South African-inspired, and designed and built in Macon, Ga., the Kudu Safari Braai may well be the next big thing in backyard grilling.
Touted as a multifunction grill, griddle, and fire pit, the portable, multi-level system brings a degree of precision to handling live fire, offering creative ways to cook over charcoal, wood or a combination of the two.
Kudu founder Stebin Horne got the idea for the grill after spending time with the family of his South African wife, and enjoying their communal braais, a popular gathering that brings people together around an open fire to cook, eat, and socialize.
Recently, I joined Horne at Yebo Beach Haus in Buckhead, where he and father and son South African braai masters Derek and Justin Anthony schooled me on cooking with the Kudu.
The Anthony family debuted 10 Degrees South in Buckhead in 1998, and went on to open three more South African restaurants in Atlanta, including Yebo, Cape Dutch and Biltong Bar.
“The braai in South Africa is such an integral part of our culture,” Justin Anthony said. “Literally, every weekend, we braai. The word means to cook over an open flame. But it’s more of a philosophy and lifestyle than a piece of equipment.”
“For a country that has 11 official national languages, the only word that is in every one of those languages is the word braai,” Horne said. “And the biggest holiday they have as a country is on Sept. 24, which is Heritage Day, also known as Braai Day.”
Horne, who started Kudu with the help of a fellowship from the Mercer University Innovation Center and a successful Kickstarter campaign, likes to compare and contrast his product with the Big Green Egg, the popular ceramic kamado grill sold by another Georgia-based company.
“The minute you put a lid on your cooking process, you’ve essentially excused everyone else from the party,” Horne said. “That’s why in America we have the term manning the grill. I’m personally motivated to destroy that term, because there should be no one manning the grill.
“The grill, and the food, and the fire should be the centerpiece of all the action that takes place. At Kudu, our innovation is principally about making the most of that experience for people who want to invite people over to their home and cook for them.”
But beyond the interactive allure of the Kudu, Horne praises its heavy gauge steel build and versatile features, which include the means to easily raise, lower or swing its two main cooking surfaces, a grill grate and a cast iron griddle, to hotter or cooler spots around the fire.
Watching Derek Anthony grilling salmon, skirt steak, and South African sosatie skewers on the Kudu, it was apparent that he was constantly gauging the temperature and flames, while moving the proteins through different phases of searing, smoking and resting.
“We can control temperature in two ways,” Horne told me. “We can raise and lower the grate or griddle based on the temperature we want to cook at. And because the grill has a flat bottom we can bank the coals in different areas with different temperatures. We could have have a Dutch oven going and be cooking on the grill and the cast iron all at the same time.”
A few days later, I tested the Kudu out in my own back yard, grilling skirt steak with tomatillos, onions and fresh corn tortillas over hardwood charcoal.
It took some time to get the charcoal going, and if I were cooking more food for more people, I would definitely build a bigger fire, and add a hunk of firewood to create more smoke.
But controlling the temperature by moving the grill and using the griddle to finish the tortillas was easy and fun and yielded very good results.
Overall, if you’re not afraid of tending a live fire, and like campfire cooking or gathering around a fire pit, you’ll likely love the Kudu.
Watch and learn how to become a braai master:
These chef recipes, which include meat, fish, vegetables and accompaniments, were designed to show the versatility of live fire cooking with the Kudu Safari Braai grill. But they can be easily adapted to other grilling methods.