Biltong - Everything You Need To Know

Author: Jim's Jerky   Date Posted:2 December 2020 

So you’ve stumbled across the Jim’s Jerky website but you have questions. Precisely – WHAT IS BILTONG? You’ve heard of jerky, you even love it! (Jim’s in particular). But biltong keeps popping up and you’re just not sure what it all means…and if you should try some. Well, never fear curious Jerkaholic – Jim’s has got you and all you ever needed to know about biltong…settle back and get comfy…you’re about to learn about biltong – truly earth’s best snack.


Much like any preserved meat, biltong has a long history, but originated in Southern Africa.  The word biltong is from the Dutch bil ("buttock") and tong ("strip" or "tongue"). In Africa, biltong is made from pretty much any lean animal muscle, including kudu and gazelle – and was the traditional way to preserve invaluable protein in the time before refrigeration and was not widely available. It’s an elegantly simple process; lean muscle is sliced into large steaks, spiced and dried. While today we prefer food safe dehydration chambers, biltong was traditionally hung from trees and from the verandas of homesteads – all you needed was the right mix of spices and a low-humidity day. 


Depending on the size of the cut, biltong can take anywhere up to 50 hours to dry. A good piece of biltong should be dry and on the outside, and be a little soft and moist on the inside. The result is a delicious, slightly chewy, flavour explosion of beefy, umami goodness. There really is nothing quite like biltong.


So while biltong can be made from any number of exotic ungulates; in Australia we’re all about the beef. And as the name suggests, at Jim’s we use a butt cut, namely topside – to produce ours.  The key to a good piece of biltong is tenderness, and conversely to what makes a good steak – lack of intermuscular fat, or marbling. While marbling is key to a tender, juicy and delicious steak; fat does not dry. Fat not drying is a problem when you’re trying to preserve meat by drying, so topside from a young animal is the best cut to provide tenderness, but a lean cut.


Founders of Jims Jerky, Jim and Cathie were graziers in Queensland, Australia for 25 years before they set off on the value adding journey. Over their career as beef producers, Jim and Cathie worked hard to produce high quality beef, and it’s a passion they’ve carried into Jim’s Jerky. Quality of the beef that Jim uses in his biltong is absolutely paramount; so be assured you’re getting the best quality Australian beef when you sample Jim’s Biltong.


Same/Same but Different? The Difference Between Jerky and Biltong

Are biltong and jerky the same? Well, yes and no. Clear? Haha, we know, clear as mud. Dehydrating protein to preserve it has occurred the world over since humans first began eating meat. It can been dehydrated, dry smoked, marinated, heat smoked and slowly dried – and pretty much can all be called jerky! If we get technical; our jerky could also be considered biltong as it’s simply sliced, spiced and dried. Just a really dry, really tasty biltong! The key difference for Jim’s is that our biltong is dried in massive steaks the size of your upper arm (well, a ‘normal’ upper arm; perhaps not Arnold Schwarzenegger’s upper arm, but I digress!), while our jerky is dried in steaks. The biltong takes longer to dry and retains a certain amount of moisture; while the jerky is dried right down. 


The beef is the same; the taste is totally different! Jerky is dryer and a little chewier, and the more you chew, the more the flavour comes through. Biltong is softer and a little easier to chew – a little more like the texture of the end of roast…yum! 


How to Eat Biltong

Biltong is the ultimate good for you, feel good snack. Seasoned, pure steak: need we say more? High in protein, high in iron, low in fat, low in carbohydrates and sugars…it’s nature’s super food! Biltong emerges from our dryer in ‘sticks’ – from there you have two choices. We offer our biltong both as a stick, or ‘shredded’ – where the stick is fed through a tailor-made biltong slicer to cut the beef into thin, mouthwatering pieces. 


Historically, young children in Southern Africa were given biltong sticks to chow down on as they were ‘teething’. If you’re past that part of your life; you can still gnaw directly on the stick – no judgement here! You can use a pocket knife for slicing on the go (hello mountain trekkers!) or a sharp kitchen knife will do at home. We’ll let you into a little secret…Jim uses a (clean and dedicated!) pair of garden secateurs to portion his biltong when he’s sitting on his veranda with a beer of an afternoon! Whatever works huh?  


If you’re lucky enough to visit Jim’s Jerky HQ at Charlton outside Toowoomba, you can see all of our biltong set out in flavour order, and choose which stick you’d like – and whether to have to shredded right then and then for you, or whole – to take away and nibble on later. 


If you’re visiting us online you can select a stick to be sent to your door, or some fabulous fresh-packed slices – whatever revs your engine! We do change flavours from time to time, but our best-selling flavours remain the same:


Original - (and some say best) is seasoned with a hint of coriander; this flavour really lets the beef do the talking

Fatty - this is the original spice – but with a thick run of fat left down the side of the beef. Slightly more moist than standard; the fat really bumps the flavour! 

Smokey - naturally smoked with Australian hardwood – the flavour hits you first through the gorgeous smokey aroma, and follows through your taste buds!

Honey Soy - sweet, savoury, slightly sticky, delicious. Honey Soy remains a top seller – one taste and you’ll see why

Piri Piri - A Portuguese spice, Piri Piri is a medium spice but full-flavoured taste sensation. 

Chilli - if you like your hot a little hotter then chilli is your guy. Hotter than Piri Piri, the more you chew, the warmer it’ll become – mixing with that delicious beefy flavour…

In short – we know biltong and want you to know it too! Follow the link to get started on your biltong adventures! 


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