The Ultimate Guide: How to Make Biltong in a Food Dehydrator

Biltong, a traditional dried and cured meat delicacy from Southern Africa, is an excellent snack known for its unique and tantalizing flavor. While conventional methods of making biltong involve air drying, advances in technology now allow us to use modern devices, such as food dehydrators, to achieve similar results. This guide will provide detailed instructions on how to make biltong in a food dehydrator.

Guide: How to Make Biltong in a Food Dehydrator – Simple and Delicious Recipe!

1. Understanding Biltong

Biltong, derived from the Dutch words ‘bil’ (buttock) and ‘tong’ (strip), refers to long strips of spiced and dried meat. It originated in Southern Africa, where the meat was air-dried in the hot African sun. Today, biltong is usually made from beef, but other meats like lamb, venison, and even kangaroo can be used.

1.1 Biltong vs. Jerky

While both biltong and jerky are forms of dried meat, they differ significantly in preparation and taste. Biltong is cured and then air-dried, while jerky is often marinated and then smoked or cooked at a low temperature. Furthermore, biltong is typically cut thicker than jerky, resulting in a different texture and flavor profile.

2. Choosing the Right Meat

When making biltong, the choice of meat is essential. Traditionally, beef is the most commonly used meat. However, you can also make game meats like venison and even exotic choices like kangaroo. The key is to choose lean cuts, as fat can go rancid and reduce your biltong’s shelf life.

2.1 The Best Cuts for Biltong

The best cuts for making biltong are lean ones, as they have less fat that can spoil. Choices like the bottom round or top round are popular. If you prefer a bit of fat for added flavor and texture, you can trim it to your liking.

3. Preparation of the Meat

After choosing the perfect cut of meat, the next step is preparation. This involves cutting the meat into thin strips, which helps to reduce the drying time.

3.1 Cutting the Meat

The meat should be cut into thin strips, no more than 1 inch thick. It’s important to cut the meat along the grain. This results in a final product that is easier to chew. A top tip for easier cutting is to freeze the meat for about an hour before slicing.

4. Seasoning the Meat

The next step in making biltong is seasoning the meat. The traditional biltong recipe involves marinating the meat in a combination of vinegar, salt, sugar, and other spices.

4.1 Traditional Biltong Spices

The most common spices used in biltong are coriander, black pepper, and sometimes chili. The spices are mixed with coarse salt and vinegar (usually apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar) to create a marinade. The meat is then soaked in this marinade for a few hours to absorb the flavors.

5. Drying the Meat

The drying process is a critical step in making biltong. Normally, biltong is air-dried over several days. However, with a food dehydrator, the process can be significantly sped up without sacrificing the quality of the biltong.

5.1 Using a Food Dehydrator

A food dehydrator is a kitchen appliance that extracts moisture from food to help in its preservation. When using a food dehydrator to make biltong, it’s crucial to set the device at a low temperature to dry the meat slowly and avoid cooking it.

5.2 Setting Up the Dehydrator

When setting up the dehydrator, make sure there is enough space between each piece of meat to allow for good airflow. This will ensure that the meat dries evenly. The dehydrator should be set to the lowest temperature setting, usually around 86F (30°C) to 95F (35°C).

6. The Drying Process

The drying process in a dehydrator can take anywhere between 12 to 24 hours, depending on the thickness and fat content of the meat.

6.1 Checking the Biltong

It’s advisable to check the biltong every few hours during the drying process. The meat should be firm to the touch, with no visible moisture. If you prefer your biltong a bit moist in the center, you can remove it from the dehydrator earlier.

7. Storing the Biltong

Once the biltong is done drying, it needs to be stored correctly to ensure it stays fresh.

7.1 Proper Biltong Storage

Biltong can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days. For longer storage, you can refrigerate or freeze it. If you choose to freeze your biltong, be aware that it may slightly alter its texture and taste.

8. Enjoying Your Homemade Biltong

Now that you know how to make biltong in a food dehydrator, it’s time to enjoy your homemade snack!

8.1 Serving Suggestions

Biltong can be enjoyed as is, or used as an ingredient in a variety of dishes. It’s perfect for a protein-packed snack on the go, or as a unique addition to salads, pizza toppings, or even scrambled eggs.

9. Final Thoughts

Making biltong in a food dehydrator is a convenient and straightforward way to enjoy this traditional South African treat. It provides the flexibility to customize your biltong to your taste preferences and the satisfaction of creating a homemade snack that’s both delicious and nutritious.

10. Frequently Asked Questions

10.1 Can I Use Any Other Type of Meat?

Yes, you can make biltong from a variety of meats. While beef is the most common choice, you can also have lamb, venison, or even poultry. Keep in mind that the flavor and texture may vary depending on the type of meat used.

10.2 What If I Don’t Have a Food Dehydrator?

While a food dehydrator makes the process easier and quicker, it’s possible to make biltong without one. The traditional method involves air drying the meat in a cool, well-ventilated area. This process can take several days to a week, depending on the climate and humidity levels.

10.3 Can I Make Biltong with Pre-Ground Spices?

Yes, you can use pre-ground spices to make biltong. However, freshly ground spices tend to have a stronger flavor and aroma, which can enhance the taste of your biltong.

Now that you know how to make biltong in a food dehydrator, you’re well on your way to creating this tasty treat at home. Happy biltong-making!

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