In short, jerky is a dried meat that originates from the America’s.
It’s typically lean meat with salt added to prevent bacteria growth during the drying process. The word "jerky" is actually derived from an indigenous Peruvian language, ch'arki which means "dried, salted meat".
It was a necessity for our ancestors to preserve meat to stop it from spoiling and as a result, every culture seems to have is own version of drying meat.
Believe us, you can’t eat a horse no matter how hungry you get but you can jerky a horse….not that we’ve tried!
Beef jerky in Australia isn't as popular as it is in the 'wild west' and to tell the truth, we’ve never been fan’s of jerky ourselves.
Most beef jerky is loaded with preservatives and sugars and covered in artificial sauces (think BBQ sauce). Now don’t get us wrong, it is possible to make a healthy beef jerky but what you’re left with is something that starts to resemble biltong, so why bother if you ask us.
The key ways in which beef jerky is different from biltong is with how it’s dried and in the spices used.
Biltong is slowly air dried in a whole steak form. Airflow and low ambient temperatures (20 - 25 Celsius) dry the meat over a long period of time (often 7 to 10 days). The slower drying process gives it a softer texture and a more natural flavour compared to beef jerky.
Modern beef Jerky is thinly sliced, marinated and then rapidly dehydrated in a few hours inside a drying oven. The high temperatures (usually around 70 Celsius) essentially cooks the beef jerky compare to the slow drying and aging of biltong.
Other differences between biltong and beef jerky are in the seasonings used. Simple spices and vinegar is used to impart flavour into biltong (salt, pepper and coriander is the norm), where’s modern beef jerky is marinated in sauces. The result is that biltong will naturally taste more like real meat (it's just an air dried steak that's been seasoned!) where's store-bought beef jerky will typically taste like the sugary sauces that have been added to it.
A perfectly good pan ruined by some ordinary beef jerky.
Modern beef jerky is usually made by slicing thin cuts of lean beef against the grain of the meat.
The pieces are then marinated in a sauce, of which there will always be salt as this is a crucial ingredient to help preserve the meat and lower the available water left in the beef jerky once it's dried.
The beef is then put inside a dehydrating oven usually set around 70 - 75 Celsius to dry for approximately 4 hours but this is dependent on reaching the desired moisture content. The finished beef jerky will then need to be packaged in a low oxygen environment to help extend shelf life. Typically an oxygen absorber is used inside the sealed bag.
And there you have it, a perfectly inadequate pieced of beef jerky, when really you could have just bought biltong instead.
DIY beef jerky being dried in a standard oven.
Prep-time: 5 min
1. First step is to dress comfortably and then to pour yourself a nice glass of red wine.
2. Second, immediately stop what you are doing and either make biltong instead or order it here.
3. Step 3 is to never look back because you just dodged a bullet!
We hope you know that we’re not joking so if you do want to make your own biltong than find out how we make biltong here.
Rory and Luke grew up eating biltong before we could walk which is to say it was a typical South African upbringing (it helps with teething). Arriving in Australia they found the culture, climate and sports were similar but the biltong consumption wasn't.
We looked everywhere for a healthy beef jerky or biltong but everything we found was artificial or packed with preservatives and sugar. So with best mates, Tom and Matt we set about creating a healthy biltong to compliment our own lifestyles.
Naturally, we wanted to make sure we weren’t compromising on ingredient quality and biltong was the obvious choice given it's more natural drying methods. We hope that you feel the same and continue to chew the good stuff. Love, the Barbell Boys,
Biltong steaks drying in their natural habitat.