Jerky Vs. Biltong. Although Biltong would be the winner in the eyes of a South African, we thought it would be useful to set the record straight once and for all! Jerky and Biltong are different, but what is the difference?
With origins in South Africa, biltong is a cured meat (often beef) that’s been aged for a few days. One of the major differences between biltong and traditional beef jerky is that biltong is both cured and dried while jerky is just dried, resulting in markedly different texture and taste.
Biltong and beef jerky use different secondary ingredients
Although beef is most commonly used in both biltong and jerky, the beef used in biltong is generally much thicker due to the cut of the meat and slower drying time. Typically biltong meat is cut into strips that are one inch wide – sometimes thicker – where as jerky is normally very thin.
Vinegar, salt and spices are added to biltong and, together with the drying process, cure the meat. Jerky is also dried, but without the addition of vinegar and salt.
To make biltong, generally, the meat is left overnight (or longer) in a solution of vinegar and spices. After it’s cured the meat is air-dried with no heat and finally sliced into thin strips or chunkier pieces and packaged or served. Jerky is simply dried either using a low and slow oven or a dehydrator.
There are no hard and fast rules on what spices to use in curing biltong, but African spices like coriander, allspice, curry, and clove are some popular choices, giving biltong a distinctly regional flavor. Biltong is also generally healthier than most beef jerkys. Jerky, being dried, can end up tough and thus relies on sauces and flavoring agents heavy in sugar and salt to improve upon the taste. Because biltong is cured, it tends to be naturally tender and gets its flavor from the spices and just a dash of vinegar. There are no official spice or flavor rules for jerky either, and these days you can find the stuff in almost any flavor imaginable, from spicy buffalo, BBQ, and Asian versions with soy, citrus, and ginger.
Having less water and sugar, each bite of biltong has a significantly higher percentage of protein than jerky, making it a great low-carb, high-protein snack to power up before physical activity or during those on-the-go, no-time-to-cook moments. More and more biltong manufactures like Brooklyn Biltong are popping up or entering the American market for the first time, but both jerky and biltong keep for months (or longer), and so can be purchased easily online and in bulk with no issues.