• Greetings all. New here and new to snack sticks. After a couple failed attempts at making snack sticks I went to cold smoking (my smoker is too hot) and the oven to finish off the sticks. But for blue tooth and an alarm on my phone this batch of sticks would have been lost as well. I was able to rescue the sticks and I learned I cannot stabilize my oven either. I was considering a dehydrator when I ran across sous vide for snack sticks here and then elsewhere as well. This was good news since I was given a sous vide cooker as a gift a few years ago. Still, in a video I watched the artisan warned that the mid temperatures were important or one would have sticks with too much moisture and thus no good. I was hoping someone could fill in the picture for me from the time my sticks were smoked and the time I threw them into the sous vide cooker. Do I still need a dehydrator? What am I missing in the big picture if anything? Thanks all…

  • Military Veterans Sous Vide Canning Traeger Regular Contributors Power User Arizona

    Randy 2 Hi Randy, welcome!
    You have hit the nail on the head as regards the issues cooking snack sticks. Need to keep temps below 170 or so, so that fat doesn’t render out, and most pellet smokers and ovens won’t do that.
    Then, when you figure out how to stay below 170s, usually either sous vide or a sealed smoker it’s too moist to dry them!

    The optimal solution is a well sealed electric smoker that will retain moisture and hold temps accurately from 120 to 220. But that ALSO has vents you can open and maybe fans too, for good drying airflow. I bought a super nice smoker from Smokin It, similar to PK100 sold here… and it won’t do all that.

    So the answer is to process in multiple devices, either 2 or 3. Works well for lowest cost of equipment too! Here are the steps that I have used. Of course many other folks will have different methods and great other ideas, this place is a wealth of experience! Pick and choose what your equipment and situation will support.

    1. Get some smoke on the sticks. You can do this in the absolute cheapest thing available, even a cardboard box with an Amaze’n cold smoker inside it. Smoke adheres to dry sticks, and does most below 140f, and you DO NOT need more than an hour or two. You COULD do it in a pellet smoker starting from cold, and when temps get above 170ish, pull sticks.
      1A. You CAN skip the smoke and get good results using smoke powder, many tasters say they can’t tell difference from real smoke. Or light application of liquid smoke.
    2. Cook sticks to an Internal Temp of 160f. If you have a smoker you can control temps on, this can all be 1 device, and it will take 4 hrs or more.
      2A. What a lot of folks do, including me 50% of time, is pull sticks after 1 or 2 hrs smoke, IT 120 to 130 probably, and sous vide them up to 160. I stuff them into ziplocks and suck air out, other folks dump direct to water with no bag.
    3. Cool them. When IT hits 160, dump sticks in ice water 10 min or so to cool, this also sets casings nice. I leave in the ziplock bags, others go direct to ice water.
    4. DONE… Maybe. If you like your meat sticks plump and moist, you are done. Keep refrigerated and enjoy.
    5. DRY IF DESIRED. Some sticks are better partially dried, like kabanosy. I like them 30% dry even, like a slim jim. I’m not going for 100% shelf stability since I don’t have a water activity meter so wouldn’t be able to be sure. So I always refrigerate or eat fast off counter.
      5A. Drying: can dry on shelves in fridge, it is very dry in there, but fridge will stink of smoke. Can dry in dehydrator. Anything you can get airflow and keep temp 150ish or below.

    Here is the drying key: your cook to 160 performed a lethality treatment of bacterial pathogens, dropping your pathogen count down by 6.5log or 7log depending on time (112 -121min)… But if you leave it out at 80f to dry for a long time, stuff will grow. The USFDA gives commercial producers a maximum of 6 hrs to get their meat from 40f to 130f, that is the window where food poisoning pathogens grow. If you can’t get the meat Internal Temp to 130 before 6 hrs, your process fails their inspection standards. So this 6 hr “Come Up Time” or CUT is key info for drying. I’m simplifying, there are lots of charts and caveats for pH and whole muscle.

    So your goal is to dry at >= 130f, the min temp for pathogen lethality that the USFDA FSIS publishes in their FSIS Cooking Guideline for
    Meat and Poultry Products, (Revised Appendix A)
    December, 2021. They also have a Jerky Guidelines which is applicable for some of the drying info. Basically all the 10 or so listed jerky drying profiles are 170 to 185f, but that is lean meat… IMO it is too high for snack sticks or you can render fat, and get case hardening.

    It can be pretty simple… I live in Arizona, and if I put my sticks on a rack above polished Aluminum tray in the sun, the snack sticks get an IT of 130 in just 1.5 hrs or so, if I put another tray vertically to reflect sun onto them also. So I just dry that way.

    Shortest method is add smoke flavor to farce, only sous vide, dry on racks in fridge, not much
    smoke smell That way.

    Other helpful tips: don’t add much water to start! Make a drier farce, and stuff it into larger cases like 21mm, so you don’t have to add much water. Use a binder like Sure gel or dehydrated non fat milk to keep water locked up in finished sticks. Use more fat, 30% or more, which reduces water in stick.

    Hope all that info helped!

  • Team Orange Power User Canning Masterbuilt Regular Contributors Veteran New Mexico

    Randy 2 Welcome to the community. I think Dave has given a very good process description.

  • Thanks for the info. Very helpful…

  • Team Blue Masterbuilt Canning Kamado Joes Regular Contributors Power User Sous Vide Oklahoma

    Randy 2 welcome aboard.

  • Yearling Military Veterans Veteran

    Quick question on this. What temp are you smoking at the first 1.5 hours or so? Also, no drying step during the smoke? I have a PK100 and definitely want to try the sous vide method to save time. Thank you!

  • Team Orange Power User Canning Masterbuilt Regular Contributors Veteran New Mexico

    armyguy Usually the first half to one hour is low heat with vents open for a drying period. Somewhere there is a smoke schedule, can someone point out the link?

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