The Home Fires Braai 1200 opens the door to true South African open fire cooking.
By name, the Home Fires braai is dressed up to be South African but this style of open fire cooking is also reminiscent of Argentinian cooking.
The whole idea is that you burn wood in (what I call) the embrasero or ember maker and effectively create your own charcoal by spreading the embers that drop out of the embrasero across the ash pan and cooking directly over the embers.
It conjures up images of big hunks of meat gently cooked while family and friends gather for the impending feast.
★★★★☆ - Compare it to some of the more versatile grills and smokers and the Home Fires Braai is going to fall short but if it's straight forward open wood fire cooking that you want the this is a beast!
It's impossible to miss how big this thing is. That said assembly time isn't too bad as the whole unit comes in four separate parts on one pallet - the cradle (flat packed for assembly), the grill itself, the flue and the cowl.
It's definitely a three person job to assemble and it takes about one hour to assemble.
It's fabricated from powder coated steel which realistically is the only way to make something this big cost effectively so rust through general wear and tear is an inevitability.
Note: Touch up paint is supplied with your braai.
The actual grill space is 1200mm (4ft) wide which gives plenty of space for cooking and also offers two set up combinations.
The first is with the embrasero offset to one side coupled with one big grill grate.
And the second way is to have the embrasero centrally located with one of two smaller grill grates to either side.
Note: The Home Fires braai comes with one large grill grate and to small grill grates included.
You can see in the pictures above that the support runners for the grill grates are on the side of the embrasero.
To get the show on the road it's simply a matter of throwing some logs into the embrasero and getting a good fire raging.
It's important to ensure that the embrasero contains a good fire so that there are sufficient embers to scrape out from underneath.
Being super critical, I've seen better embraseros in my time. I found the one a little bit too much like a box which made it difficult to "shake down" the embers.
Well it behaves exactly as you would expect it to. It is superb for open fire cooking, the fresh embers laid out on a solid metal base make for good heat intensity and few flare ups.
To keep the cookout going, just continue to burn more logs in the embrasero and shake down the fresh embers every now and then - it's a dream for those that like to play with fire.
Included with the braai is a potje hook for "dutch oven" cooking although the potje is an addition available at extra cost.
Cleaning open fire grates is not as easy as those barbecues where you have a lid and can whack them up to a high temperature, the cooking grates need to be wire brushed with the help of some elbow grease.
Cleaning out the ash is really easy however, simply open the trap door in the floor and brush the ash / old embers down into the drawer below.
Compared to other open fire cookers the Home Fires braai stacks up really well. It's true wood fire cooking as opposed to starting with charcoal so there's a lot of fun to be had for those who love to play with fire.
The enclosed cooking area with 2m high flue and rotating cowl also does a great job in channelling smoke well away from chef and the party guests. This is really important for both comfort, health and it also means that you can set one of these braais up indoors too.
The Home Fires braai also hits the nail on the head when it comes to social cooking. Everything is on show and you get the full sensory experience, see the smoke, hear the sizzle and taste the wood flavour...something that's missing from current crop of grills with the ever present lid.
That said, it's all about that one style of cooking. If you want something with the versatility to smoke low and slow or to deliver high heat to bake pizza then this is not the animal for you.
There are a small group of UK retailers selling Home Fires products and I have to give special mention to Great Outdoors BBQ Co who provided the test braai for me.
Home Fires is a South African company and you can find out more about their network of international distributors on the Home Fires website.
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