An observation about pork versus beef fat in venison sticks today, pork may hold together better, and a question....

  • Yearling

    I have some friends of different ethnicities that do not choose to eat pork. I like to be inclusive and interestingly many of these cultures do like venison. Lacking a good source for mutton or goat fat, I’ve been making venison snack sticks in a variety of versions for several years using beef fat.

    Usually, its a one off batch, so its a little hard to perfectly compare pork to beef fat behavior. But today, kind of happenstance, I ended up doing two basically identical batches. 10 lbs lean buck venison (typically rear or front quarter) to 4 lbs fat. Not shoulder or butt, but clean fat trim from my local grocer who will save it if requested. I hoard it up till I have what I need.

    Today, identical recipe. 16gram cure, 1 tablespoon powdered buttermilk per lb (14), my own seasoning mixture, and 66 gram encapsulated citric acid right before the stuff.

    I tend to grind frozen with a little thaw so I can cut into pieces that fit into my grinder. There is that sweet spot where it can still be cut with a knife and grinds, but has body and keeps the cutters cold. Both lots of meat and fat were pretty equal in terms of temperature. First 3/8" grind, then 1/8" second grind.

    I have 20 lb meat mixer. As I mixed the beef/venison mixture, cure first, some water, then spices, then binder, then encapsulated citric acid at the very end I noted that the beef mix and pretty much lost all sign of fat. No chunks. It has them after the 1/8" second grind, but just sort of disappeared in the mixing process. They are in the smoker now, and tomorrow I will have more info about what the sticks look like when cut. Same general recipe using beef last year got rave reviews, so I am not worried about it being a bust.

    Second batch, same identical process. Used pork fat for first time, with the combo and spice mix. But the pork fat seems to have held up during mixing better. Could see distinct little chunks all the way to the stuff.

    Does pork fat hold up better than beef fat to mechanical mixing? Anyone else think that might be the case?

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

    cdherman You might want to grind fat and lean separately and use one size larger plate for the fat, then mix together. The fat may stand up better during mixing and have better particle definition.
    Just a thought.

  • Washington Canning Sous Vide Regular Contributors Team Camo Gardening Power User

    cdherman it’s been my experience that the beef fat holds up a lot better than the pork. Pork fat seems to soften up a lot faster, at a lower temperature than beef. Having said that, was the temperature identical in both pork and beef grinds? Just a little bit of temp difference can make a big difference in fat. I’ve had the same experience as you with the fat disappearing, but it was because I let the meat get too warm. It felt cold to my hand, but it was 58° after first grind when I put a thermometer in it. I refreeze now inbetween the first and second grind. Not so it’s solid, but just intill it starts to get a crust.

  • Washington Canning Sous Vide Regular Contributors Team Camo Gardening Power User

    cdherman I should have remembered better what you posted when I read it 😁 I see they were same temp. I’ve really never had problem with beef fat, but pork I watch real close. Interesting.

  • Yearling

    I am sure the beef was frozen at the outset. Just as hard as the pork. But there is also the question of location. Pork and beef both vary some depending on where it was cut from.

    I tend to try and process my venison in Jan-Feb so I can keep meat temps low. Stuffing the stuffer today was painful as my fingers were getting cold even after 2 grinds and mixing. Its 15 F here in KC today. The patio was my walkin freezer.

    Gonna be interesting to cut up the sections ( I hang in 24" loops in my smoker, but pack in 8" vacuum), but who knows.

    I had always also assumed that beef was more “durable” than pork. I wonder if the quality of my beef trim was just inferior this time around. In retrospect, it looked a little mushy. At $0.79 a # I don’t complain and I know its fresh and clean. But where it came from on the animal is unknown.

    I will try and re-post with some pics after smoking. We are at 151 deg internal right now. Hope 160 arrives soon, as I’d like to get to bed!

  • Military Veterans Sous Vide Canning Traeger Power User Arizona Dry Cured Sausage Dry-Cured Expert

    cdherman great writeup, I like how you gave a concise summary but with sufficient details. interesting!

    I do venison sticks with brisket fat myself. Have also done pork fat. Not sure I ever did same recipe with both, but I know I like both.

    I actually grind my fat separately on a finer plate, 3 or 4.5 mm, with fat basically frozen at grind, then freeze and smack bag around so it is all loose small pieces. Then I do most mixing with meat only to get extraction. I add fat in at end usually so I can mix lightly to blend, but still have good particle definition. Not always, depends on product and mood.

    Awaiting the taste test, thx for your interesting post!

  • Washington Canning Sous Vide Regular Contributors Team Camo Gardening Power User

    cdherman I know what you mean about where the fat comes from on animal. Sometimes my beef fat is a little mushy or soft, and some times it just breaks apart. Same with the pork. It’ll be interesting when your done to see the results. I can’t even find pork fat were I live, nobody willing to sell it, and I’m not mail ordering it. I can get beef fat for 40 cents a pound here, all my pork fat comes from pork butts. Like Dave in AZ said, great post!

  • Yearling

    Dave in AZ Thanks for compliments. I value repeatability. Take notes on my seasonings and smokes, in my smoker diary. That’s why this day seemed interesting enough to comment. Cause it was not what I expected. But final result remains to be tested.

    I recently subjected my workplace to a blinded comparison between my spice mix and Leggs and I won 3:1. But the sticks were not processed identically, so it was not a perfect study. My spice mix was actually using beef fat, interestingly. The Leggs was with pork.

    Anyhow, yes I like to describe what I did and be of help to the community (and me too!)…

    G’nite all. I am at 154 F and starting to decide if I really need to ice bath the sticks, or just let 'em hang in 15F air? Already decided. Going to power down the smoker, open the door for a wet minute (one scotch) and then shut it all up and hit the sack…

  • Power User Veteran Michigan Team Camo

    cdherman where did you get your beef fat? What type of fat was it? Was the fat labeled when you got it?

  • Power User Veteran Michigan Team Camo

    cdherman In my experience, beef fat is not nearly as consistent as pork fat. There are many factors that change fat. Diet, age, breed and locker conditions all effect the texture and color ect. I would also be sure of where on the animal the fat you are using comes from. Kidney fat for example will NOT act the same way as exterior fat. It renders at a significantly lower temperature then say, fat trimmed from a short loin. As such, it is NOT suitable for use in most sausages and would normally be used for things like making tallow. If you were to use kidney fat (aka suet) in snack sticks or summer sausage, you will get fat out. The fact that you said the fat blended with the lean while mixing, makes me think this may be a possibility.

  • Military Veterans Sous Vide Canning Traeger Power User Arizona Dry Cured Sausage Dry-Cured Expert

    Deepwoodsbutcher good info on fat, thx!
    I had read there were big differences, so I only use beef fat I personally trim off brisket, and only the hard fat cap part. For pork fat, I only use the fat cap from pork butts. When I buy, I always look for the fattiest ones, then trim it off to grind separately. That lets me weigh out meat and fat to get a known ratio for repeatable results.
    Mostly I do this for consistency and because I know it is good fat, and I am not expert enough on meat and fats to do otherwise. I do recall my mom using kidney fat, suet, to make English style pudding though.

  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User Kansas Dry Cured Sausage

    cdherman Awesome write up very good content for people to see someone else’s experience with other fats since we are always harping on and on about pork fat. When I grind fat, I tend to change what I am doing based mostly on the diameter of the product I am making. Snack sticks I often grind it all together because I don’t necessarily want huge chunks of fat, summer sausage I tend to grind them separately.

    salmonmaster Good point on cold to your hand but being way too warm. Sticking a thermometer in your grind is a good way to bring this to light. We should do some social media posts about this.

    Dave in AZ as always, good information, I have a ton of brisket fat saved up that I need to do something with. Its been in the freezer a while now though, do you see any degradation over time with frozen brisket fat? I tried not to keep prok fat past 18 months in the freezer but this brisket fat has probably been in the freezer 2 years now. I wasn’t really sure why I was saving it, it just seemed a waste to toss it out!

  • Power User Regular Contributors Smoker Build Expert Bowl Choppers Nebraska Veteran Team Camo

    cdherman FWIW, I used beef fat exclusively in venison snack sticks for the last 10 years with great results. I liked the beef flavor the beef fat added and never had any issues with texture or bind quality.

    Our stick recipe did not include any binders or other additives other than what may have been included, but not listed in the seasoning pack.

    Unfortunately my source for beef fat is gone now, so this year we will be using pork fat. I have no doubts they will still be good, just a little different.

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

    cdherman Let us know how the casings adhered to the sticks using air cooling.

  • Washington Canning Sous Vide Regular Contributors Team Camo Gardening Power User

    processhead we’ve used beef fat for decades in venison for the same reason. Gives the venison a bit of a beef taste, and is WAY easier for us to purchase very cheap. Never a problem with it. Jonathon I’m not sure the frozen beef fat goes bad on a long freeze, but I think you start to taste “age” to it after a year. We’ve used 6 month frozen vac packed pork butts that you could definitely tell had some age to them. Not bad, just old tasting. You could tell it more in fresh sausage, brats, but not so much in snack sticks.

  • Military Veterans Sous Vide Canning Traeger Power User Arizona Dry Cured Sausage Dry-Cured Expert

    Jonathon thx for the kind words. I haven’t used fat old enough to tell a flavor difference yet. I know when I’ve thawed an old steak, I can smell a difference on the fat though. So I’ve tried to use it up. Just like you, I couldn’t bear to throw out all that nice brisket fat, but was having a hard time using it. However, I recently tried using it along with pork shoulder in WI style brats, and think it is a good flavor. I have sometimes cut the butt fat cap part off to use for buckboard bacon, so only had 15 to 18% fat left, I’d guess. I’ve added brisket fat to get 28%, last 3 batches, and can’t really tell… just a good juicy flavor.

  • Yearling

    Deepwoodsbutcher Got the beef fat from a local grocery store. Its just the trimmings from roasts and steaks that they know people get mad about paying $9 a lb for, so they trim some off. They tell me they throw away most of it, but if you ask ahead, they will keep it for you. They don’t even put it out on display – must be viewed as a turn off for the regular customers. It was certainly not internal fat, as the local store does not slaughter of course.

    I will packaged up the sticks tonight and do a more thorough taste and texture text. Will post back how it works out. Especially the caseings. If they separate, I’ll be bummed at my laziness.

  • Power User Veteran Michigan Team Camo

    cdherman even though they do not process whole animals, I’d check out the cuts they have on sale when your are getting your fat. This should tell you where the fat is coming from. For example, Tbones and porterhouse are cut from the shortloin. The kidney fat is pulled from that primal and there is often quite a bit of it left on boxed loins. If the meat cutters don’t seperate that fat out, you might be getting suet mixed in with the rest of the fat. Talk with the cutters to be sure you get the type of fat you are looking for.

  • Yearling


    Did you already know the outcome, or genuinely wondered?

    I really experienced my first venison smoking failure yesterday/today. To heck with the beef versus pork issues.

    Errors (in hindsight)

    – made about 34 lbs at once, and today upon examination, that just blocked too much smoke and heat movement in my pellet smoker. I got some sticks burned, all the fat cooked out. Others, upon examination were mushy and not to my liking, Probably edible, but no snap to the casing. The temp variation could have also been since it was so dang cold outside. And the wind was blowing. My smoker was showing a lot more temp variation than usual. Note to self, smoking in the wind at 5 F might be a dumb idea.

    – used 17mm casings, which I think made things worse. Harder to stuff, needed more water. Then the extra water may have contributed to the to the casings falling off the undercooked areas. Previously I have used 19mm, but once again, local place was out and seems online prices are worse and worse.

    – used powdered butter milk instead of suregel binder. To be fair, when I was ordering they were OUT of Suregel binder so I felt the need to try the buttermilk. But the taste and texture are not as good. What a fool making 34 pounds of sticks with a new binder.

    – Did not ICE water bath the sticks. Opened up to 5 F air for 45 min and then closed things back up. Probably multiple errors here. I have the feeling water condensed on the sticks today (by the time I got home from work). About 1/2 the casings are slimy and slip off when eating. Yuk…

    Now, I’ve been doing this for 3 years now. Probably 250 lbs of sticks in varying formats and I’ve never had anything that everyone didn’t say they liked. So I think I was getting over confident and made too many errors and too many changes to one run.

    You live, you learn.

    Bocephus has to answer though, did you know I was doomed? I have indeed always iced the sticks, like the instructions say. Till last night… I don’t think you were sure, otherwise you would have told me so… But you were right, somehow any way…

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

    cdherman I was wondering if it would work, I did not know before hand, or I would have warned you not to do it. I do always ice bath mine but thought maybe it was cold enough where you are at to cool them fast enough by cold air. Sorry things turned out bad for you.

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