Why do you soak biltong in vinegar?

The vinegar helps tenderize the meat, enhances the flavor, and acts as a natural preservative.

One of the steps in making biltong is soaking the meat in vinegar. There are several reasons why this is done. First, vinegar acts as a natural preservative, helping to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the meat.

This is particularly important in hot, humid environments where bacteria can grow quickly.

Second, vinegar helps to tenderize the meat, making it easier to chew. Third, the acid in the vinegar breaks down the tough muscle fibers in the meat, making it more tender and flavorful.

Finally, vinegar adds a tangy flavor to the meat that is characteristic of biltong. This flavor is enhanced by the other spices used in the marinade, creating a unique and delicious taste.

The Benefits of Soaking Biltong in Vinegar

Based on my experience making biltong, I’ve discovered several benefits of soaking it in vinegar. Let me share these benefits in detail:

1. It tenderizes the meat

One of the primary benefits of soaking biltong in vinegar is that it tenderizes the meat.

In addition, the acidity in the vinegar helps break down the proteins and fibers in the meat, resulting in a more tender and palatable final product. This makes the biltong enjoyable to eat, especially since it can sometimes become quite tough if not prepared correctly.

2. It helps with natural preservation:

Soaking biltong in vinegar acts as a natural preservative due to its acidic properties. The vinegar creates an inhospitable environment for bacteria and mold, inhibiting their growth during the drying process.

This is crucial for maintaining the safety and quality of the biltong and extending its shelf life.

3. It enhances the flavor profile

Vinegar plays a significant role in developing the flavor profile of the biltong. Depending on the type of vinegar used, it can impart a tangy, fruity, or mild taste that complements the meat and the spices used in the seasoning.

I’ve found that experimenting with different types of vinegar can lead to some interesting and delicious variations in my biltong’s flavor.

4. It improves the drying process

The acidity of the vinegar helps to draw out moisture from the meat, which in turn aids in the drying process. This ensures that the biltong dries evenly and achieves the desired texture more effectively.

As someone who’s made biltong numerous times, I can attest that well-dried biltong is crucial for a satisfying snacking experience.

5. It lowers the risk of contamination:

Lastly, since vinegar has antimicrobial properties, soaking biltong in it can help reduce the risk of contamination from harmful microorganisms. This is particularly important for homemade biltong, where strict food safety protocols may not always be followed.

The vinegar soak provides an extra layer of protection and ensures that the biltong remains safe to consume.

How long should you soak biltong in vinegar?

The length of time you should soak biltong in vinegar can vary based on personal preference and the recipe used. However, typically biltong is soaked in vinegar for at least 30 minutes to an hour before being seasoned with spices and hung to dry.

Some recipes may call for a longer soaking time of up to 24 hours. It is important to use vinegar with at least 5% acidity to help tenderize the meat and prevent spoilage during drying.

Can you make biltong without soaking it in vinegar?

While soaking biltong in vinegar is a traditional and highly recommended step, it is not strictly necessary. Some recipes call for omitting the vinegar or using an alternative acid, such as lemon juice or wine.

However, it is important to note that omitting the vinegar may result in a shorter shelf life and a less tender end product.


In conclusion, the benefits of soaking biltong in vinegar are numerous and vital for creating a delicious, safe, and high-quality final product.

From tenderizing the meat and acting as a natural preservative to enhancing the flavor and drying process, vinegar is a crucial component in the biltong-making process.

As someone who enjoys making and consuming biltong, I truly appreciate the role that vinegar plays in this traditional South African delicacy.

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