Jerky And Biltong: Both Are Dried Meat But They’re Different


You might be hearing the word “biltong” and might even confuse it with meat jerky. Although both are dried meat, they differ in some ways which we will feature in this article.

What Is Biltong?

Biltong is a dried cured meat from African countries like South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. It comes from the Dutch words bil meaning “buttock” and tong meaning “strip”.

Just like jerky, biltong is usually made of beef but it could be made from other meats. But that’s the only similarity between the two.

The Differences

  • Biltong is usually thicker. Jerky is usually thin.
  • Biltong may contain fat. Jerky doesn’t.
  • Biltong is cured with vinegar, salt, and spices. Jerky doesn’t. Thus, they taste differently.
  • Biltong is never smoked. Jerky is often smoked.
  • Biltong is air-dried while jerky is heat-dried. The vinegar in biltong not only acts as a curing agent but also keeps flies off while drying.

How Biltong Is Made

Traditionally, biltong requires the following ingredients:

  • Meat
  • Vinegar
  • Black pepper
  • Coriander
  • Salt

The recipe that transferred from generation to generation requires the meat to be marinated overnight (between 12 to 24 hours) in the vinegar, salt, and spice solution. The spice mix consists of equal amounts of rock salt, slightly roasted coriander, roughly ground black pepper, and brown sugar.

The cold, dry air during the cold winters of the South African highlands typically dries out the biltong more effectively. Mold and bacterial risk are at a natural minimum. Thick biltong cuts are hung to dry slowly for a richer texture and flavor.

Nowadays, heat is introduced in the process but also included curing salts. These additions were to reduce the risk of microbial and fungal growth. However, traditional biltong makers insist on the slow air-drying method which to them is much safer and of superior quality.

Recommended Article: A Beginner’s Guide to Beef Jerky

Final Thoughts

Although biltong is dried meat, you cannot make it at home using a food dehydrator. Biltong is much different from meat jerky in several ways.

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