South African Biltong… You might ask, “What’s that?”. Well, I describe this recipe as a South African beef jerky, BUT my husband says calling it “jerky” is an offense. You see my husband is from South Africa, a transplant to America via Europe, and calling this beloved traditional food from “the motherland” jerky is, well, equivalent to calling it garbage.
So on to really answering, what is biltong? First off it is pronounced bill-tong. It is a dried meat snack, similar to jerky. It differs to jerky in that it is quite a bit thicker, but it can be sliced thin after drying, it is only air dried, never smoked, vinegar is used in the process of making it, and the spice profile is unique to South Africa. In essence, it is super yummy and a MUST TRY for jerky lovers!
I will be sharing how we make biltong for ourselves here in America. It is by no means the traditional method, but I promise it is just as yummy! We have made adjustments to reduce on time and space requirements, and to utilize the tools we have available.
We don’t make our biltong as thick as the traditional version to reduce on the drying time. Because of this we don’t slice it after drying. We eat it like jerky. You still get the full “biltong flavor” with this method. You can always make it thicker and adjust the drying time accordingly, if you like. This method has just been a very quick and easy way for us to make and enjoy biltong.
For the recipe, sometimes you can order biltong spice through amazon. It’s an item that is hard to get your hands on due to importing, availability, and price. Because of this, sometimes it is better to make it yourself. I included a recipe for the biltong spice below for these reasons. Just know that you can adjust the spice mixture to suit your taste. I have come to find that all aspects of making biltong are very much personal, and personal preference, not exact science.
When we make our biltong we use the Excalibur Dehydrator and absolutely LOVE it. We use it for everything! But any dehydrator will work. Just double check with your manufacturer directions before starting. The drying time doesn’t have to be exact. What you are looking for is a ballpark figure. If your manufacturer directions are way off from my times included in the recipe, adjust accordingly. But if they are pretty close I wouldn’t worry about trying to make adjustments. After making it a couple of times you will get the hang of it and where you need to, or would like to, make adjustments.
So here is our recipe on how to make biltong in the dehydrator:
- 2 -2.5 lb (1 kg) top round steak (or equivalent cut)
- 3 oz (90ml) apple cider vinegar (any vinegar can be used)
- 1/4 c (50 g) biltong spice
- Trim fat from steak.
- Cut steak into 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick, by 1 - 1 1/2 inch wide strips, with the grain of the meat.
- Put meat strips into a 1 gallon ziplock bag.
- Add vinegar and spice.
- Seal bag without removing the air.
- Toss the meat inside the bag to coat with seasoning and vinegar.
- When thoroughly coated, let air out of bag and seal.
- Lay flat in refrigerator for 6 hours to marinate.
- Turn, and marinate other side for another 6 hours.
- Remove meat from bag and pat dry with paper towels.
- Arrange meat on dehydrator trays with plenty of room between strips to allow for air circulation.
- Dry for 9 -12 hours at 145°F (63°C).
- Once dried, let cool, and store in an airtight container.
- *Verify with your dehydrator manufacturer directions for temp and time. Time can be adjusted for a moister or dryer biltong. Thicker strips will be moister and take longer to dry and thinner strips will dry out much quicker.
Here are the ingredients that you will need. Top round steak, apple cider vinegar, and biltong spice. If you can’t find biltong spice, I included the recipe at the bottom.
Cut the meat into strips. These are the size strips of meat that we use for our biltong. 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick, by 1 – 1 1/2 inch wide strips. Make sure to cut with the grain of the meat. Cutting with the grain of the meat is the “traditional” way of making biltong, but if you prefer a less chewy meat you can cut against the grain.
Put all the ingredients into a ziplock bag and marinate. You don’t have to use a bag. We have just found it to be less messy this way.
Once the meat is done marinating be sure to pat it dry with paper towel to remove all the excess moisture.
Arrange the meat on the trays of your dehydrator and allow enough room between pieces for the air to flow freely.
Once the meat is dried to your liking, let it cool and then store it in an airtight container until you are ready to enjoy it.
- 1/4 c (32 g) coriander whole seed
- 1/8 c (16 g) course ground pepper
- 1/8 c (16 g) turbinado sugar (or equivalent)
- 1/8 c (16 g) course sea salt (Celtic Sea Salt is good)
- Toast coriander in a dry skillet till aromatic.
- Lightly crush in a mortar and pestle once cooled.
- Put all ingredients into a bowl and stir together to incorporate.
- Store in an airtight container till needed.
That’s it! Enjoy and I hope you like it! It really is quite tasty! 🙂 Make sure to let me know if you give it a try. xx
*Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means that if you click on a link and purchase the item I may receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you). This helps me to cover the costs of running this site so that I can continue to offer helpful, encouraging, content. All of the opinions I write are always 100% my own. Thank you!