How To Braai Fish

Braaing fish is a popular and delicious South African tradition. Whether you’re cooking up fresh catches from the ocean or enjoying a tasty river fish, braaiing is a fantastic way to bring out the natural flavors of the fish while enjoying the great outdoors. In this article, we will guide you through the process of braaing fish to perfection. From selecting the right fish to preparing the fire and adding special flavors, we’ll cover all the essential tips and techniques to help you become a braai fish master.

Choosing the Fish

When it comes to braaing fish, freshness is key. Seek out fish that is sourced locally or from reputable vendors. If buying whole fish, look for clear, shiny eyes and bright red gills. The skin should be firm and slightly slimy to the touch. Fillets should appear moist, with no discoloration or unpleasant odor.

Some popular fish for braaiing in South Africa include snoek, yellowtail, kingklip, and hake. However, you can braai just about any fish as long as it’s fresh and suited to grilling.

Cleaning and Preparing the Fish

Once you’ve chosen your fish, it’s time to clean and prepare it for the braai. Start by scaling the fish, removing any remaining scales by scraping a knife from tail to head. Rinse the fish in cold water to remove any loose scales or debris.

Next, make a few diagonal cuts on both sides of the fish, about an inch apart. This will help the fish cook more evenly and allow any seasonings or marinades to penetrate better. Avoid cutting too deeply, or the fish may fall apart on the grill.

How To Braai Fish

Marinating Your Fish

Marinating fish before braaing not only adds flavor but also helps keep the fish moist and tender. There are countless marinade recipes to choose from, but a simple and delicious option is to combine olive oil, lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt, and pepper. Coat the fish well with the marinade and let it sit for at least 30 minutes, or even overnight in the refrigerator for a stronger flavor.

Preparing the Braai Fire

Before you start braaing your fish, you need to prepare the fire. Use a good quality charcoal or hardwood, such as rooikrans or black wattle, as these provide intense heat and a wonderful smoky flavor. Avoid using too much firelighter or other flammable substances to ensure the fish isn’t tainted by chemical aromas.

Once your fire is ready, spread the coals evenly and wait until they turn to white ash. This ensures a consistent and even cooking temperature. You can also incorporate some wood chips or herbs like buchu and rosemary to enhance the smokey flavor.

Grilling the Fish

Now it’s time to grill your fish to perfection. Start by cooking the fish directly on the braai grid, oiled to prevent sticking. Place the fish at a slight angle to the grid to achieve those beautiful grill marks. Cook the fish for about 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on its thickness. Use a fish spatula or tongs to carefully flip the fish, ensuring it doesn’t break apart.

To test if the fish is done, gently touch the flesh with a fork. It should be firm yet flaky. Overcooking can result in dry and rubbery fish, so keep a close eye on it to prevent any mishaps.

Serving and Enjoying Braaied Fish

Once your fish is cooked to perfection, it’s time to serve and enjoy the flavors of your labor. Pair the braaied fish with a selection of side dishes, such as crispy braaied potatoes, fresh salad, or a delicious garlic butter sauce. Garnish the fish with freshly squeezed lemon juice and sprinkle some chopped parsley or coriander for an added burst of freshness.

Braaied fish is best enjoyed outdoors, surrounded by friends and family. So, invite your loved ones, crack open some cold beverages, and savor the unique tastes and aromas of a traditional South African fish braai.


Braaied fish is not only a mouthwatering delight but also a beloved South African tradition. By following these simple steps, you can master the art of braaing fish to perfection. Remember to choose fresh fish, spend time marinating, and pay close attention to the grilling process. With practice and a little bit of patience, you’ll become a braai fish expert in no time. So, fire up the braai, gather your loved ones, and indulge in the delicious flavors of braaied fish.