Forget jerky - make yourself some biltong :-)

  • Some of the links on this forum allow SMF, at no cost to you, to earn a small commission when you click through and make a purchase. Let me know if you have any questions about this.
SMF is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

curious aardvark

Smoking Fanatic
Original poster
Aug 8, 2008
Derbyshire. England
Biltong is a cured meat product revered in south africa as the food of the gods. You can make it in a desiccator or (as I do) in a converted cardboard box :-)
It's main difference to jerky is that you use much larger and thicker pieces of meat and use a vinegar mix to marinade the meat before liberally coating in the curing spice and hanging to dry.
You can dry it to different wetnesses. If you dry it totally it will keep almost indefinitely with no special storage requirements. Generally it's cured to a medium dryness so that it's still slightly moist in the centre.
I can guarentee that once you've made and tasted biltong you'll never bother making jerky again ;-)

Okay traditional biltong method.
South africans use mostly beef but any red meat will do.
I've used beef, pork (turns out a bit like cured gammon), turkey thigh meat and pigeon breasts. They all have their different flavours - but the pigeon turned out to have a very strong almost gamey flavour and smooth texture.

Cut long strips of meat approx 1/2 to 1 inch thick. You can cut to any length - just so long as it'll hang in your drying box. place meat in bowl and add a decent amount of cider vinegar. Make sure the meat is coated liberally and leave for about 20 minutes to soak.
Pour off the excess vinegar and add biltong spice (coriander seeds, brown sugar, black pepper and salt) Coat the meat well in the spice, lump it at the end of bowl (I use a long oblong plastic tray thing) and let any excess fluid drain into the empty part of the bowl. having bowl tilted slightly helps. Pour the liquid off every half hour or so. After 2 -3 hours hang meat to dry.
Either use a purpose made drying box or hang in cool dry insect free place for 3-5 days. I like my biltong very dry and very hard and chewy.

I also use balsamic vinegars, tabasco, some garlic powder and a little extra sugar in my vinegar mix.

Biltong is nothing like jerky. It's got a lot more flavour, is much thicker and subsequently a better eating experience. Should not taste overly salty and by dint of the vinegar sterilising, the meat tends to keep at least as long as jerky. You can also add a small amount of saltpetre to the spice mix for added preservation (I don't, but you can).

If you want to have a go my actual spice mix for about 3 lb of meat = 4 teaspoons seasalt, 2 heaped teaspoons ground black pepper, 4 teaspoons brown sugar, 7 teaspoons coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika and half a teaspoon powdered garlic. I grind the sugar, pepper, salt etc seperately and then grind the coriander (both in mortar and pestle) and then mix them in a small bowl. My mortar is not big enough to do it all at once as coriander is high volume low weight. If you buy ready ground coriander seeds then add 4 teaspoons to the salt, sugar and pepper.

If you've got something like a magic bullet processor (it's on my to-buy list) use that.

If anyone's interested in the dimensions of my cardbaord box I'll go measure it. It uses a 20 watt lightbulb. And on average my biltong is ready after 3-4 days.
is this kinda the same stuff uncle ted nugent advertises and sells??? thks for the info gonna have to try this thanks!!!!!
well given what I know about ted nugent (owns his own bow hunting ranch and is just a little 'odd'.) Might well be.

There are quite a few commercial producers in the uk - but they tend to over salt and under marinade imho (lol). The problem with all commercial curing - salt is cheap, spices cost more - ergo they use more salt than is necessary and fewer spices than are required :-)

But if you like jerky (I do) then you'll love biltong.
I did try cold smoking the meat at different stages to make smoked biltong. It was okay. But not worth the effort. Although I'm, sure there are forum members who'd argue that smoking is ALWAYS worth the effort lol
might have to try this.........
That's quite interesting. I may have to try that with elk or deer. Thanks for the pics.
I've never understood how those types of meats (dried meats) are not loaded with bacteria or parasites. Heck, I leave a steak too long in the fridge it turns rancid, let alone a cardboard box.
Don't usually post unless it's important to me......this is interesting.
Just spent the entire morning researching this, it will be done.

Thank-you for sharing a new idea
Well thanks on the heads up on Biltong...have made jerkey for in Oklahoma,and Texas,USA...have not run into Dutch 400year old process of South African dried meat ....but with studying it is a must try...
Well apart from the sensible meat handling: Don't take it from the fridge until you intend to use it, try and buy from reputable dealers etc. It's all quite simple.
(I have been a microbiologist by the way, been a lot of things ;-)

The vinegar wash (strong acid) kills any surface bacteria and effectively 'cooks' the first few layers of cells - removing any present bacteria and preventing more from growing on the meat. It hydrolyses proteins chemically (removes the water from protein molecules - similiar to heat cooking)
The salt and spices then further remove moisture from the meat. Believe it or not but sugar is just as effective at drying meat out as salt. Always good to add some sugar to your salt cures - tempers the taste and doesn't reduce the drying potential. bacteria can't survive without water. As soon as they come in contact with either the acid or the salt they dry up and die.

So what you're doing with biltong is creating a chewy bacteria proof barrier around a clean meat core. Okay moist cured biltong needs to be refrigerated or vac paccked or frozen to last more than about a week.
But you dry that sucker out till it's crispy and you can leave it lying around a room in ambient temperature almost indefinitely. Dry it to cripsy and vac pack it and it'd probably be good for years just on a shelf.

As peple are interested I'll measure my biltong box as it's the perfect dimensions for drying biltong in about 3 -4 days to a medium moist cure(been in use for 3 or 4 years now - not bad for a cardboard box with a 20 watt bulb in :-)
Curious, I made some biltong from venison last winter and it turned out pretty good. I got it a little dry for my liking. I sent some to a South African friend here in the states and she said it was good. I rest my case.
aardvark -

i got the chance to take a look at this and found it to be an excellent narrative - thanks for posting it!

i took the liberty of copying/pasting it (giving you full credit) at my website,

i think i will be trying this with deer this fall - are you familiar with the little chief smoker? ( i have one of these and it looks like it would work very well to make biltong.
yeah aardvark, how bout dimensions, and pics of how the light setup is.........

can't wait for Richtee to wieght in on this........LOL

but the finished product DID look yummy..........POINTS ! ! ! !
C_A, you beat me to the biltong posting!!! curse you!

I've gone from jerky to biltong, after doing some research inspired by the Quatermain novels. I read about a food, I want to sample it, and I love the stuff (so does my cats, they try to steal it from me!)

btw, when I make mine, I marinade overnight, and use toasted coriander for more flavor
curious aardvark
You may have just posted something "Sticky" worthy.....
You have me interested, I have never heard of it and it sounds like a must try after this next season. I try to do at least one new recipe a year after deer hunting season. Thanks for posting !!! is reader supported and as an Amazon Associate, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

Latest posts