More Useful Stuff
1. Go Shopping
Buy a kilogram piece of silverside steak, and ask the person behind the counter to trim off any visible fat and silver skin. The leaner the beef, the longer your biltong will keep. This amount of meat will yield about 750g of biltong. If you’re dealing with a friendly butcher, ask to have the beef sliced into 5 or 6cm-thick strips, 10cm long. Otherwise, do it yourself, and make sure you get all the gristle.
2. Prep the Protein
Seal the steak in plastic wrap and stick it in the freezer until it stiffens slightly, about an hour. (This will make the slicing easier.) Remove the meat and use a sharpened chef’s knife to cut it into 6cm-thick, 10cm-long strips.
3. Treat Your Meat
Marinating the meat gives biltong the most flavour; let it sit in the sauce overnight in the fridge. Dry rubs require two hours of refrigeration. Either way, combine the sliced meat with the ingredients (right) in a large zip-top bag.
4. Rig Your Hot Box
There are many ways to do this. Let’s start with the quickest: your oven offers a fast way to dry your meat. Got units to burn? Heat the oven to 190°. Place cooling racks on two baking sheets. Shake off excess marinade or spices and place the strips on the racks with space between each piece. Put it all in the oven for 3 to 5 hours. (To aid dehydration, prop the door open a little.) But if you’re looking for something more custom, making your own dryer is pretty simple. Find a wooden box, cut a door on one side and place a wooden divider high enough off the bottom that you can place a lightbulb under it.
Now drill holes near the top of the box – some for wooden rods, and some more for ventilation. Space them evenly apart – if the strips hang touching, they’ll rot – and place a 100-watt bulb in the centre of the ceiling. And if you want to save yourself the effort, invest in a Biltong King by Mellerware (R499, yuppiechef.com).
How long it’ll take to be ready depends on the amount of meat, the climate and of course your own personal taste. It could be in there for a few hours or a few days. Keep an eye on it, be patient and give it regular taste tests. Enjoy.