What Is Biltong and How Is It Not Beef Jerky?

Meat: what’s not to like? Well, okay, if you’re a vegetarian, there’s plenty, but meat is a staple of most types of cuisine, and biting into a big slab of animal protein is satisfying on a primordial level. Of course, there are a wide variety of meats, in terms of the animal that becomes the meat, the part of the animal that becomes the meat, and the way that part is turned into meat. Today we’re exploring a meat that perhaps you haven’t heard of before: biltong. What is biltong? How do you make it? What does it taste like? Let’s meet the meat! 

What is biltong?

Biltong is a kind of cured, dried meat (a lot like beef jerky) that originated in Southern Africa. It can be made from various kinds of animal flesh including beef, kudu, wildebeest, chicken, and even shark. It is often spiced with coriander, salt, black pepper, and vinegar. 

Even though it can be made with a variety of cuts, the word biltong comes from Dutch and means, essentially, “buttock strip.” Yum! 

What is beef biltong?

As you might imagine, beef biltong is biltong that is made from cows. Beef is a popular type of biltong, and may be more familiar to American taste buds because of its similarity to beef jerky. It should be noted, however, that the texture and flavor profile can be quite different from traditional jerky. There are many different styles of beef biltong, but it’s often thinner than jerky and drier. 

How to make biltong?

The website Greedy Ferret has step by step instructions on how to make your own biltong at home. But at its most basic, biltong is made by taking meat strips, immersing them in brine, adding a bunch of spices, and then hanging them up to dry in a cool, ventilated area for days or even longer. 

How long does biltong last?

The website Barbell Foods has extensive information on this very topic. If frozen, biltong can last basically indefinitely. Even in the pantry, an unopened bag of biltong should last for about a year. Once it’s opened, it will last for about five days before you should consider tossing it. 

Is biltong raw?

Biltong is not roasted or smoked like beef jerky is—instead it is soaked in brine and air-dried for a long time. This process removes bacteria and prevents the meat from spoiling. So, you wouldn’t exactly classify biltong as raw since it has undergone a transformative process to make it shelf stable, but there’s no added heat anywhere in the process. 

Where to buy biltong?

Biltong’s popularity in the U.S. is definitely on the rise, due in part to its novelty and also the idea of it being like beef jerky but perhaps even better. If you want to get your hands on this Southern African snack, there are actually quite a few options these days. One brand that is available at retailers nationwide is Stryve. You can also find Simms biltong, which Sporked ranked as some of the best jerky, at Aldi!

About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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