Biltong is not the same as jerky
Biltong is often confused with jerky because they’re both dried, meat-based snacks. However, the ingredients and production methods are quite distinct.
Made via different processes
Both jerky and biltong use dried meat as their primary ingredient, but the meats are dried differently.
Jerky is usually roasted or smoked for several hours, whereas biltong is not cooked at all.
Instead, it is soaked in a salt-and-vinegar brine before being hung to air-dry. This drying and aging process can last for as long as 1–2 weeks before it is ready to eat.
Use different cuts of meat and ingredients
Although biltong and jerky share their primary ingredient, the same does not necessarily hold true for their specific 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, depending on the style and desired outcome.
What’s more, biltong is usually cut into wide, thick strips that are easier to hang, whereas jerky is typically thinly sliced into irregular pieces that are more suitable for cooking.
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.
Although regular biltong does not have the added condiment-style ingredients like Worcestershire or soy sauce, some of the modern, commercially prepared versions do.
Offer different textures and flavor profiles
Because of their varied production methods and ingredients, biltong and jerky don’t taste the same.
Jerky tends to have a smokier flavor than biltong due to the way it’s cooked. Thus, biltong is sometimes described as tasting meatier and less smoky than jerky.
The use of vinegar in the production of biltong also adds a distinctly acidic flavor that jerky doesn’t possess.
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.