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how to make biltong in a food dehydrator


Biltong is a traditional South African snack that has gained popularity worldwide. Made from marinated meat, it is a delicious and nutritious treat that is high in protein and low in fat. While traditionally biltong is prepared by air-drying strips of meat, you can also make this mouthwatering dish using a food dehydrator. In this article, we will guide you through the process of making biltong in a food dehydrator, sharing tips and tricks along the way.

1. Choosing the Right Cut of Meat

To begin your biltong-making journey, it is essential to select the right cut of meat. The best option for biltong is a lean and tender cut, such as silverside or topside beef. These cuts are ideal as they contain just the right amount of fat required for a delicious and succulent biltong.

When purchasing the meat, look for pieces that are uniform in shape and thickness. This will ensure even drying and consistency in flavor. It is also important to choose a cut that is free from excessive connective tissue or gristle, as it can detract from the pleasant texture of the finished biltong.

2. Preparing the Meat

Once you have acquired the perfect cut of meat for your biltong, it's time to prepare it for dehydration. Begin by removing any excess fat from the meat, as it can become rancid during the drying process. Some fat can be left on to enhance the flavor, but be mindful not to go overboard.

Next, slice the meat against the grain into strips approximately ¼ to ½ inch thick. By cutting against the grain, you ensure a more tender end result. Make the slices long enough to hang comfortably from the food dehydrator racks, typically around 6 to 8 inches.

3. Marinating the Meat

A crucial step in making biltong is marinating the meat. This process infuses the meat with flavorful spices and tenderizes it before dehydration. For a traditional biltong marinade, combine coriander seeds, black pepper, salt, brown sugar, and vinegar in a bowl. Feel free to experiment with additional spices such as paprika, chili powder, or garlic, to suit your taste.

Coat each slice of meat with the marinade, ensuring all surfaces are evenly covered. For optimal flavor development, place the meat and marinade in a ziplock bag and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight. This allows the flavors to penetrate the meat thoroughly.

4. Loading the Dehydrator

Once the marinating process is complete, it's time to load your food dehydrator. Ensure that the drying racks are clean and free from any previous debris. Arrange the marinated meat slices on the racks, leaving enough space between them for air circulation. Avoid overcrowding, as this can impede the drying process and lead to uneven results.

It is also a good idea to place a tray beneath the bottom rack to catch any drips during the drying process. This will prevent a messy cleanup and maintain the hygiene of your food dehydrator.

5. Drying the Biltong

Set the temperature of your food dehydrator to around 140-160°F (60-70°C). This temperature range replicates the warm climate typically used for air-drying biltong, promoting the growth of good bacteria while inhibiting spoilage.

The drying time for biltong varies depending on factors such as the thickness of the meat slices, humidity levels, and personal preference for texture. As a general guideline, it takes approximately 12-48 hours for biltong to dry completely in a food dehydrator. Thicker slices may require more time, while thinner ones dry faster.

Periodically check on the biltong during the drying process, flipping the slices for even drying and inspecting for any signs of spoilage. If you notice any mold, discoloration, or an off smell, discard the affected slices to prevent the spread of unwanted bacteria.

Once the biltong reaches your desired level of dryness, remove it from the food dehydrator and let it cool. It is normal for the biltong to feel slightly soft when warm, but it will firm up as it cools. Remember, the biltong should still be slightly chewy and not completely dried out.

In conclusion, making biltong in a food dehydrator is a simple and convenient way to enjoy this beloved South African delicacy. By choosing the right meat cut, marinating it to perfection, and patiently drying it with the help of a food dehydrator, you can indulge in homemade biltong anytime, anywhere. So, gather your ingredients, fire up your food dehydrator, and embark on a flavor-filled adventure that will delight your taste buds and impress your friends and family.


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