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Why Is Biltong Better Than Jerky


One word comes to mind immediately when thinking of South African food and snacks: biltong. The problem is that many people see this as another form of beef jerky and don't try it. Biltong is similar in some ways, but also very different in its taste, texture, and range of products. A high-quality biltong product can outshine any standard piece of beef jerky found in the supermarket. The surprising diversity of options makes this something all meat lovers need to try.

The Difference Between Jerky And Biltong

Before we look at what makes biltong so special and diverse compared to beef jerky, we need a better understanding of the processes involved. These are not the same product. They might look similar on first impressions but they have a different taste and texture. This is why so many people who start out on jerky make the switch once they expand their pallet. The biltong process began centuries ago when hunters would air dry their meat and cure it for preservation. The cured meat is then cut into thick strips for ease of use. Today producers still air-dry the meat for authenticity and use vinegar and spices. Jerky, on the other hand, is cooked, dehydrated, and vacuum sealed for shipping.

A More Diverse Range Of Cuts And Flavours

One way you can be sure of getting your money's worth out of biltong compared to beef jerky is the quality of meat used. Unless you go for a gourmet brand promising the very best filet mignon for their cured beef products, you don't always know what you're eating. Biltong companies often go out of their way to find meats with good fat content to stop the product from becoming too lean and dry. Any cut will lend itself to the drying process in the right hands, so it pays to go for top-quality produce and taste the difference. In fact, companies like The Weston Biltong Company even use Wagu beef for their top-of-the-line products. These will be for special occasions rather than a standard family gathering on the weekend.

Having a good cut of beef for beef biltong is one thing. Companies still need to offer the right flavour combinations and rubs to keep customers coming back for more. The texture and quality of these air-dried meat products make them a great canvas for a broad range of options. Many companies will stick with quite simple, traditional options that pair with beef. This could include some subtle pepper, a little garlic, or an always-popular BBQ flavour. Then you will find those that go beyond typical Western flavours into other cuisines. Oriental-inspired rubs, like hoisin or five spice, could offer something a little different. Or, maybe you'd prefer to go spicier with Piri-Piri or curried meats. The choices are impressive and increasing all the time, as brands get more inventive in a bid to stand out from the crowd.

A Broad Menu Of Meats To Choose From

What makes biltong stand out over your traditional beef jerky is the range of different types of meat out there. Beef is one of the most popular choices because it lends itself to the air-drying process and flavours so well. It is also something that consumers are familiar with because of the prevalence of beef products around. If you've tried beef jerky and want something new, beef biltong is the next logical step.

After beef, then what? Well, there are many other forms of biltong available that use both traditional and non-traditional meat. The word traditional may be a little loose here. Some meat-eaters may be all about beef, pork, and poultry, and that's it. However, those who are a little more adventurous with game meat may like the idea of a venison or duck product. As long as they are made from the best possible cuts and treated well, they can lead to some tasty high-end snacks. These richer meats add a more luxurious feel and can also act as a gateway product to some of the less traditional meat products on offer.

If you want to go for the most traditional South African food possible with your biltong, it is a good idea to look for providers that work with South African species. Some options may be familiar with from farmers markets and food fairs, such as ostrich. This has become a farmed bird, so you can get local producers creating their version of ostrich biltong alongside other cuts of meat. Then there are the alternative game meats such as zebra and different types of antelope. If you ever wondered what Kudu biltong meant, now you know.

The general rule here is that if biltong creators can get the right cut of meat, they can create quality biltong from it. This means they aren't always restrictive about their sources either. Some meats come from more extreme sources, such as elephants and crocodiles. Others come from animals that are definitely not South African, such as kangaroos. The point is that people who develop a love of biltong have a lot of choices and can have fun trying new products.

We can't celebrate the diversity of biltong without talking about a final variety. This one might be the most controversial, and biltong enthusiasts may be upset at the idea alone. There are producers of plant-based biltong. It might sound oxymoronic, but companies have found a way to replicate the textures and tastes of the real thing using mushrooms and other vegan alternatives. It's not the same. Still, it's a nice idea for any former meat-eaters who miss the fun of trying the real thing.

Is Biltong Superior To Jerky?

Many biltong lovers will argue that the process, flavour, and overall quality of this South African food make it the better choice. The diversity in flavours and styles - including the more questionable game and non-meat versions - only broadens that appeal. Essentially, anyone who's written biltong off as just another type of beef jerky should be pleasantly surprised.

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