How To Braai Chicken

Braaiing (also known as barbecuing) is a beloved tradition in South Africa, where families and friends gather together to enjoy delicious grilled meals. One of the most popular dishes to braai is chicken, which can be incredibly flavorful and tender when cooked on the grill. In this article, we will guide you through the steps of braaiing chicken to perfection, from marinating to grilling techniques. Get ready to impress your guests with a mouthwatering braai chicken that will leave everyone wanting more!

Choosing the Right Chicken

When it comes to braaiing chicken, it is essential to choose the right type of chicken for a successful cookout. Opt for fresh, quality chicken with skin-on and bone-in pieces, as these retain more moisture and flavor during the cooking process. Whether you prefer drumsticks, wings, or whole chickens, make sure they are fresh and have not been frozen and thawed multiple times.

Marinating for Maximum Flavor

To ensure your braai chicken is bursting with flavor, marinating is crucial. Not only does it infuse the meat with deliciousness, but it also helps to tenderize it. There are countless marinade recipes to choose from, but a classic South African marinade often includes a combination of the following ingredients:

– Lemon juice or vinegar: The acidity helps to break down the proteins in the chicken, resulting in more tender meat.
– Olive oil: Adds moisture and helps the marinade penetrate the chicken.
– Garlic and ginger: These aromatics add depth and complexity to the flavor profile.
– Paprika, cayenne pepper, or peri-peri sauce: For that extra kick of heat and smokiness.
– Fresh herbs: Thyme, rosemary, or parsley can bring a delightful aroma.

How To Braai Chicken

Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Place the chicken pieces in a resealable plastic bag or a container with a lid. Pour the marinade over the chicken, making sure it is completely covered. Seal the bag or container and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but overnight marination is ideal for maximum flavor.

Preparing the Grill

While the chicken marinates, it’s time to prepare the grill. For a traditional wood or charcoal braai, arrange the coals in a pyramid shape and ignite them. Allow the coals to burn until a layer of white ash forms, indicating they are ready for cooking. Remember to have enough coals to cover the entire cooking area under the chicken.

If you prefer a gas braai, preheat it to medium-high heat. Check that the grill grates are clean to prevent sticking and have been lightly oiled for easy cooking.

Grilling Time

Once the grill is ready and the chicken has marinated sufficiently, it’s time to start cooking! Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off any excess liquid. Allow the chicken to come to room temperature before placing it on the grill.

For even cooking, it is recommended to start grilling with the bone side down. This helps to retain moisture and promotes more uniform heat distribution. Close the lid of the braai, and let the chicken cook undisturbed for about 5-7 minutes.

Next, flip the chicken over using tongs or a spatula. Baste the chicken with any remaining marinade for an extra boost of flavor. Continue grilling for another 5-7 minutes with the lid closed. Keep a close eye on the chicken to prevent it from burning or drying out.

Checking for Doneness

To ensure that the chicken is cooked thoroughly, it is essential to check its internal temperature. Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken without touching the bone. The chicken is safe to eat when the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C). If the temperature hasn’t been reached, continue grilling for a few more minutes and check again.

Resting and Serving

Once the desired temperature has been reached, remove the chicken from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes. Resting allows the juices to redistribute, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful chicken. Cover the chicken loosely with aluminum foil to keep it warm.

When serving braai chicken, you can garnish it with fresh herbs or squeeze some lemon juice over the top for an extra zing. Pair it with a crispy salad, mielie pap, or potato wedges to create a complete meal that will impress your guests.


Braaiing chicken is a fantastic way to bring friends and family together while enjoying delicious flavors straight off the grill. By carefully selecting the right chicken, marinating it with flavorful ingredients, and grilling it to perfection, you’ll create a memorable dining experience. So, fire up your grill, follow these steps, and get ready to savor the succulent and aromatic braai chicken that South Africa is famous for.