Mike’s Biltong Recipe

Biltong is cured meat. It originated in South Africa, and is a favorite snack food. Biltong is made from raw
fillets of meat cut into strips following the grain of the muscle. Once the strips are cured, it is served by
slicing pieces sliced across the grain. The word biltong is from the Dutch bil (“rump”) and tong (“strip”).
Biltong is most commonly made from beef from any kind of game meat can be used.

Meat Selection: Use good gristle-free cuts of meat typically from the Loin, Sirloin, Round, or Flank cuts. There is obviously a cost/quality trade off with meat selection. Whichever end you choose, look for long sections of muscle that can be cut into strips. For an economical option I buy Top Round Steaks or Top Round Roast. I ask the butcher to cut the steaks at 1 ¼” thick and to trim any thick fat off. The Top
Round Roast option leaves me with more work and quite a bit of offcuts which go into cubes for meals (stew or fajitas) and I cook up the gristly bits for the dogs. When cutting Top Round Steaks which start out
at + 5” x 11”, I usually get; two 10 x 2 x 1 ¼” strips, two shorter 4 x 2 x 1 ¼” strips; and less than 10%
offcuts. It’s common to leave a strip of fat on biltong although I trim the entire fat strip off. While preparing
meat strips, I usually separate the offcuts into 2 piles, i.e. one with the good quality gristle and fat free bits
for stewing, and the other with the gristle and some fat, which I cook up as treats for the dogs.

Vinegar and Spice Mix: Use dark vinegar, so either Malt Vinegar, or Apple Cider Vinegar. The essential
spices for biltong are; salt, coriander, and pepper, although beyond that you could add any number of
spics to vary the taste. Variations include adding BBQ, hot red chili, peri-peri (chili spice mix that hails
from Mozambique), garlic, mustard, or paprika to the basic ingredients. I suggest you start with the basic
recipe and perfect that before starting to experiment with variations. The ratios for my standard spice mix
are; 3 parts salt, 2 parts coriander, 1 part black pepper, and ½ part brown sugar. Buy good quality coarse
sea salt and whole peppercorns and coriander seeds. Use a pestle and mortar to freshly crack the pepper
and coriander to a coarse grind. I find it best to grind the salt, pepper and coriander separately, and then
mix it all up in a jar. For a 20 pound batch of biltong I will need about 1½ cups of spice mix and 1 of

Equipment Needs: A largish pestle and mortar. Good sharp knife. Two cutting boards – a large board is
good for laying out the strips when applying spices. Rectangular dishes for marinating. Dishes can be
stainless steel, glass, or ceramic, ideally 2 ½” to 3” deep and 9” x 14”. Wire for making S hooks to hang
the biltong. (One option is to open up paper clips to make S hooks.) Container to store and shake spice
mix. A drying line to hang the biltong strips from. I place cardboard on the floor to catch a small amount of
drip and seed droppings. One or two home fans for drying. If using one you will need of swap sides or
turn the biltong once or twice a day during the trying process.

Method: Cut meat into strips. This is 75% of the effort. Keeping you knife sharp makes it a lot easier. Lay
meat out in a tightly packed single layer on a large cutting board. Lightly sprinkle vinegar over the meat,
and spread it evenly with your hands. Sprinkle spice mix evenly over the entire surface. Pat the spices
down into the meat with your hands to help the spices stick on the mead surface. Place a single layer of
meat in a marinating dish with the spiced side down. Now apply vinegar and spices to the top side of the
meat you have placed in the dish. Repeat this for your 2nd or 3rd layers depending on depth of dish.
Cover with foil or kitchen wrap. Place in refrigerator for + 10 hours. Turn the entire black of compacted
meat over. The easiest way to do this it to have a 2nd identical dish, and place face to face like a
clamshell, and then turn it over. Place it back in the refrigerator for another + 10 hours. Insert hooks into
the tip of one end and hang the biltong on the line. Place fans so that they blow air over the meat to assist
drying. Visit your biltong daily and take down when desired dryness is reached. Usually 2 to 6 days
depending on thickness. Remove hooks, wrap tightly and freeze or eat. Refrigerated shelf live is week or
more, i.e. the same as supermarket cold cuts. I like to slice thin for serving. Thin slices = more slices.

Curing and Storage: I make biltong in winter. Colorado’s dry winter climate makes curing extremely
easy. I simply hang the strips from a line just below out basement ceiling, and set a small fan on it.
Curing takes 2 to 5 days depending on the thickness of the strips, and the desired dryness. I like a little
softness and tinge of pink in the center. Test for dryness by squeezing between fingers. Note at medium
dryness the biltong strips will lose about 35% of volume. Once desired dryness is reached, remove wire
hooks, and wrap in plastic wrap, and place in freezer. I use Glad Press’n Seal which is good stuff.
Because building is dried, thawing is relatively quick, i.e. 1 to 2 hours at room temperature, or 2 to 4 hours
in the refrigerator depending on size and thickness. If you make biltong in a wet season you will need to
add spotlights to ensure a dry surrounding. In humid climates you will need to make a biltong box or
biltong closet with lights installed.

Enjoy Share and Experiment. Biltong is best enjoyed with beer. I usually take a sliced biltong and nut
mix to one of my favorite. In South Africa, one would never go to a Rugby match without biltong. Try to
perfect your technique with each new batch, and experiment with different spices. I only make it in winter
months (October through April).