If you’re planning to make your own biltong or droëwors, you’re going to need a way to dry the meat. A biltong box is what you need!
You could go buy one of those fancy dehydrators sold at outdoor stores, but if you want to save some money, you could simply find out how to make a biltong box. It is quite easy to do!
(If you don’t know what biltong is, it is seasoned meat cut in strips and then dried. It is similar to jerky. Droëwors is dried sausage.)
Your Basic Goal With A Biltong Box
The basic goal, no matter what type of biltong box you make, is to have a place to hang your meat where the cat or flies can’t get to it, and then move air through it. The moving air dries the biltong!
It doesn’t really matter how you achieve that. I’ve seen people hang the meat in an unused closet and put a fan in the door to move the air. In the old days, my dad used to hang the meat in the garage and leave the door open to allow a draft through the garage.
You get the point… move air through it, and it will dry. Just don’t toss the meat in the tumble-drier! 😉
I will show you how to make two types of biltong boxes, (1) a decent wooden box, or (2) a quick and cheap cardboard box.
A Wooden Biltong Box
Here’s what your wooden biltong box should look like:
The diagram shows a box with a divider that divides the box into two sections, A & B. Section A is high enough for a 100 Watt (or 60W) bulb to fit into. Section B is where you will hang the meat. Near the top of section B are wooden or steel rods (marked C) from where you will hang your meat.
There are holes (½-1 inch diameter) drilled along the sides of section A, in the divider, and in the roof of the box.
How It Works
The bulb heats the air in section A. As we all know from school, warm air rises. The air rises through the holes in the divider, through section B, and out the top. The air in section A that has risen out the top, is replaced by air being sucked in through the holes in the sides of section A. The blue arrows show the air flow.
How To Make It
- Make a wooden box that measures roughly 3 ft. high, 2 ft. wide, 2 ft. deep, and that has a door on one side (a door is not shown in the diagram).
- Place a wooden divider in the box, and about 1 ft from the bottom (it must be high enough from the bottom that you can place the bulb under it).
- Drill several holes, about ½-1 inch diameter, in the sides of section A, the divider, and the top of the box.
- Place several (about 7) wooden rods (C) inside the box about 2 inches from the top. Space them about 3 – 4 inches apart. (Tip: Use a method of attaching the rods that allows you to move the rods if you find that you can fit more rods in the box.)
- Place the 100 watt bulb in the center of section A.
Now hang your meat from the rods, making sure the pieces don’t touch each other (the meat will rot at the spots where they touch), and wait patiently for it to dry. We use plastic-coated paper clips as biltong hooks.
Fans – An Alternative To The Bulb
If you have one or more electric fans, you could eliminate the bulb, and either have the fans blow into section A, or reverse the fans and use them as extraction fans in the roof of the box. If you go with this option, wherever you mount the fans, don’t drill the holes in that location as well.
The box can be made of wood or cardboard, but a wooden box will certainly last longer. You also may want to cover the holes in the box with insect netting (the kind used on screen doors). This will stop the bugs from getting to your biltong before you do.
A Simple Cardboard Biltong Box
A while ago I had to build a biltong box, but I didn’t have the time to make a proper box as described above. I had a computer monitor box (about 1 ft x 2 ft x 3 ft) and a small fan (about 8 inches in diamater). The biltong box I made from that, worked very well. I still use it. Here’s how I made it:
- I stood the box upright and opened the top flaps.
- I cut a hole in the side of the box near the bottom for the fan to fit into. The fan has its own stand, so I made the hole big enough to allow all of the fan’s air to blow through the hole.
- I used the wire from wire hangers to make the rods to hang my biltong on. I poked the wires through the box from one side to the opposite side along a straight line near the top edge of the box. I simply bent the wire rods over where they protruded outside the box. (I later felt that the hanger wire was a little too thin and replaced it with thicker wire that I bought at a hardware store.)
- Then I hung my meat from the wire rods using plastic-coated paper clips as biltong hooks. That works very well!
- Lastly I placed the fan in position to blow through the hole I cut earlier. Generally, the top of the box remains open. Sometimes I will cover about ¼ to ½ of the top on the opposite side as the fan. This allows the air to swirl through the box before exiting out the top.
Here are two images of what it looks like:
This simple box has made several batches of biltong for us. It usually takes 4-6 days for the biltong to be ready. Droëwors takes a little longer if you use synthetic casing.
I hope your biltong box works as well for you as our has for us!
PS. Here’s a biltong recipe if you need one.
PPS. Let us know what you think of this biltong box in the comments below. If you have additional suggestions, put them in the comments as well 😎
Is it possible to place an inblowing fan in section A and a extracting fan in section B.Will this quiken the drying prosess?
Herman, yes, you can do that. I would probably only put an extraction fan in the top.
If you do that then you stand the risk of sucking in dust. Like John said, rather just have an extraction fan in the top.
Would this work if you live in a very hot and humid house? 30 – 36 C on the beach coastal house?
Stacy, you’re going to have to test it with one piece of biltong to know for sure. The idea is to move dry-ish air through the meat to dry it, but if the air in your house is very humid, I can’t say that it will be dry enough to dry the biltong. Test it.
When you heat up air, the water carrying capacity of the air gets greater. Therefore, to get the best results, or have the best chance of drying the biltong in a warm climate is to heat up the air and then forcing a draft through the box. Therefore, try to use the bulb (to heat up the air) and the computer fan(force a draft), this will be the best. It wont help only using the light to make a natural draft, or just a fan with the already saturated air.
This makes sense. Thanks for posting, Evan.
Hi. Love both your boxes. Was wondering if you could help. I have a small wine cooler with a small fan in it which doesn’t create much air/wind and it has a glass door. If I replace the glass in the door with mesh do you think this will be ok for a biltong box. How much air/wind strength is needed. Thanks ahead.
Rob, I can’t say for sure, but it doesn’t sound like your fan would be moving much air through the biltong. But if you’re going to remove the glass and replace it with mesh, you could just stand a regular fan in front of the cooler and let it blow into the cooler. I think that will create enough airflow to dry your biltong.
A few questions about the instructions and the box. As far as being able to adjust the seven rods, do you mean drill more than seven holes…how else could you adjust them? Also, if hang the biltong on rods over the divider wood, it is full of holes you drilled, so where do the drippings go from the meat drying, do they just drip on the wood? I have seen other box plans where they put a metal tray under the meat and arrange everything else to accommodate the tray. What is your best idea to make a box with those considerations I just wrote here, not sure how to get a reply from here…do I have to come back to this sight to see a reply or will it come in my e-mail?
Trevor, instead of drilling holes for the rods, attach two strips of wood, one on each side, directly under the ends of the rods. This will then act as supports for the rods. It will allow you to adjust the rods freely. It will allow you to add additional rods if spacing allows.
As for the dripping issue, you could just place some paper towels on the floor of Section B, covering the holes in the floor. The biltong will only drip for a few minutes. Once the dripping has stopped, remove the paper towels and let the drying process resume as normal. This is what I do when I make biltong.
Hi, I’d kill for some biltong. I live off grid so can’t have lights, fans, etc, but we get very high temperatures in the summer usually accompanied by an afternoon breeze. Any advise would be helpful.
Louise, our parents never used any type of biltong box with fans or a light. My dad used to hang our biltong in a huge box with mesh sides (to keep the cat and flies out) and the box just stood under a tree outside. We used to make biltong in the winter when it wasn’t so hot. All you really need is shady spot with some air movement.
Howzit, just wanted to find out if there is a specific temperature that the inside of the box should be kept at as i am currently living in the UK and have had friends who have tried to make biltong and have had mold grow on it due to the dampness in the air.
Will a extraction fan and say 100 watt bulb be enough in this case? And regarding the placement of the fan is it best to have it push air in or pull the air out?.
Any help is much appreciated. Jason
Jason, I think that will do it, but you may want to test with a small batch to be sure. Based on what Evan said above, it looks like the bulb is essential in more humid climates.
[Update] Sorry I forgot to answer about the fan direction. I don’t think it matters that much if the fan is extracting air out the top, or blowing air in from the bottom. As long as you have good air movement through the box. I think a lot of people install their fans in the roof of the box and set it up as an extraction fan.
The appropriate temperature inside the box ?
1. “Fans – An Alternative To The Bulb
If you have one or more electric fans, you could eliminate the bulb, and either have the fans blow into section A, or reverse the fans and use them as extraction fans in the roof of the box. If you go with this option, wherever you mount the fans, don’t drill the holes in that location as well.”
Does this mean do not drill any holes in Section A or just no holes in Section A on the side on which the fan is located?
2. The Bulb
Is it necessary for the bulb to be on during the day in very warm climates (30 – 35 C)? I was thinking of switching if off in the morning, leaving the fan running and switching it back on at night.
#1: If you put the fan in section A and use it to blow air into the box, don’t drill holes in section A as well. A lot of the air will escape through those holes, thereby reducing the flow of air through the box and out the top. If, instead, you use the fans as extraction fans in the roof of the box, don’t drill holes in the roof as well. Only keep the holes in section A. This will allow proper airflow through the box.
#2: If you have a fan as well, you eliminate the bulb. That’s what we do, and it works well. So yes, if you also have a fan, you could turn it off at night. A while ago, another reader pointed out that the bulb is very useful in more humid climates because the warmed air increases that air’s ability to absorb moisture. In our case, our box is inside our air-conditioned house. The air conditioner removes moisture from the air, which is why a fan-only works well for us.
Hi all! I’m going to put my biltong box in my garage. We must keep the doors to the garage closed during the day and the temp rises to over 100 F (or at least that’s what it feels like) . Will I have any issues with this kind of heat? I’m going to use a 9″ fan to blow air at the side of the box. I’m thinking I won’t need a bulb in the box during the day but I’ll use one at night to keep the temperature.
Any problems that may arise with my setup?
Thanks – Anthony
Anthony, I think you should be OK, but do let us know how it turns out.
Thanks Johan ! Eenvoudig en doeltrefend ..ek gee jou 5 sterre ! Dankie man!
Hi Johan, if i wanted to do 10kg batches at a time what size box do you think i would need?
Hi John if I made a square frame box and used fine mesh all round hung the box outside with a floor fan blowing do you recon that will work. The secret is in the meat preparation. Or just hang the box outside and let nature do its thing.
Hi Theo. Yes, I think that will work. The secrets is just to keep on moving air through the meat. In the old days, people made biltong by hanging it in the garage and leaving doors open. Others made a box like what you’re wanting to do, and stood it under a tree to keep it out of direct sunlight. Just keep the air moving!
Hi John….Is the fan or light left on for the duration of the drying process? Or if I go for a combination fan/light are they both left on all the time or are there times when you would only have one of them on?
Hi Todd. Yes, leave the fan or light on for the duration. It’s important to keep the air moving to create the drying effect.
We have a Mellerware ‘Biltong King’ and it is being used for the second time now. I have been perplexed why the light bulb is located at the top of the box adjacent to where the fan is extracting the air. Do you know the reason for this because laws of thermodynamics dictate that hot air rises and therefore the light bulb should be at the bottom of the box. Before I bring up these facts to the manufacturers I would like your opinion first.
Richard, no I don’t know why that is so. Maybe the light is more intended to light up the box than make the air move. If there was no fan in the box and the light was at the top, I’d be worried. Maybe the fan is moving enough air through the box to facilitate the drying process.
Hi. Become totally confused with fan aspect. I have built a cabinet very much like the one in your design only I have placed a fan in the roof of the cabinet blowing air IN to the box. A faint draught of air is coming from the air holes on the sides of the cabinet and the meat appears to be drying. The light is at the bottom of the cabinet. From reading the comments above, it appears the fan should be extracting air OUT the roof. Is this correct or would my fan blowing the air into the cabinet negate the effect of the light?
Hi Graham. Yes, the light in the bottom will make the air rise, and your inward-blowing fan in the roof will tend to push it down, thereby killing the airflow. Turn the fan around to make it extract the air. Then it should work like a charm.
Hi so if you put a small pc fan at the bottom by the bulb and less to no air holes, and have another on top extracting, will that work?
As long as there is airflow through the box, it should be fine.
Hi got 6m container with 3 ind fans or extractors help me to make biltong container
Hello John, I was wondering if instead of a lightbulb, I could use a 50W fishtank heater, since I have one laying around, or a 200W heating element, as I can get one for only a couple bucks. Since heaters are generally better at converting energy to heat than lightbulbs, I’d guess the 50W heater should work fine, right? Thanks in advance.
Hi Jacob. I think 50W heater should work. The job of the heater is really just to warm up the air to cause it to rise and create an airflow. Such warmed-up air will also be a little drier, thereby helping the drying process.
I converted a double door freezer by removing the middle partision and fitting a fan in a hole I cut on top. At the bottom i drilled a few holes for the air to flow through.and a 100 watt globe at the bottom.The doors seal to keep everything out. i live at the coast and this unit works 100% for biltong and sausage.
Hi John. Would it be okay to add a 60w light bulb in the cardboard box biltong maker?
Thank you very much for the advice mate.
Hi Altus. Yes, I think that would work. In that case, leave the top of the box open for air to exit, and cut holes in the box around the bottom (on the level of the bulb) for air to enter the box. I’ve never done it like this, but I think the air warmed by the bulb will rise, escape out the top, and also create a type of vacuum to suck new air in via the holes in the bottom. This should then create the airflow that you need to dry the meat. I’d love to hear feedback from you after trying this. 🙂
I have made myself a Biltong box, out of a old Fridge, It works well, Nice and easy to Clean. Light and Fan. But I need to dry out the air more. because I am on the coast. It gets very humid during summer months
Piet, if you live in the US where homes have air-conditioners, move your box inside the house where the air won’t be so humid.
piet can you please share a bit how ypu made it with the fridge
i live in Namibia and thank you for useful info on the boxes, but i want to go bigger i have a single door fridge not in working condition …please any info will do….should i drill the hole on top of the fridge( fan) and put the bulb at botton? and on the sides should i drill hole for air escape….
I’m about to try and make a Biltong box and have had an idea I’d like to run past you all. I’m planning on using an old PC power supply. Not only does it have a pair of fans to assist moving air around it’ll warm the air up before blowing it in and I can use it to power an additional exhaust fan for extra air movement. It also has slots for filer media to stop dust. Sounds feasible? Can you see any reasons why it wouldn’t work in the UK?
It sounds like it will work. Let us know your results.
Hi guys im from sydney oz. I bought a boltong maker only makes 9 pieces, its not enough haha but wow i just love the stuff, i think i will make that timber box so i can make more haha is there any good recipes anybody wants to share to all of us biltong lovers.much appreciate.
What size for box as I don’t need large box an what size light an how big does fan have to be
Kelly, you don’t need a large box if you’re only making a few pieces of biltong at a time. At it’s most basic, all you need is some sort of container where you can hang your biltong and move air through to dry the meat. You might not even need a light, especially if you live in a drier climate. I only use a cardboard box with an open top, and a small fan blowing air in at the bottom. If you hold your hand above the top opening of the box and can feel slight airflow when the fan pushes in air at the bottom, you’re good.
Is it possible to make ‘jerky’ in a biltong box? I have seen pork jerky and wonder whether I could make this in mine? I have read you ideally need to cook pork in the oven for a little bit beforehand just to be safe…
I am not familiar with the process of making jerky. The biltong box merely dries the meat, so you could use it for that part, but I believe jerky also uses some type of smoking process.
I love this box it’s eazy and for the first time in my life I will make biltong thank u verry mutch
Thanks for sharing this! I need your advice though, I have recently moved to Europe from SA temporarily and I want to make biltong in my biltong box. The problem is, here in Europe they only really sell LED bulbs – which don’t get very hot! What size LED should I use? How do I know how much heat I will get?
The purpose of the bulb is mostly just to get air moving through the box. Try using a fan instead to move air through the box.
John – you are one patient man. Great design – but one more question – should I have air flowing past the meat or not? Just kidding – lol!
If not useing a bulb would a down draft be better since moist air goes down? I am wanting to dry cured bacon outside.