Most people have heard of jerky but unless you're South African you may not have heard of biltong! Biltong is relatively new to the snacking scene, despite African communities making it to preserve meat for hundreds of years.
Biltong is often confused with jerky because they’re both dried, meat-based snacks. However, the ingredients and production methods are different.
The production method
Jerky is usually cooked (at around 70 degree C) or smoked for several hours, whereas biltong is not cooked at all.
Biltong is soaked in a salt-and-vinegar brine before being hung to air-dry. This drying and ageing process can last for days before it is ready to eat. Drying is better for the nutrient profile of the beef because more heat sensitive vitamins, like Vitamin B12, are retained.
Traditionally, biltong is made with a simple combination of salt, vinegar, and spices. Jerky, on the other hand, does not contain vinegar and is more likely to contain secondary ingredients like sugar, soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. A lot of jerky is surprisingly high in sugar, upwards of 20%.
Many commercial biltong and jerky uses nasty preservatives like added nitrates and nitrites (which we avoid with our biltong and beef bars).
The cuts of meat
Jerky is almost always made from very lean cuts of beef, whereas biltong may be made from either lean or fatty cuts. Biltong is usually cut into wide, thick strips that are easier to hang, whereas jerky is typically thinly sliced (although we thinly slice our biltong as it's easier to eat).
While jerky has a more consistent moisture content and texture because it relies on lean cuts of meat, biltong has more diverse textures because various cuts may be used. Some types may be very moist and fatty, with others dry and crumbly.
The bottom line
Biltong is a great source of protein and essential vitamins and minerals while being low in carbs. It’s particularly rich in iron.