The basics …
13 gal wastebasket with touch lid
9″ desktop fan (recycled in my example, ideally with a couple of fan speeds to help vary temperature)
x2 lamp sockets with 40 watt incandescent light bulbs (to control temperature)
x2 threaded metal rods with x4 matching lock nuts
Screen patches to cover ventilation holes (to keep insects and vermin out)
A biltong recipe
The drying box needs to be well ventilated, top and bottom, in a clean room with fresh, dry air. Start off cool around 22-24ºC on the first day when the meat is wet, increasing to 30-33ºC on the second day when the meat is a little drier. Either adjust the fan speed and/or the number of lamps burning to achieve these temperature ideals. On day three onwards turn off the lights/heat and turn fan speed to maximum.
Traditional builds of biltong driers typically have a single 60 watt incandescent light bulb placed at the bottom of the box — by reason that heat naturally rises. I do not like that wet meat drips onto the floor of the box. My design provides for a built in washable drip tray by positioning the lower ventilation holes back from the floor — even so, I still put down some folded paper towel to wick away the drips and to make it easy to clean. A strong fan above will force the warm air down. Two 40 watt lamps will provide more heating control in the first and seconds days of drying. My simple box has no light switches — I screw bulbs in and out as required. A variable speed fan may provide even more heating control. Although my fan had two speeds I’ve wired it on full blast.
The photographs which follow are a rough guide to how my drier box came together — you are welcome to ad lib, provided only that you have good ventilation — a strong fan and many screened holes either side of the airflow. The threaded metal rods are used to hang the meat from — threads will help the hooks from sliding together. You’ll want the rods to be high enough from the bottom to provide for the length of steaks you’ll cut yet leaving enough space for the light bulbs and fan blade to clear with inches to spare. I make my meat hooks from good quality paper clips.