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 😎