Once you’ve built your biltong box, hung your meat, balanced the airflow, and cured it like a pro, how do you take the final hurdle to make delicious biltong? Today we’re taking a deep dive into how to cut biltong like a pro and other little biltong-making tips and tricks you can use to perfect your biltong flavor experience.
The reasons why we explained here.
How do I slice biltong?
To slice biltong, in essence, all you need is a very (very) sharp knife, a good piece of biltong, and some practice. If you can, try to buy a high-quality steel knife specifically for cutting biltong, and don’t use it for anything else.
If you cut anything with the edge of a knife, you may experience microwear. If the knife is used consistently for a specific type and texture, this is not an issue, but it can contribute to a less effective cut over time if you use it for a variety of surfaces.
If you cut anything with the edge of a knife, you may experience microwear.
On a related note, it’s also a good idea to grab a wooden cutting board for your biltong. This will help you to cut the meat hygienically every time you make a cut. We recommend wood, so you don’t nick the edge of your blade with a harder surface every time you cut.
The 2 stages of cutting biltong
Depending on your home setup, you may need to slice your future biltong meat to hang to dry. Remember that you need room around your strips of meat to dry evenly, so try to cut each piece long enough to fit in your biltong box. You’ll need about 2cm/0,78 inches of clearance at the bottom of the box. If you need more, you’re not using the unit to its full potential.
Normally, you cut with the grain of the meat. This is exactly the opposite of what you do with a steak – because you don’t want the steak to have any chewiness at all, whereas that’s the goal with your biltong.
If you think you have a tough piece of meat but still want to try to make good biltong out of it, you can cut it the more conventional way.
Make sure the strip is about 1cm/0,39 inches in width. It’s natural for the strip of meat to warp as you cut it, but keep it as even as possible. Don’t chop or slice at the raw meat just to get the cut! That’s how you end up with ugly, torn-up biltong.
Of course, once your delicious biltong is dried to perfection, it’s time to shape the final pieces.
Here, you can use your discretion and slice as thin or thick as you will enjoy.
The meat will have lost the moisture, so it’s firmer and easier to slice thin, but you need to be careful. Use a super sharp knife (carefully), and try to “press” the meat rather than saw it.
How to cut biltong super thin
Do you like your biltong wafer-thin? Do you want to speed up the drying of biltong? Freezing your meat for no more than an hour will give you a firmer texture for slicing.
In fact, it will resemble the finished product more than the raw meat. This way, you can slice thinner than ever before.
However, be careful when seasoning super-thin biltong slices as it’s easy to overdo it, especially with the salt. It should cure in just 24-48 hours.
What about a biltong slicer?
Thinking about buying a biltong cutter? These devices come in a variety of types, both motorized and hand-cranked, and can be a great addition to your home biltong-making setup. However, you don’t necessarily have to have one!
A sharp knife is always the simplest way to cut biltong. But a dedicated biltong cutter is certainly fun and useful if you like consistency on your cuts. In fact, it can be a great gift for any biltong maker in your life!
Don’t know what a biltong slicer is? As we mentioned earlier, there are several different styles but think of the rotary slicer you use at your butchers for ham, but on a smaller scale. Or, if you prefer, an old-fashioned string bean slicer.
Powered by either a motor or a hand crank, the spinning blade will thinly slice your biltong into perfect chunks.
The best blades are made of high-strength steel, but you can also choose the rest of the design – many have beautiful carvings or etchings or are made of spectacular woods.
Using your biltong slicer
Cutting with a biltong slicer isn’t hard, but it does require practice.
Your most important skill – especially if it’s is an electric machine, and even more so if there is an electric feed – is to resist the urge to push and pull the meat yourself. You want to develop a gentle-yet- firm and even pressure as you feed the machine (or let the machine do it itself if there is an electric feed).
This will ensure that your biltong is even; it will be easier to cut since you won’t be compacting the meat fibers, and keep your fingers safe, too. Impatience leads to spoiled biltong and can even lead to a trip to the emergency room!
Cutting biltong is not difficult, but it does require taking good care of your tools. Keep your knife sharp, maintain your biltong cutter, and be sure to follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions.
You want to make sure there is no meat ‘threads’ stuck in the work when you pack it away because that’s how you get mold on rancid meat.
You usually need to use soapy water for a good clean. You can clean the cutting surface with a little isopropyl alcohol or even cheap vodka to sterilize it before use, but make sure you rinse the knife well after a few minutes, so your biltong doesn’t get contaminated.
While your first few biltong cuts may be a bit haphazard, it’s a skill that comes with time and practice, so don’t get discouraged!
Soon you’ll be cutting biltong like an expert!