I have been asked many times in the last few weeks how to make Biltong, and while I am still a relative novice, here is the recipe. It’s simple and fast and the next time I make it, I will take some step-by-step pictures and post them here.
I get most of my ingredients for Biltong at Costco, and the amounts in the recipe are accordingly geared towards Costco Meat portions. While I make my own biltong spice mix, many South Africans including my friend Albert, swear by Freddie Hirsch pre-made spice mix, but it’s hard to get here in the US.
- 6.5 lb pack of Eye of Round Beef (in South Africa, folks use “Silverside”)
- 1 cup of Worcestershire Sauce
- 1 cup of apple cider vinegar (many swear by malt vinegar, but any vinegar will work)
- home made Spice mix (4 tbs salt, 2.5 tbs brown sugar, 1 tbs cracked pepper, 2 tbs ground coriander or coriander powder)
What you’ll need:
- Food dehydrator. Here’s what I use. (If you get really into it, a Biltong box may be the solution)
- Large bowl
- Large Pyrex dish
Step 1: Trim beef of most of its fat.
Step 2: Slice beef evenly with the grain in approximately 1″ pieces .
Step 3: Pour Worcestershire Sauce and vinegar into the bowl and mix well. Add all beef slices to the mixture and thoroughly soak the beef in the liquid. Let stand for 5 minutes after you have evenly coated the beef and it is submerged.
Step 4: Spread the beef evenly on a work surface and sprinkle half the spice mix (make sure it is mixed very well) evenly over the top of the beef and rub it on. Then turn the slices over and use the remaining half of the spice mix on the other side. Sprinkle it on evenly and rub it in.
Step 5: Put a grate or some silverware in the bottom of the Pyrex dish and then pack the beef into the dish in even layers. Then put Saran wrap on top and put in the fridge for at least 10-12 hours. I personally prefer to prep the meat around lunch time and then pull it out of the fridge first thing the next morning which is almost 20 hours of curing time.
Step 6: Arrange the meat in the food dehydrator so that no piece of meat touches another piece of meat either on the side or through the grates AND make sure none of the meat touches the side of the dehydrator. Good airflow is essential. I also recommend keeping the top grate empty to create better airflow. If you don’t have good airflow, making Biltong could make you ill, so please keep this firmly in mind.
Step 7: Plug in your dehydrator and set it to its lowest setting (mine goes as low as 95 degrees Fahrenheit) and let it run for at least 2 days without interruption. You can start checking after 48 hours as thin pieces may already be done. I find 72-80 hours to be the right drying time if you like your Biltong on the drier (and safer) side, which works well with thicker pieces like the 1″ pieces I was talking about. If you like your biltong thinner, drying time will be less and the final product will be chewier.
Step 8: Remove biltong from dehydrator and let it come down to room temp. Once down to room temp, put in an OPEN zip lock bag and add a silica pack to absorb remaining moisture from condensation and put in your fridge. Stored like this, the biltong can technically last weeks or months, but it doesn’t seem to last quite that long for us ;).
Step 9: When ready, slice biltong straight out of the fridge against the grain in thin slices and enjoy.
The finished produt should look something like this:
A few words of advice…while making biltong involves several steps and ingredients to eliminate the risk of getting ill, it is imperative that you follow good food hygiene standards as you prepare the meat and use the antibacterial ingredients and techniques described in this post. For those of you who are extra skittish, there are a couple of other measures you can take. For one, some of the pre-made biltong mixes one can buy, have MSG and Nitrates in them which will provide extra protection against bacteria. Also, I have read of folks “pre-heating” the dehydrator to its full 170 degrees and then letting it come back down to room temp before loading the meat. It is meant to kill some of the bacteria that may be on the dehydrator. I personally don’t want MSG or Nitrates on my food, and I just keep my dehydrator super clean, but you should know it’s an extra option.
Enjoy the process of making and eating the biltong. It’s fun, and both much tastier and less expensive than buying beef jerky from the store.