How to Make Delicious Biltong with 1 Year-Shelf Life

Rhona Reid
By Rhona Reid December 2, 2016 13:17

How to Make Delicious Biltong with 1 Year-Shelf Life

People sometimes refer to biltong and beef jerky interchangeably, and admittedly, they have some similarities.  Usually, biltong is cured in larger slabs of meat, whereas jerky is cured in strips.  Biltong retains a little moisture, which some people think may shorten its shelf life, but we’ll return to that point at the end of the recipe.

The other difference between jerky and biltong is that traditional biltong is sometimes made with the fat of the meat intact, whereas jerky or biltong that you intend to store for a decent length of time, without refrigerating, needs to be made with lean meat.

Ultimately, making biltong means that you can safely store meat in a really delicious, spicy way.


  • 4.4 lbs (2kg) lean beef or other red meat or game. Bear in mind that lamb doesn’t work well as biltong.
  • 3 cups very coarse sea salt
  • 2 cups soft brown sugar
  • 1 scant teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely ground or crushed black peppercorns
  • 4 tablespoons of coarsely crushed or ground coriander seeds
  • 5 cups brown/balsamic vinegar combined with 100 ml Worcestershire sauce, or all vinegar


  1. Cutting along the grain – not against it – slice the meat into slabs around 1 cm thick,then lay in the vinegar mix for 30 minutes. Keep the vinegar in the refrigerator, as you’ll need it later.marinated-meat-biltong
  1. Meanwhile, crush the spices and mix with the salt, sugar and bicarbonate of soda (if using) before sprinkling evenly onto a plate. spices-for-biltong
  1. Press the slices of meat into the spice and salt mixture to coat thoroughly.seasoning biltong
  1. Placing the thicker slices in the base, layer the meat in a clean dish, pressing any remaining spice mixture on top of the final layer. Refrigerate for 8 – 12 hours, turning the slices at the halfway point.spices biltong
  1. Remove and place in the vinegar bath again, this time for 15 minutes. Take the meat out of the vinegar, trying to rinse each piece in the vinegar solution as you do so, and leave as much of the salt behind as possible.marinated-spiced-meat-biltong
  1. Squeeze each piece of meat to extract as much moisture as possible.spiced-meat biltong

Now when it comes to drying biltong, you have a few options.

Oven Drying

If you own a dehydrator, then check the manufacturer’s instructions on drying meat, as models do vary.  You can also try drying in a very low fan oven, opening the door regularly to allow moisture to escape, for around 6 – 8 hours.  Suspending the pieces of biltong from the highest oven shelf, using skewers threaded through each piece of meat, works well.dried-meat biltong

Traditional Drying

If you don’t live in a humid area, and you have somewhere that is free of flies, isn’t open to passing birds and has good air circulation, then dry the biltong in the traditional way, hanging it on meat hooks (strong, covered large paperclips work too) for between 5 – 15 days.  You’ll have to keep checking the moisture content, and the drying times will vary greatly.

If you do get a spoiled piece of meat, then the chances are that the others will be fine, so don’t lose heart.

Shelf Life

A good rule of thumb is the drier the meat, the longer it will last as the lack of moisture will inhibit microbial action.  Fat can cause it to go rancid, which is why lean meat works better for prepping purposes.

You can of course keep your biltong in the fridge; but at a cool room temperature, properly dried and stored biltong should be good to eat for anything from two months to a year.  Moisture is the enemy, so make sure the meat is dry, wrapped in clean, breathable paper and kept in a well-ventilated place.

Once you have the basic technique down then experiment with other flavors and spices that you like.  Dried chilies, teriyaki seasoning and garlic powder are popular.

The Truth About Biltong

As with so many well-traveled and traditional recipes, there’ll always be firmly held opinions on what’s right and wrong, but the one thing that seems to be true of all biltong recipes is that the delicious results never seem to hang around for as long as planned!

You may also like:

NASA black out50 Days of ‘Survival’ Calories with Rice and Beans

H2O Dynamo – The Awesome Device That Turns Air Into Water (Video)

Homemade 72 Hour Emergency Food Supply Kits

The 6 Golden Rules of Surviving Martial Law

Top 10 Foods to Grow for Survival

Rhona Reid
By Rhona Reid December 2, 2016 13:17
Write a comment


  1. Pinke December 2, 16:26

    Can a dehydrater work for this recipe?

    Reply to this comment
  2. Dennis December 2, 17:05

    Thanks for the article. I’m always on the lookout for articles that have long shelf life food.

    Reply to this comment
  3. seabee December 2, 17:22

    Would smoking like a cold smoke . To help dry and keep flies and other pest from invading the drying meat ?

    Reply to this comment
  4. Mugs December 2, 17:23

    I’m not much of a commentor, but I am learning a lot and ppreciate it it.
    Thank you.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Lucy December 2, 22:01

    That looks delicious! Is the black pepper for flavor, or also a preservative?

    Reply to this comment
  6. left coast chuck December 2, 22:07

    What is your estimate of the shelf life of biltong vacuum packed and frozen in a freezer? I have rice thus stored and I plan on leaving it frozen until I drop dead or the end of the world happens. I don’t imagine it going “bad”. It may lose some nutritional value, but I wonder how much that would be. There doesn’t seem to be any fact-based answer to that question that I have found.

    By the way, once again, a useful, informative post. Thanks.

    Reply to this comment
    • tg December 3, 14:05

      i would think vac packing would help like with most things , but i would like to know on this point also ,

      Reply to this comment
    • Farmer January 20, 03:10

      @Left … I too have searched for legitimate studies on the “loss” of nutritional value for stored foods …. so far, all I’ve found are wive’s tales and scuttlebutt …. would sure like to see some facts.

      Reply to this comment
  7. jimbo December 3, 15:51

    Any opinions on cold smoking as the final step??

    Reply to this comment
  8. 'me' May 27, 19:51

    Anyone? The recipe calls for coarse sea salt and brown? /balsamic vinegar. alternatives? Hard to believe these were commonly available 200 or more years ago.

    Reply to this comment
    • Jonjon January 2, 10:25

      Dont put all that rubbish in you meat, just go to ebay and get the South African spice mix, put the mix on a large tray and then roll your cut meat into the thing layer of spice you will get the hand of it

      Reply to this comment
  9. Eagle Feather October 21, 11:32

    This is a good recipe, but I use cayenne pepper, and soy sauce. Then, slow smoke over night…

    Reply to this comment
  10. Bob ba dee bob February 23, 00:13

    I’ve been making biltong for about five years. I use oyster sauce, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce in equal portion, curing salt and baking soda. Marinate over night then dehydrate for ten hours at 145*, cool then vacuum bag for ‘ever’. Still eating on some from first year. I was originally told that that process would last ten years. They haven’t died yet nor I so I’ll take is truth!

    Reply to this comment
    • Jonjon January 2, 10:29

      Bob, dont waste your time with all that junk, go to the ebay and get the South African biltong spice mix and you will find it great, and dont put much spice mix on, I get a 200g bag and lasts a long time

      Reply to this comment
  11. ronny1503 March 8, 17:21

    Any suggestions for rehydrating the biltong and/or recipes?

    Reply to this comment
  12. Zee September 3, 22:11

    Can you use chicken in this recipe because I do not eat red meat of any kind only poultry and seafood. So, that is why I am asking if can use chicken or turkey

    Reply to this comment
    • Jonjon January 2, 10:34

      get your spice from ebay its the south african biltong spice mix, cut your chicken up thing slisers place the spice mix thing on a tray and roll the chicken and into your dryer
      after a day try and love the chip taste, you will finish a chicken chips in a day or two..
      have fun

      Reply to this comment
View comments

Write a comment