Jonathon will do thank you.
How To Make Homemade Snack Sticks
How To Make Homemade Snack Sticks
Learn how to make homemade snack sticks with Walton's and Meatgistics. Watch the video, read the guide, and then post your questions or comments below
What Is A Snack Stick?
Snack Sticks are a meat snack and semi-dried sausage that are stuffed into a small diameter casing. Typically a collagen casing is used, but it is also acceptable to use natural casings or even make skinless snack sticks. Most snack sticks have a low pH from around 4.5 to 5.2, which is what gives them that familiar tangy flavor and is what helps aid in shelf stability. Another aid for shelf stability is a low water activity, which means binding water in the meat snacks to make it unavailable to support microbial growth. Water activity is not something that can be measured by a home meat processor, but we still set up our process and thermal processing to attempt to achieve a lower water activity. Snack sticks can be made from just about any type of meat, from beef, pork, chicken, other poultry, wild game, or a combination of meats. Walton’s recommends using a lean to fat ratio of at least 80/20, and many times a 30% fat ratio, with a maximum of 40% fat. Fat is where most of your flavor comes from so changing your lean to fat ratio will change the overall taste and mouthfeel of your product.
25lb 80/20 beef trim 1
Start the initial grind with a 3/8in (10mm) grinder plate, then grind a second time through a 1/8in (3mm) grinder plate. Always use a sharp grinder knife and plate. This will help you retain a better particle definition, color, and help prevent any smearing of the meat. If you cannot easily distinguish the lean from the fat when grinding, then it may be time for a new grinder plate and knife.
Using a meat mixer is preferred to hand mixing when making snack sticks. We need to make sure we get a lot of protein extraction, and that is a bit more difficult to achieve in hand mixing but still a possibility to do if you don’t have an actual meat mixer. We are going to want to mix for about 8 minutes, and we’ll want to reverse the direction of the mixing paddles every 1 minute. When you start the mixer, just start adding all the ingredients, except the Encapsulated Citric Acid and High Temp Cheese. These last two ingredients can be added in the last 45-60 seconds of the cycle, or just long enough to evenly disperse. Over mixing Encapsulated Citric Acid could lead to breaking the encapsulate and over mixing the cheese can lead to smearing and loss of shape.
Avoid creating air pockets when you load your sausage stuffer and begin stuffing until the casings are full with a smooth exterior. We will stuff into as long of ropes as we can, and then we’ll cut them to length when we actually hang on smoke sticks in the smokehouse.
For information on adding humidity to your smoke schedule go HERE
Either hang on smoke sticks or lay on racks in your smokehouse or oven. Just be sure to leave a slight gap between the snack sticks. A simple cooking schedule you can follow is here:
125F for 1 hour
140F for 1 hour
155F for 2 hours
175F until internal meat temp of 160F
To help set the casing to the meat and also prevent wrinkling we need to shower the snack sticks when they are done cooking or put them in an ice water bath. It should only take around 10 minutes to get the temperature to drop down. Then, we’ll let them set out for about 1 hour before moving to the refrigerator/freezer. After we are totally done with the cooling process, then we will package in vacuum pouches for longer term storage.
It’s easy to get the basics on making snack sticks, but practice does make perfect. Walton’s has everything you need (except the meat) to make great snack sticks, plus we have the knowledge to help you perfect your own process. If you have any questions or need help in your process, please share your questions or comments below.
- Using a binder like Carrot Fiber, or Soy Protein Blend will not change how much water you put into your product.
- Place a small pan of water in the bottom of smokehouse during the entire cooking cycle to help increase humidity
If your smoker, smokehouse, dehydrator, or oven cannot reach temperatures as low as 125F, just start as low as possible and slowly increase the temperature over time
1. Or use 18 lb wild game meat and 7 lb pork fat or beef fat, though beef fat will have different texture and taste (Return to text)
2. Sure Cure packet is included with seasoning (Return to text)
3. Instead of Sure Gel also try 4 oz of Carrot Fiber (Return to text)
4. If you do not use a cure accelerator like Encapsulated Citric Acid or Smoked Meat Stabilizer, then after it has been stuffed into its casing hold in a refrigerator for approximately 12 hours or overnight (Return to text)
5. For Home Processors 2 Qts Will Make Stuffing Easier (Return to text)
Watch WaltonsTV: How To Make Snack Sticks
If “'slowly” raising the cooking temp. from 125F to 175F, wouldn’t you risk bacteria/spores getting heat resitant. If the dangerzone is between 40F and 140F wouldn’t it make more sense to start with the last cook step to kill all bacteria and spores without risking heat resistance? Or does this have adverse effects on texture, taste, etc.
Up until the time of smoking, you should have the meat at a temperature under 40F, so up to that point it will be at a temp to limit bacteria growth. Once you start smoking, additives like Sure Cure and Encapsulated Citric Acid are going to help control microbial growth and give help you create a safe to eat final product. If you start with a higher temperature, you do risk creating a tough and dry exterior and casing, sometimes known as case hardening. This can be a less safe process for cooking because it creates a tough exterior and prevents the meat and internal temp from rising up to a safe level where bacteria are killed. Case hardening basically makes it hard to fully cook the product up to a safe temp, and it does not allow moisture to escape as easily and in a semi-dried product like snack sticks part of our goal in cooking and creating an edible product is to dry the product out (to an extent, but not as dry as something like jerky). A slow and incremental increase in your smoker temps will help the meat temp rise at a rate that will help prevent case hardening, while still creating a safe and consumable product when finished. Within 2 hours we are setting the smokehouse temp up to a high enough temp to really get the meat up into a temperature range that will begin killing bacteria, and that should be within a sufficient enough time to not be a concern.
I hope that helps answer your question. If you need anything else, let us know!
I have really been struggling with making snack sticks, with several failed attempts to the point I’m almost ready to give up.
My issue isn’t flavor, its look and texture. I cannot get that tight, lightly wrinkled look of a snack stick. My meat just doesn’t seem to bind to the casing like it should. The casing always ends up kind of loose, and when you bite into it or try and break a piece in half, the casing and meat separate which is pretty unappetizing.
I am using wild game meat, and I have been experimenting with fat ratios, some batches I know I have done too lean.
I haven’t been adding the protein binder, or citric acid (I am not sure why, not reading the recipe correct I guess) but this next batch I plan to use it and see if that helps, if I fail again though I’m ready to throw in the towel, its getting frustrating so I’d love some help and input. Snack sticks are a great way to eat up ground wild game but it sure is kicking my butt so far.
weatherbow21 I’d try a few things. First, without a question you should use a binder if you are having texture issues, my favorite is the Carrot Binder, it’s an easy to use and inexpensive way to get a better consistency and bind. If you are going to use the Encapsulated Citric Acid just make sure you go right from stuffing to smoking, do not hold it for 12 hours like you would if you were not using it.
Next watch this video on protein extraction https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wStH-RtQUY8 it does a decent job showing you what proper protein extraction looks like and generally how long it will take to get there. If I had to guess I would say that your problems are stemming from this step, make sure the product is sticky before stuffing it into the casings.
Make sure your fat ratio is in the 20% range. That can sometimes be hard to figure out with wild game so I would recommend that you try making a batch out of pork or beef that you get from a grocery store and know what the fat content is, use binder here as well. Once you have a batch or two of this under your belt go back to wild game.
Just in case you haven’t watched it we do have a snack stick video that goes through every step pretty thoroughly https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3D4_SyN4TX0
Two other things that could be playing a part here are your cook schedule and what type of casings you are using and how full you are stuffing them. Ideally your cook schedule would be 125F for 1 hour, 140F for 1 hour, 155F for 2 hours and then 175F until internal meat temp of 160F(for more information on this check out this post https://meatgistics.waltonsinc.com/topic/182/how-to-make-homemade-snack-sticks-recipe). If you can not set your smoker to 125°F just set it as low as your smoker will go, if that is 150°F then set it to 150° and leave it at that temp for about 2 to 2.5 hours. For the stuffing you want to be using smoked collagen snack sticks and you want to stuff them until they are full and smooth.
I hope this helps, don’t give up, like you said snack sticks are a great way to use your wild game!
I’m getting ready to make my first batch of snack sticks have a few questions.
If I’m using venison and pork fat would I use the Smoked Meat Stabilizer and the Citric Acid, or just the stabilizer?
If both, then in what quantity? The recipe calls for 4 oz of citric acid. The info on the stabilizer says 2 oz for 25 lbs. Would I use those amounts or just 2 oz of citric acid with the 2 oz of stabilizer?
I understand that you don’t want to store the sticks overnight if you use the acid or stabilizer, but if you don’t use them do you also lose the tangy flavor?
And finally, could I also use beef fat instead of pork fat? Would that change anything else in the recipe?
Thanks for the all of the great info you provide! It’s very helpful and informative.
Darrel Great question on the use of Citric Acid and Smoked Meat Stabilizer in the same batch! You do not need to use them together as they are performing basically the same function. The Encapsulated Citric Acid is what provides the tang to the meat where the Smoked Meat Stabilizer does not. Sof if you are wanting the tang then use the Citric Acid and if you do not want the tang then add the smoked meat stabilizer.
You can use beef fat in place of pork fat, it will give you a slightly different flavor but will not change your process.
I hope this helped, let us know if you have any other questions!
Jonathon Thanks for that. So using citric acid alone is fine with venison? The way I read it in the product info, smoked meat stabilizer was intended for wild game. If I use citric acid at 4oz/25lbs will I get the same safe result as the stabilizer?
Darrel Yes, using just citric acid is fine with Venison. If you use the Citric Acid you will end up with the same safe result you would get from the smoked meat stabilizer with the added benefit of the tang since the Citric Acid is going to lower the pH of the meat.
Let us know if you have any other questions!
Jonathon Excellent. Thanks! Maybe I’ll split the batch to try both.
How long do you apply smoke during the process. Nothing worse than over smoking.
toby-wall I usually don’t smoke for the first hour as smoke won’t adhere then anyway. I then usually leave it on the rest of the time as the smoke from the wood chips usually burns out of my pan in about 2 hours which is as long as I want to apply smoke anyway. If you are working with a commercial smoker where you can constantly pump in smoke then I would say do it from 140° until you jump the temp to 175°.
Some people like a lighter smoke and some like a heavier smoke but I usually recommend changing the type of smoke you are using for that instead of the amount of smoke. For example I tend to like a light smoke on things like chicken so I use Pecan or Apple which have a little lighter smoke flavor than Mesquite or Hickory.
Jonathon So this may seem like a really dumb question, but how do you hang the meat in the smoker. I assume I just loop over the smoke stick and then make one big continuous loop across the stick alternating up across and down from side to side over the smoke stick until I get it all on there? I assume if I cut prior to cooking my 30% fat to meat ratio would mean it would heat up to melt the pork fat and I would have meat running out of casings to the bottom of my smoker.
SierraPete Those aren’t stupid questions at all, very good questions that I would bet a lot of people have! You are correct on how to hang them, keep looping them over smoke sticks until either it is full or you have gotten them all in there.
As for the fat melting out yes, this is definitely a concern. You can prevent this from happening by getting a good bind between your water, meat and fat by getting the correct amount of protein extraction and using a binder. We did a video about “fatting out” and protein extraction that should help you with this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wStH-RtQUY8 . Let me know if you have any other questions!
Can I make snack sticks with just using ground beef with out adding any pork.
Without adding pork should I add Soy Protein as a binder.
We butchered two cows and made all the meat into hamburger and trying to make a lot of beef sticks.
Any suggestions are appreciated.
IcePro Yes you can absolutely make snack sticks out of 100% ground beef, lots of people do this with great results. The question on adding a binder is going to depend on the fat content of the ground beef you are using and since it sounds like you ground it yourself since you butchered the cows (good job by the way, doesn’t get any fresher/cleaner than that!) you might not know the fat content? If you do and it is less than 20% fat then yes I would add a binder but I would probably add Carrot Fiber instead, it’s about the same price, holds 26 times its weight in water, allergen free and does a better job in my mind.
Let us know if you need anything else!
Jonathon Thanks for the impute, I will use the Soy Protein as binder for now since I do not have the Carrot Fiber at this time (will need to order) and I have 50# of ground beef thawing out for tomorrow.
How do you determine the fat content on meat when processing your self?
IcePro Sounds good, there is nothing wrong with Soy Protein Blend, it should work just fine for you. For how to tell fat content at home there really isn’t a way, it requires specialized equipment. Hope the sticks come out good!
I made my first batch of snack sticks yesterday. I used citric acid. I was not able to fit every thing in my smoker and part of the batch had to sit in the fridge overnight. Can I still use them or do I need to trash them.
mesbilawson Great question, you do not need to trash them at all. Depending on the temperature they have been held at and a few other factors you might get some crumbly edges after smoking them but there is no danger to smoking and eating them and the taste should still be fine!