In the world of meat snacks, there are two primary options for you to sink your teeth into – beef jerky and biltong. Both dried and cured meat products are highly nutritious, protein-rich, and exceptionally satiating. You can't go wrong with either option, especially when you're perusing Gelvio's curated collection. That said, there are major differences in taste, texture, and appearance; understanding the differences is helpful when you're adding fuel to your cart.
Biltong originated in South African countries like Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Zambia.
The indigenous people of these countries preserved meat by slicing it into strips, curing it, and then hanging it up to dry. European seafarers in the 17th Century embraced biltong because it would not spoil at sea and it was highly nutritious.
Beef jerky is believed to date back to an ancient Inca tribe called Quechua. This South American tribe coined the term ‘ch’arki’, which loosely translates to dry and thin meat. The Quechua are believed to have made jerky as early as the 1500’s. When the first Europeans arrived in the New World, they discovered that this nutritious food source was perfect for traveling. Those same European settlers brought the concept of beef jerky with them to the US and this led to beef jerky's head start over biltong.
Biltong is made using an air-drying and curing process that does not require heat. Given the absence of heat, most of the meat’s minerals, vitamins, proteins and all nine essential amino acids remain intact. Biltong is cut into thick slices and then immersed in a combination of vinegar and natural spices; usually a mixture of salt, pepper and ground coriander. It is then air dried for up to a week. The vinegar, salt, and spices, along with the time-intensive air-drying process, cures the meat and adds texture + flavor.
Biltong is made using an air-drying and curing process that does not require heat.
Beef jerky is made by slicing raw meat into strips and either drying the meat on a rack in a dehydrator or cooking the meat in an oven for 12 hours. This often results in drier, tougher pieces of meat compared to biltong. Most jerky is soaked in marinade and salt to help it stay tender and flavorful.
Biltong relies heavily on vinegar for its preservation properties and during the drying process, salt and spices are added. Common African spices used in biltong include coriander, allspice, curry, and clove. For traditional biltong, there is zero sugar added.
Jerky typically doesn't use vinegar as an ingredient. Since jerky requires heat from a dehydrator or oven, it uses sauces and flavors containing sugar and salt to impact flavor.
There's no cut and dry winner when it comes to taste, both beef jerky and biltong are delectable! That said, they do taste noticeably different.
The spices and vinegar used during the production of biltong tend to result in a more flavorful bite. For this reason, you will see the seasoning and flavor of biltong to be more natural. Since Jerky is dehydrated or cooked, it will tend to have a smoky taste that is often accompanied by a marinade flavoring.
Biltong will on average have a higher fat content, which helps to bolster its flavor profile. But, this doesn't mean that all biltong products are high in fat. Biltong can be on the dry side if extra lean meat is used, or you can find each bite to be soft and chewy if fattier meats are used.
Even when it comes to texture, biltong and beef jerky are wildly different.
Biltong tends to be more tender and chewy. Given that it's basically dried steak, the texture can be rare, medium, or well-done (hard).. it all depends on how long the meat is cured and air-dried.
Jerky production requires heat from a dehydrator or an oven so the texture is usually a bit drier than biltong and the variation in texture (rare, medium, well-done) is more limited.
Meat Snacks with Benefits
Biltong and beef jerky are packed with protein and nourishing macro + micronutrients. Both are low in carbs and high in protein, which is ideal if you're looking for a convenient way to increase your protein consumption with whole foods.
Biltong and beef jerky are loaded with nourishing macro and micronutrients. All dried beef is a great source of iron, zinc, B vitamins, and magnesium. Similarly, both are low in carbs and high in protein, which is ideal if you're looking for a convenient way to increase your protein consumption with whole foods. The exact amount of protein per serving will vary from product to product, but you can expect 20-30g of real food protein.
Meat snacks are generally quite high in sodium and one ounce of jerky can provide nearly 20% of the daily advised sodium limit for adults. This increased level of sodium is ideal if you're frequently active and find yourself looking to replace electrolytes.
For both biltong and beef jerky, the quality of the meat plays an important role in taste, texture, and nutrient availability. Here at Gelvio, we check for a few key items:
- 100% grass-fed beef, no antibiotics, no added hormones
- Zero sugar added, no corn syrups, no artificial preservatives
- Paleo friendly and Whole30 approved