To the uninitiated, biltong and jerky may sound like the same thing as they are both dried meat snacks. But while there are some similarities (they’re both nutritious, protein-rich and utterly delicious meaty treats), there are some key differences between the two.
In this article, we’ll discuss how these two dried meat snacks differ and then it’s over to you to do the taste test to see which one you prefer!
The key differences between biltong and jerky
Want the lowdown on biltong vs jerky?
Biltong and jerky are different in a number of ways including their origins, their ingredients, the production process, their texture, their nutritional profile and of course, their taste. We’ll take a look at the following areas in more detail:
- Production process
- Nutritional value
Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail (and if you want answers to any other questions, head to the FAQ page on our website).
The origins of biltong and jerky
Both jerky and biltong started life as a kind of ‘survival’ food – allowing early inhabitants to preserve meat and prevent it from spoiling. They started on opposite ends of the globe and while they do share some similar characteristics, they’re still worlds apart.
Beef jerky has its origins in the ancient Inca empire (now Peru), with the name coming from the word ch’arki in the language of the South American Quecha Indian tribe which translates literally to ‘dried meat’.
Biltong, on the other hand, is Southern African in origin. The name is derived from the Dutch word bil meaning ‘rump’ and tong meaning ‘strip’ or ‘tongue’ and probably first emerged in the 1600s when Dutch settlers established a permanent home in what is now known as Cape Town.
Ingredients of biltong and jerky
Both snacks use a blend of savoury spices and salt to imbue the meat with flavour, but the mix of ingredients is different.
Biltong was traditionally made from beef and while this is still the first-choice protein for this tasty snack, a wide variety of options including venison, game, ostrich, kangaroo, crocodile, pork and lamb can be used.
The traditional South African biltong recipe contains only a few simple ingredients namely meat (usually topside, rump or silverside) salt, black pepper, coriander seeds and white vinegar. Nowadays, you’ll find a host of other recipes which include spices like paprika, fennel, dried garlic, onion powder, paprika, cumin, chilli flakes, Worcester sauce and different types of vinegar (eg balsamic, cider and red wine vinegar). At DJays Gourmet, we’re happy to remain true to our strong South African heritage and make our biltong the authentic way (and we know it makes our customers happy too!)
The purpose of the vinegar is two-fold. It’s not only a curing agent that kills any bacteria or mould on the surface of the meat, it also adds flavour.
Biltong is made from thicker slices of meat (cut along the grain not across it!) which are then sliced into smaller pieces after the soaking, curing and drying process. The meat for jerky is sliced into thin strips prior to marinating and dehydrating, and then cut down to bite size pieces for packaging.
Jerky is also traditionally made from beef, but almost any lean meat can be used including pork, venison or smoked turkey breast. Innovative manufacturers are even starting to produce plant-based jerky made from things like tempeh and soy curds!
We make our beef jerky from 100% premium A-grade Australian beef, cut it into thin strips, soak it in various marinades for punchy flavour and then quickly dry it to lock in the goodness and taste.
Preparation and production process for biltong vs jerky
In simple terms, our biltong and jerky are air-dried in commercial drying rooms which allow us to control the temperature and humidity inside.
The chunks of meat for biltong are first marinated in the vinegar and spice blend and then air dried. Biltong requires gentle airflow and a relatively cool temperature during the extended drying process. This process takes between 3 – 7 days depending on the desired ‘dry-ness’.
Because biltong is made from thicker cuts of meat (generally around 2cm thickness), there’s more control over the amount of moisture left in the end product. That’s why you can buy biltong the way you like it – wet, medium, moist or dry.
When making jerky, the thin strips of meat are marinaded for a period of time and then dried more rapidly. This process only takes approx. 24 hours and results in an end-product that is slightly firmer than traditional wet biltong.
The slow air-drying process of biltong allows a natural ‘crust’ to form on the outside while the centre remains moist and tender. This extended drying process also allows a greater variety of textures to be achieved.
The faster drying process of jerky results in a slightly dryer, chewier texture.
Biltong has a meatier taste as a result of the drying process and the different ingredients. Some say the flavour is more intense and deeper than that of jerky – and because biltong doesn’t have any sauces in the marinade, it doesn’t have the sweetish taste of jerky.
The good news is that there are a myriad flavours of both jerky and biltong to choose from – so you can easily find your favourite (or should we say favourites!) Check out our extensive range of top quality beef biltong and beef jerky in traditional, chilli, extra hot and smoky flavours – plus there’s our extra special marbled option for a decadent, buttery richness.
Jerky and biltong have similar nutritional content. They’re protein-rich, high in vitamins and minerals and low in calories. Both are great as nutritious, on-the-go and healthy snacks which can be enjoyed anywhere, anytime.
Good to know
If you’ve never tried biltong or jerky before, our jerky samplers and our famous combo packs are a great way to discover the joys of these delicious meaty treats. These are available in a variety of combinations, so you’re sure to find your favourite/s in there! Order your beef jerky or beef biltong online through our website, visit our Perth factory or call us for a chat with one of our friendly team members. We supply both retail and wholesale customers and deliver throughout Australia.