In anticipation of National Braai Day on 24 September, we’re giving you a braai-friendly recipe each week courtesy of South African braai master, Jan Braai.

I don’t think there is any single definitive set of burger toppings but some, like cheese and bacon, are certainly more popular than others. At the time of writing this book, this was my favourite way of making beef burgers at home. The flavour of your cheese sauce depends directly on the quality and taste of the cheese you use.

beef burger recipe bacon cheese sauce

WHAT YOU NEED (serves 6)

For the cheese sauce:

2 tots butter
2 tots cake flour
2 cups milk (full cream, obviously)
1 tot Dijon mustard
At least 1 cup grated mature cheese (1 cup of grated cheese is about 100g, but err on the side of extravagance – I use a mixture of Cheddar, Parmesan and whatever else happens to be in my fridge)
Salt and black pepper to taste
(not all cheese has the same salt content)

For the burgers:

1 kg good-quality beef mince
1 tot olive oil
salt and pepper (optional)
1 packet smoked streaky bacon (200–250 g)
6 hamburger rolls (sliced open and buttered on the insides)
lettuce leaves (washed and drained)
2 large tomatoes (sliced)


For the cheese sauce:

1. Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat and then add the flour. Stir until smooth and then cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
2. Add the milk bit by bit while stirring vigorously to incorporate it completely and make a smooth sauce. A wooden spoon should work fine, but if you struggle, use a metal hand whisk. Never leave the sauce unattended – I speak from experience. If at any time you feel you’re losing control, decrease the heat and first fully combine everything already in the pot before adding more milk.
3. As soon as all the milk has been incorporated, toss in the mustard and cheese. Stir well until the cheese has melted.
4. Take the pot off the heat and test for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if necessary. Keep the sauce aside until the burgers are ready. Re-heat and stir just before pouring it over the burgers – and don’t worry about that ‘skin’ forming on top of the sauce as it will disappear when you begin stirring. Alternatively, make the sauce while the patties are on the braai.

For the burgers:

1. Divide the mince into six balls, then shape them into patties. Always flatten them a little more than you think, because they will shrink and thicken in the middle during the braai. Brush them with olive oil on both sides.
2. Put the patties on an open grid and season the top with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, then carefully (yet confidently) flip them over with a metal spatula. Season with salt and pepper, and cook for another 5 minutes on the other side – 10 minutes in total. To be clear, you only turn the patties once on the braai. Every time you turn them, there is a risk of breaking them. Don’t fiddle with the patties while they are on the braai, because it only makes you look like a beginner.
3. While you’re braaing the patties, also braai the bacon until crispy. You can do this in a pan, or you can lay the rashers out on the braai grid, and also only turn them once. Take care not to drop any bacon through the grid onto the coals.
4. Put the sliced rolls buttered side down on the grid, then toast until they are golden brown. Take them off the fire. Don’t burn the rolls; it happens easily.
5. To assemble the burgers: Put a piece of lettuce and 2 slices of tomato on the bottom half of the roll. The strips of crispy bacon go on next, then the patty. Top it off with a generous helping of warm cheese sauce.

Did you like this recipe? If so, go get yourself a copy of Jan Braai’s Red Hot cookbook for many more tasty recipes, all adapted to cook over a good, old-fashioned fire.

Like Jan on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and check out his website here.