I often get asked what the difference is between biltong and jerky, so I thought I’d do a blog about it. If you’ve tried the two you will know that they taste different but there are also a few other significant differences.
For starters, biltong originates from South Africa, and came about when the Dutch settlers arrived in South Africa and were looking to preserve their meat to make it last longer. Jerky has its origins in North America via South America and was born from a similar need, to preserve meats to give them longevity.
One of the main reasons biltong and jerky taste different is their ingredients. While both are usually made with beef, biltong generally has vinegar, salt and spices added to it, while beef jerky does not. As the need for vinegar has reduced however, so has the use of vinegar, so some biltong makers use it while others don’t. Jerky on the other hand is often smoked to give it its distinct smoky flavour, while biltong is rarely smoked.
Biltong and jerky also have different production processes. Biltong is generally air dried by hanging the meat for up to a week. Today this is often done with a special biltong dryer. Jerky in comparison, is most often cooked in a heat dehydrator for 6 to 12 hours. Jerky’s production process also makes it drier.
The final difference between the two lays in the way they’re cut. Biltong is generally made in larger pieces, 1 inch wide or thicker. It is then sold in these pieces or cut up into thinner slices. Jerky on the other hand, is normally very thinly sliced and often cut into squares or rectangles.