or on any patio, including a villa or chateau. This is because we made a strategic decision to manufacture the braais only in stainless steel, which gives them a modern look that will last longer, clean more easily and have a higher resistance to rust.”
“Additionally we only manufacture built-in units. We got out of the portable market because we could not compete in the cheap and poor quality imported arena. We prefer to be recognised as a quality manufacturer.”
“We manufacture a number of braais and extract systems, available in various sizes with accessories such as the rotisserie dome and stir fry pans designed to suit.”
“Through our experience in working with gas braais it was a natural progression to manufacture fireplaces. We started this division of the business in 2002 when we manufactured our first vented fireplace. Demand and market forces have now led us to only manufacture vent free fireplaces.”
“All our products are energy efficient and environmentally friendly. We are proud to supply a quality product with a full guarantee and a comprehensive spares backup. We also offer you the option to have your braai in both LP gas and natural gas options.
“The fireplaces, which are named the Chad-O-Glo range, are vent-free gas fireplaces equipped with the required safety devices, and both braais and fireplaces are LPGASA approved.”
“Our manufacturing facility has always been based in Muldersdrift, Gauteng on the ‘farm’ as we call it. The first building was only 70m² but this has been increased with a number of additions.”
“We are virtually self-sufficient in all components used in our products, although this was not always the case. We used to concentrate on the bending, cutting, notching, pressing and welding aspects of sheetmetal. This changed two years ago when we purchased our first CNC lathe, a Compact 480 with a 45° inclined bed, from Knuth Machine Tools. The working area includes a turning diameter over the bed of 480mm and machining length of 508mm. We have also added a bar feeder to the machine.”
“This allowed us to machine a number of the components such as the jets, compression fittings in brass and aluminium, elbows and others. When you look at a braai there could be 60 different components used and 40 in a fireplace, so the CNC lathe is being kept busy.”
The New Durma AD-S 25100 synchro press brake
“The only components that we outsource are the die cast venturies and the plastic dials. Copper tubing is supplied but any cut-to-size or bending is done in house.”
“On the welding side we invested in a Motoman HP 20 robot with an NX100 controller. Welding ensures that braai units are longer lasting as it will exclude the grease that is always present when cooking, and also helps to reduce the areas where moisture is likely to collect.”
Other equipment on the shopfloor includes a treadle guillotine, hand bender, fly presses and a spot welder.
New Durma AD-S 25100 synchro press brake
“With one of our main focuses on sheetmetal we have always had the equipment to perform the various tasks. This includes an Amada RG 80 press brake and an Amada Aries 224 turret punch press.”
“Our laser has given us many years of service but is due for replacement. we are in the market to purchase another one and are busy doing the due diligence.”
“With the business expanding we have now added a Durma AD-S 25100 synchro press brake featuring a 10” colour interface and 7 axis CNC control as standard. The machine comes with automatic calibration, +-0.01mm positioning accuracy, 100 ton bending force and 2 550mm bending length.”
Currently Chad-O-Chef has a staff compliment of 28. Ron says he has always been a family orientated man and this is depicted by the fact that two of his three daughters work for the company, as well as his son in law and his nephew. Some of the other staff have been with him from the beginning, and now their sons are working in the company.
“We are always looking to produce new products and give our current products facelifts and improve their functionality. We have not launched ahile but currently there are two that are far down the line in the development stage. These will be launched in the not too distant future. Again we have listened to our clients and developed the products, using SolidWorks as our design software, according to what they want.”
For further details contact Chad-O-Chef on TEL: 011 668 1910 or visit www.chad-o-chef.co.za