How to make biltong

Learning how to make biltong (the South African way) is an immensely gratifying process. Not only will you save money and win friends, you’ll also experience the unmistakable bubbling sensation of patriotism (a natural byproduct of making this uniquely South African treat).

How to make biltong - the finished productMaking quality biltong, the standard of which would bring a tear to the weather-beaten eye of an experienced Karoo Farmer, requires a little know-how but is still a lot easier than most realise. Here are the four basic steps to get you started.

1. Meat selection

There is a long and interesting list of meats that could be successfully transformed into biltong (everything from fish to turkey) but for the uninitiated we suggest using beef and game as these will suit most tastes. Venison is a popular choice due to its leaner quality but whatever you select the standard factors of cut, aging and fat content apply and will all affect your biltong in the same way they do when you cook with these meats.

How to make biltong - preparing the steaksChoose according to your preference (and availability) but bear in mind fatty meats are more likely to spoil during the drying process and although you can use prime cuts, you generally get better value from these if you cook them. We suggest finding a balance between quality and cost.

Meat loses much of its mass during the drying process, so you’ll mostly likely be buying in bulk. In this example we’re using two kilograms of sirloin bought from a local supermarket.

2. Preparation

Start by removing excess fat. This will help with the drying process, and ensure greater longevity of the final product. Leave some fat for extra flavour, as you like it.

Biltong PreparationDon’t cut the slices too thick or they will take too long to dry. Roughly 20cm in length, and 1cm thickness is ideal. Get rid of any gristle/sinew – these bits become extremely tough to chew when dried. Longer strips are more space efficient for drying, and reduce the number of drying hooks you’ll need to use.

Basting and seasoning recipe | for approximately 2kg of meat

250ml vinegar (for basting)
1/2 cup ground coriander
2 Tbs ground black pepper
2 Tbs sea salt
2 tsps paprika

Biltong SeasoningThe easiest way to prepare meat for drying is to baste and season simultaneously. Start by adding a layer of your basting mix (vinegar) and seasoning spices to the bottom of a wide, flat dish or tray.

How to make biltong - basting with vinegarLay your steaks flat in the dish, then add another equal layer of basting and seasoning on top. Additional spices like paprika and peri peri can be added according to your preference for spicy flavouring. Let the steaks marinade for two to four hours in the fridge before proceeding to the drying phase.

Seasoning and basting3. Drying

You can dry biltong in an isolated, dry space (like the Karoo) or a specially constructed chamber (like a biltong maker) which allows you to control the heat and visitations of unwanted guests (flies of the fruity kind). Humidity is the enemy and primary cause of spoilt biltong so creating the right environment for drying is an essential part of the process, especially in colder or more humid climates.

drying in the biltong makerDepending on the amount of meat and method of drying you use, it can take anything from 24 hours to 10 days to complete the process. Personal taste also comes into play, as some like their biltong moist while others prefer the rock hard variety.

Making biltong - the final product4. Experimentation

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can start experimenting. Try different meats, seasoning, basting and drying techniques for your very own signature biltong. Go on, be adventurous.

Easier than you thought? Bet it was. Check out the Mellerware Biltong King (the updated model to that featured here) and this review of the Biltong King is also quite handy.

Download a print-friendly version of this four step article. Enjoy.

Written by Tim Price

Tim heads up our Customer Acquisition team here at Yuppiechef HQ. He also makes an awesome beer bread and some tasty biltong and enjoys a good ride up a mountain with our Yuppiechef mountain biking club. View more articles by .

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78 Comments

  1. [...] Making the biltong Making the biltong was a breeze. Any good butcher will be able to help in selecting the best cut of meat and slicing it into the correct shape and size (the instruction manual gives good direction on this) and once your meat is ready it is as simple as placing the meat in a bowl or tray with 1 cup of vinegar (making sure to cover all the meat), draining off the excess vinegar and sprinkling the meat with biltong spice, leaving to refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours, hanging the meat from the hooks provided and switching on. Get a step by step recipe for making biltong. [...]

  2. [...] – but of poor diet. Some child welfare volunteers wrote of children sent to school on coffee and biltong, and who returned home at the end of the day for a basic supper of maize meal and cheap meat. Chubb [...]

  3. [...] Making quality biltong, the standard of which would bring a tear to the weather-beaten eye of an experienced Karoo Farmer, requires a little know-how but is still a lot easier than most realise. In just four steps, here’s how you can make biltong in the comfort of your home. [...]

  4. Rhoda says:

    Hi

    I always wanted to make my own Biltong and I finally
    went on to the internet and searched for a recipe on how to make Biltong. I came on to this recipe and it looks so easy to make it so I wrote it all down and I am definitely going to try it out and I will come back with the results.

    Kind Regards
    Rhoda

  5. Tim says:

    Hi Rhoda,

    Glad you found the recipe useful – let us know how it goes.

    Cheers,
    Tim

  6. Marguerite says:

    Hi Tim, I’ve just marinated my meat using your recipe. Quick question, in your photos, the biltong box has a light in the roof, where all the others i have seen online have them below below. Does this matter? I got someone to build me a box, (I live in South America) and he accidentally put the light above. This will be my first try and I’m wondering whether the location of the light is going to affect the drying process.

    Thanks!

    • Tim Price says:

      Hi Marguerite,

      We’ve had success with the light placed in the roof of the box, so if your light is in a similar position it should be fine. As I understand it, the light is in the box to provide a low-level heat.

      All the best with your biltong making.
      Tim.

  7. Joanna says:

    Hi Tim,

    after the marinating process and before you hang the meat to dry, do you need to remove excess moisture from the meat? eg pat dry or use baking soda or more salt with a cloth to absorb the marinating liquids.. or do you just go straight to hanging from dripping wet?

    thanks!

    • Tim Price says:

      Hi Joanna,

      In this recipe I only let the meat pieces drain momentarily before hanging so as to remove most of the excess liquid. Using this method, you can expect for there to be some run-off of the excess liquid while the meat is hanging.

      All the best,
      Tim

  8. wimpie.lusaka zambia says:

    Hello Tim
    i just recently started making biltong at home.been experimenting and enjoying results.
    i have been laying meat in venegar.tabasco.and woestersause.up to one hour.is this too long or is it ok.does the taste benefit.by keeping it for long in a tray of venegar mixture.this is before applying dry spices..
    wimpie

    • Tim Price says:

      Hi Wimpie,

      One hour doesn’t sound excessively long – I would suggest experimenting with different lengths of time to see what different results you can get.

      T.

  9. Joanna says:

    Thanks Tim!

    I have now thought about drying the meat over my log burner, here in NZ its winter and my house is consistently dry and warm esp over the burner, have you heard of this method before? do you think it would be ok? perhaps it would dry the meat a bit faster..?

    any thoughts of yours would be greatly appreciated..
    cheers,

    Joanna

    • Tim Price says:

      Hi Joanna,

      I’m not sure how much heat you’re generating here, but my main concern would be that you want to dry the meat not cook it by applying excessive heat.

      T.

    • Ally Stephenson says:

      Hi Joanna

      I’m in NZ too and made my own box – basically a plastic storage box with a lid (from the Wharehouse), a light and a bathroom fan from Bunnings and wired them up. I also bought some wooden dowels and made some holes in the sides of the plastic box (about 5cm from the top. Bought some plastic hooks from a guy on trademe to hang the meat from…. and hey presto!

  10. Jenny says:

    I bought a biltong maker late last year and, although it came with a small recipe book, I took ages to get going. An internet search for recipes will show that there are as many recipes as there are biltong makers.
    Just do it! I marinate the meat in a brown vinegar, tomato sauce and salt mixture for a few hours. Length of time seems to make no difference. I lift the pieces out and rub on about 10mls of seasoning. I found that PnP Steak &chop seasoning or Mr Spices Mixed grill spice go down well with visitors. Sometimes I add peri peri to it!
    Experiment and enjoy it!

  11. Wayne says:

    I couldn’t quite make out from the recipe – is the vinegar just your standard brown vinegar?

    I assume we are not talking about balsamic or cider vinegar or anything else?

    • Tim Price says:

      Hey Wayne,

      We used a red wine vinegar, but- I’m sure that any of those options would work. There’s plenty of room to experiment according to your own personal preference.

      T.

  12. Alistair says:

    Hi Tim, just stumbled across your recipe…..going to give it a bash , but 1 problem ….. No Biltong drier.

    Would you perhaps now where I could pick one up vs. making one.

    Thanks,
    Alistair

  13. Asogan Naidoo says:

    Hi Tim
    I let meat lie in fridge with its basting sauce and seasoning for more than 12 hours. Will this be detrimental to the outcome of the biltong.

    Asogan

    • Tim Price says:

      Hi Asongan,

      Nothing wrong with experimenting with different basting times. My main concern would keeping the meat fresh. 12 hours should be fine in my view.

      Tim.

  14. Braham says:

    Brilliant recipe! Must be the easiest on the web. I used kangaroo fillets and the first batch was spot on!

  15. So excited. Meat marinating according to your instructions & Johannesburg-born hubby is busy assembling the biltong maker I bought him a year ago for his birthday. Imagine: kosher South African biltong being made fresh in the holy city of Jerusalem! Thank you for making it seem so do-able, Tim. Shalom!

  16. [...] A popular snack food made of dried, raw meat: usually beef, but also animals native to Africa like impala, ostrich and even wildebeest. Basic biltong recipes include meat, salt, pepper, vinegar and coriander. The drying process can be tricky to get right, but it’s possible to get special “biltong boxes”, which expose the meat to the right amounts of heat and air. Have a go at making it yourself with this recipe. [...]

  17. Pete Smith says:

    Hi Tim

    This is a nice recipe, I use topside or silverside from a younger cow as I find the biltong is less sinewy and I also add in worcester sauce to deepen the flavour.

    Pete.

  18. ellis says:

    fabulous ideas, how do I get it from Lesotho?

    • Yuppiechef says:

      Hello Ellis,

      We unfortunately don’t deliver to Lesotho just yet, but if you could provide the nearest or most convenient SA address to you (when you place the order) that could receive the parcel for you, perhaps you could arrange for a local courier company to collect it from that point?

      Hope that’s helpful. :)

  19. nonhlanhla says:

    Thank you for the recipe, looking forward to trying it. However I would like to know what significance does preboiling the meat do. I personally
    have a problem with that sometimes raw meat at the centre. Thanks.

    • Yuppiechef says:

      Hi Nonhlanhla,

      We can only assume that pre-boiling the meat would dry out the biltong unnecessarily. If you want to avoid a raw centre, you can either leave the meat to dry for longer, or cut thinner strips before you start :)

  20. claude gert says:

    is it ok to dry my biltong in a room using a bulb and an electric fan without a biltong maker

    • Yuppiechef says:

      Hi Claude,

      The thing about biltong drying is that the biltong should as far as possible not be exposed to open air to keep the process hygienic. So you could make a biltong dryer at home but we’re not sure it would work to well if you just left it in a room with a bulb and a fan :/

  21. Judy-Anne McKenna says:

    Hi Tim, I bought the biltong maker when visiting my family in SA last month; assembling it this weekend and will be using your recipe. I live in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary in Ireland, so I’m hoping the typical “soft day” Irish weather doesn’t scupper my efforts (in SA it would be called the bladdy rain again)! I’m looking forward to seeing how the delicious local beef tastes as biltong… thanks for putting up the process online. Judy McKenna

  22. Tim Price says:

    Hey Judy,

    It’s great to hear that the art of biltong making is making its way as far north as Ireland! I hope that the humidity doesn’t become a hindering factor. Let us know how it goes.

  23. Jeff says:

    Thanks for the recipe from Ohio, USA. I plan on trying a couple of batches to have ready for Christmas this year and start a new tradition!

  24. Blamo says:

    Hi Tim

    I’ve heard about people putting a bowl of water and Vinegar mixture in the bottom of the biltong machine while the meat gets dried. Is that necessary and if so what effect does it have on the biltong?

    regards

    Blamo

  25. Helen Odendaal says:

    Thanks for recipe. Just moved to Dubai (with biltong maker of course!) and completed our first batch. Been a while so had to find “reminder recipe”. Dries in 3 days…AWESOME!

    • Yuppiechef says:

      Hello Helen,

      Glad the Biltong Maker made the move to Dubai :) Nicely done on your first batch, we hope you enjoy the flavour of SA for many months and years to come! :)

  26. Trevor says:

    Having an electric globe at the bottom of the drier facilitates the flow of warm, drying air for more even drying.

  27. Saartjie says:

    I found a dehydrator here in Korea and am about to start my first batch……. 😋

  28. jeroen says:

    Great recepie! Worschiester sause is a great add!For people living in more humid areas use bicarbonate of soda to keep it from molding to quick!

  29. Conman says:

    Try mixing marmite or bovril into your recipe. Absolutely divine!

  30. John says:

    Mate,I work for National parks here in Oz,we culled some wild Poll Hereford bulls the other day and I quickly cut out some of the straps running along the spine,nice clean meat as far as I can see,I got about 20kg of it ( I’m no butcher),will this be ok for biltong as I have a Rhodesian wife who is addicted to the stuff and I would love to surprise her with home made gear,I can’t eat it as I visited a biltong butchery when we were living there many years ago….the smell! Kind regards John Carroll.

    • Yuppiechef says:

      Hi there John,

      Well for biltong you should choose meat that’s not overly sinewy, so steak is popular, but pricey. Silverside is also popular.

      So if the meat looks quite fleshy to you, go for it. We’re sure your wife will be ever so pleased. :)

      Let us know how it turns out.

  31. robyn says:

    Another very satisfied recipe user! Thanks for making it so easy to follow. Now we can enjoy biltong in mallorca!

  32. meat lover says:

    Can a regular food dehydrator be used?

    • Yuppiechef says:

      Hello meat lover,

      We’re not sure as we haven’t tested that theory yet, but we know that biltong dehydration requires plenty air ventilation and most food dehydrators have compact layers – but give it a go and let us know :)

  33. Shirley Finster says:

    Thanks! Complete with pictures! Looking forward to trying it! Very simple & straightforward..except a small bit about European measures: kg vs. lb., but that’s an easy fix! Ta!! [We used to camp at the Zambezi & always had biltong (& tsetse flies!)]

  34. Belinda says:

    Hi There

    Thanks – this is great! I’ve just finished my first batch :) but I have a question: Should the meat be totally covered by the vinegar (I added Worcestershire sauce to mine), or just lying in a thin layer, as in your pics? Would it make a difference to the taste or tenderness?

    Belinda

  35. Brian says:

    In the USA Biltong Makers are simply unobtainable. The closest thing is a Dehydrator and the lowest the temp will go is 95F/35C. It works ok but unfortunately some cooking occurs. Any suggestions , besides building a Maker, which Id prefer not to do. Or do you know where to get a biltong maker , with quick shipping ? I’ve inquired and shipping takes 8 weeks if you’re lucky and who knows how long to get it out of Customs.
    thanks

    • Yuppiechef says:

      Hi Brian,

      Wow, that sounds like a pickle indeed. Perhaps you know someone who can post it to you as a gift? Where in the US are you situated?

    • Andrew Cragg says:

      Hi Brian (and Ken),

      I also live in China and use a dehydrator. I have had good success with making biltong and usually set it at 52 degrees and dry it for about 17 hours. After that, it goes into brown paper bags and into the fridge. Important for me is “marinating” the meat in a spice mix for at at least 24 hours. Worcester sauce works. Apple vinegar works. I also take out the trays in the dehydrator and had some skewers made so that I can hang the meat. The dehydrator is the best option for me as I can make biltong in any weather. The only problem is that I have to hide secret stashes when the Chinese in-laws come visiting.

      Maybe Brian, you could try with a bowl of water on the bottom as someone else pointed out. I will also try that.

  36. Ken says:

    Hi Tim. Thanks for such a simple easy to use set of instructions. After living overseas for a few years, I really really miss my biltong and spend a fortune on it when I do go home. Now, thanks to your recipe, I have a steady supply of biltong and it tastes great. Even other South Africans in the area enjoy it. I think mine is now the best biltong in Northern China. Probably the only biltong in Northern China but so good to get the taste of home back. The next thing of course, is a recipe for dry wors please!

    Thanks Again
    Ken

    • Yuppiechef says:

      Hi Ken,

      Wow, that’s so great to hear. You’ve become the biltong king in your own way. We’ll put a dry wors recipe in our content pot :) Thanks for the feedback.

  37. Nick Moldan says:

    Hi Tim, I live in France and need to make a batch of biltong for a S African lunch in a couple of weeks time. I have the Biltong Maker, which I brought back with me when I was back in C Town. I normally buy pre-prepared biltong spice but have run out – and your spice recipe looks good. I have been looking around the net and nearly all the recipes have sugar in – but yours does not. Is sugar really not necessary?
    Thanks
    Nick

  38. Greg Dalton says:

    The biltong you show looks to be much thicker (more like North American jerky) than the biltong I had in the central cape…it was very thin like it had been sliced after drying and melted in the mouth without the jawing required with jerky. How do I make the thin variety?

    • Yuppiechef says:

      Hello Greg,

      That’s the great thing about biltong – it can be made so many different ways. If you prefer thinner biltong, simply slice it thinner before drying it. You can also shave it into thin slices after it has dried.

      Perhaps ask our Yuppiechef Forum if anyone has any useful tips.

  39. Sherlyn says:

    Hi there, many thanks for this recipe as I won a biltong maker in a golf competition and nearly gave it away. I have my first batch marinading in the fridge – I have opted for a chilli bite one and made my own concoction of spices. I will hang it up in the biltong maker as soon as I get home. I would like to know – how much biltong would you get out of 48kg of silverside?

  40. Johan says:

    Hi . do you have to use vinegar? Can you just rub it with the spice?

    • Yuppiechef says:

      Hello Johan,

      The vinegar helps to prevent mold growth on the meat during the drying process. Some environments are more humid than others. You can also wipe down the biltong as it is drying to get rid of any mold as it appears.

  41. Et Berning says:

    Hi Tim,
    I have just recently made a large batch of venison biltong in my home made biltong box. During the drying process there were occasional times when I noticed furry mould developing on some of the pieces. I cut these away and added more salt to the areas I removed from individual pieces. All the biltong was excellent but have you any suggestions or tips to avoiding mould developing? Is it safe to continue drying the meat if portions have been removed?
    Thanks Et.

  42. MullTong says:

    To prevent moulding use half a tsp bicarbonate soda.

    I don’t particularly like this recipe, it’s rather bland.

    Personally I use crown national’s ready mix safari and add a few other robertsons spices in at random together with ground chillies. Then add Worcestershire sauce to brown vinegar. Mix the dry spice in the meat, once that’s mixed then I add the liquids. Let this soak in overnight in the fridge and hang up the next day.

    Perfect biltong every time.

  43. Jackson says:

    Hi
    This could be a long winded story as I’m so excited about sharing my first experience making Biltong
    I’m from New Zealand and always wanted to make my own Biltong so I found an old wooden Cabinet from a Book Store and got to work cutting and hacking it up until it looked like a make shift Biltong Box.
    I’m only using 60watt light bulbs at the bottom and no fan as I relying on the wind flow flowing from bottom to top out the make shift holes.
    It’s not the most eye candy looking Box but I brought some Meat found Corned Silverside as I wasn’t sure and the Mrs. gave me a bit of stick about it being the wrong meat, I started with cutting thinish strips then so I actually soaked the meat in vinegar for about 5 hrs (unsure if that was wise) then raided the spice cupboard and through salt pepper and Chinese five spice and then left it to migrate in the fridge over night.
    Morning time and then came the hanging so I found some string and hooks and let the drying process being it took about 36 hrs and I’ve just tasted my first strip and wow!!
    unbelievable taste flying from the meat
    wow , the cool thing is that I suck at slicing meat so the meat seems to be at different stages of the drying process so I have the chance to see which I prefer.
    Ok got to go need to start my next experiment
    thanks so much everybody for sharing there own experiences with me
    and thank you Yuppie Chef
    This is the start of something great

    • Yuppiechef says:

      Hello Jackson,

      Thank you – for sharing that brilliant story with us. We’re so glad you braved the adventure of homemade biltong. Do you still live in New Zealand?

  44. Lyle says:

    Thanks for this recipe! I’m an 11th gen. Virginian. Love to hunt Deer and have always dried some of it in the local “jerky” style. Deer Biltong is fantastically better! I’m running a second batch now…again, using your recipe. Note to those curious about using a dehydrator: I cut my strips 1 inch thick and dried 30 hours at 95F and then 6 hours at 145F. The resulting product is addictive! I have had biltong made professionally by a SA expat in New York. That persuaded me to give it a go myself. Then I found your recipe…very pleased.

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