The Best Braai Wood in South Africa

The Best Braai Wood in South Africa

Posted by Donkey Long Tong on

In South Africa, a braai is not just a method of cooking; it's an experience that unites friends and family. The success of a braai largely depends on the wood used, affecting everything from the type of fire you are making, the fire's temperature to the flavor of your food. Here's an essential guide to selecting the best braai wood, their characteristics, and their best uses.

Why Choosing the Right Braai Wood Matters

The wood you choose for your braai directly impacts the flavor, cooking time, and overall success of your meal. Using the right kind of wood ensures a clean burn, optimal heat, and the desired smoky essence in your food. Some wood is also not meant for cooking, and must only be used to make a fire. 

The Best Wood For A Braai

Kameeldoring Wood

Originating from the arid regions of South Africa and Namibia, Kameeldoring is a hardwood known for its extreme dryness, thanks to the harsh climates it grows in. Often aged and dried naturally over years, it's a top choice for a consistent, high-heat fire. Kameeldoring is consider to be among the best types of wood for braaiing. Here's what it looks like:

kameeldoring wood
Image by Stompies Firewood

Benefits of Kameeldoring

  • Burns slowly and produces high heat
  • Minimal smoke enhances food flavor without overpowering
  • Ideal for lengthy braais where you want to stretch the night with friends

What to look out for: Ensure the wood is genuine Kameeldoring for the best quality. It should be very dry and dense.

Sekelbos Wood

Sekelbos is widely found throughout South Africa, thriving in dry, semi-arid environments. This wood is valued for its longevity and the unique flavor it imparts to meat. Here's what it looks like:

sekelbush wood
Image by Stompies Firewood


  • Provides a hot flame and burns longer with little smoke
  • Infuses meat with a smoky aroma due to its natural oils

What to look out for: Wood should be properly dried and have a distinctive yellow hue. Watch out for signs of moisture, which can affect its burning qualities.

Mopani Wood

Mopani wood comes from the northern parts of South Africa, growing in low-lying areas of the Limpopo province. It's known for its hardness and density, often taking years to fully dry and mature. Here's what it looks like:

Mopani firewood
Image by Mother City Firwood


  • Dense and slow-burning, providing long-lasting hot coals
  • Naturally termite resistant, making it great for outdoor storage

Important: Mopani wood can be tough to ignite due to its density. Look for pieces that have been cut to a manageable size to facilitate easier lighting.

Black Wattle Wood

Introduced as an alien species, Black Wattle grows in various parts of South Africa. It's often targeted for clearing, which makes its use both eco-friendly, cost-effective and practical. This is considered among the best wood for a pizza oven because of how hot it burns with large flames. Here's what it looks like:

Black wattle wood
Image by Stompies Firewood


  • Burns slowly and is easy to light
  • Suitable for a range of uses beyond braai, like pizza ovens and potjies

What to look out for: Be cautious of overly young or green wood, which burns inefficiently and produces more smoke.

Rooikrans Wood

A favorite in the Western Cape, Rooikrans wood is known for its quick burning, long-lasting fires and excellent coal production. This wood combines the benefits of hardwood longevity with the ease of lighting. Similar to Kameeldoring, Rooikrans is considered the best wood you can find in South Africa to produce hot coals for cooking meat at high temperatures. Here's what it looks like:

rooikrans wood
Image by Stompies Firewood


  • Quick coal production and sustained heat
  • Adds a slight aromatic flavor to meat

What to look out for: Consistency in dryness and density is key. Avoid wet or freshly cut Rooikrans, which can impact the burn quality.

Woods to Avoid for Braai and Cooking

Not all wood is created equal, especially when it comes to cooking. Some types of wood are unsuitable for braai or any cooking purposes due to their burning properties, harmful emissions, or the flavors they impart to food. Here's a brief overview of woods to steer clear of for your next braai:

  • Soft Woods Like Pine and Fir: Soft woods like pine, fir, and spruce contain high levels of resin and sap. They burn quickly and at lower temperatures, producing excessive smoke and potentially harmful chemicals. The resin can also impart an unpleasant flavor to food.
  • Wood Treated with Chemicals: Treated wood, often used for construction, is coated with chemicals to resist moisture, rot, and insect damage. Burning treated wood releases toxic compounds that can contaminate food and pose health risks.
  • Green or Freshly Cut Wood: Wood that hasn’t been properly dried or seasoned contains high moisture content. It burns inefficiently, producing a lot of smoke and very few usable coals for cooking. The excessive smoke can also lead to an unpleasant taste in food.
  • Woods with Toxic Properties: Certain trees, such as oleander, poison oak, poison ivy, and eucalyptus, have toxic properties that can be transferred to smoke and, subsequently, to your food. Burning these woods can lead to food contamination and health hazards.
  • Wood with Mold or Fungus: Wood that shows signs of mold or fungus can release spores when burned, potentially leading to allergic reactions or respiratory issues. Furthermore, moldy wood can give food an off-putting taste and smell.

Rule of thumb: Stick to known, safe hardwoods that are dry, untreated, and free of mold or sap to ensure a healthy and flavorful cooking experience.

You Also Need The Right Braai Tongs!

Now that you're equipped with the knowledge to select the right types of braai wood, you also need the right braai equipment. Here are the 6 essential braai equipment items we recommend and a guide on how to make a braai fire!

donkey long tongs

Donkey Long Tong is a South African company that specializes in crafting premium braai tongs, fire blowers, and other essential tools designed to enhance your braai experience. With the right wood and the best tools from Donkey Long Tong, you're set to make every braai a memorable gathering, celebrating the rich flavors and joyous moments that define South African braai culture.

← Older Post Newer Post →

Blog Posts

How to Braai Steak

How to Braai Steak

Donkey Long Tong
By Donkey Long Tong

Braaing is a go-to activity and cooking style in South Africa, so if you are a native or visiting South Africa, it’s important to know...

Read more
braai fire

How To Make a Braai Fire - The Right Way!

Donkey Long Tong
By Donkey Long Tong

Hello friends! Welcome to another edition of “Ons Gaan Nou Braai.” Our experts share: How to make a braai fire! If you are a South...

Read more