Homemade biltong using a dehydrator.

by Wag ‘n Bietjie

The word dehydrator sounds a bit ominous at first but it is indeed a very useful piece of equipment for the making of biltong, a dried meat enjoyed by South Africans and also other countries. Recently I modified a chest type container for use as a dehydrator and have successfully made a batch of dried meat a.k.a. biltong. My intent here is to encourage others to attempt this rewarding (and tasty) exercise. This is by no means an in depth tutorial but merely holds forth the process which lies within the grasp and capability of most people.

The making of biltong involves:

  • a dehydrator
  • suitable cut of meat
  • seasoning
  • drying
The dehydrator made from a 85l container. Air holes at the bottom & rods, dowels or pipes to hang the meat for drying.
Dehydrator with the lid on. Two old computer fans mounted on the lid for air extraction.
Dehydrator in use loaded with meat and fans running.

Meat drying time using this method is between 3 to 4 days.

The delicious end resultSliced Biltong (source Wikipedia)

recommended article for more details . .

Excerpt from Wikipedia article below with a link provided. Other points covered within the original Wikipedia article are Ingredients, Meat, Preparation and Drying.


Meat preservation as a survival technique dates back to ancient times. European seafarers preserved meat for their long journeys by curing meat in salt or brine. European settlers (Dutch, German, French) who arrived in southern Africa in the early 17th century used vinegar in the curing process, as well as saltpetre (potassium nitrate). The potassium nitrate in saltpeter kills Clostridium botulinum, the deadly bacterium that causes botulism, while the acidity of the vinegar inhibits its growth. According to the World Health Organization, C. botulinum will not grow in acidic conditions (pH less than 4.6); therefore the toxin will not be formed in acidic foods.[2] The antimicrobial properties of certain spices have also been drawn upon since ancient times. The spices introduced to biltong by the Dutch include pepper, coriander, and cloves.[3] In January 2017, a research group at the University of Beira Interior in Portugal published a study on the antimicrobial properties of coriander oil[4] (coriander being one of the main spices in the most basic of biltong recipes) against 12 bacterial strains, and found that 10 of the 12 strains of bacteria were killed with a relatively mild concentration of coriander oil (1.6%). In the two strains that were not effectively killed, Bacillus cereus and Enterococcus faecalis, the coriander oil reduced their growth significantly.[5]

The need for food preservation in South Africa was pressing. Building up herds of livestock took a long time, but with game in abundance in South Africa, traditional methods were called upon to preserve the meat of large African animals such as the eland in a warm climate. Iceboxes and refrigerators had not been invented yet. Biltong as it is today evolved from the dried meat carried by the wagon-travelling Voortrekkers, who needed stocks of durable food as they migrated from the Cape Colony north and north-eastward (away from British rule) into the interior of Southern Africa during the Great Trek. The meat was preserved and hung to be dried for a fortnight during the colder winter, with the cold temperatures aiding to further inhibit bacterial and fungal growth. Once suitably dried, the biltong was ready for packing in cloth bags, which allow air circulation to prevent mould.[Wikipedia]

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