Wrinkles in my summer sausage!

  • Need some troubleshooting advice. I’ve been making venison summer sausage with 50/50 pork butts. I’m mixing until I get good protein extraction, adding sodium phosphate, encapsulated citric acid & binders. I’ve got an electronic meat thermometer so I can monitor my temperature which I’m cooking to 155-160 internal temperature. After I reach temp I’m submerging in ice water for about 10 minutes. They taste great and the casing comes off easy but it looks like they are “shrinking” a little and I get a wrinkled final product. Any ideas on where I’m going wrong?
    I’ve been cooking in a propane cabinet smoker (I’m thinking this is part of my issue, as I can’t get good humidity from my water pan), I just ordered a new PK 100 smoker today. B7F27E6D-3942-4892-8FFE-42BA20049496.jpeg

  • @WildWest
    Can’t comment on wrinkles when you just ordered a PK100. So jealous 😉.
    Have had that happen a couple of times. More so with snack sticks. No idea why. Same blend, grind, extraction, smoking schedule etc. Perhaps casings?
    Finally decided I’m not worried about looks. For personal use, the finished product is all that matters.

  • @WildWest Well to start off the Phosphate and Citric Acid do opposite things, using them both in the same sausage effectively cancels each other out. The Citric Acid lowers the Ph of the meat where the Phosphate raises the Ph of the meat. Without getting to deep into your process I’d imagine that definitely has something to do with it. @Jonathon can you help out, am I on the right track here?

  • Regular Contributors

    @WildWest whats your batch size and how much water are you adding to it? Also what is your cook and smoke time process, perhaps starting too high

  • Power User

    @WildWest I’d think it has something to do with humidity. Looks very dry, how does it taste? Did it fat out?
    I keep saying this but I do like to finish in a water bath. Meat can only take about 4 hours of smoke after that it’s kind of pointless. I don’t make large sticks like this but after you take the casing off I’d think you wouldn’t be able to tell! Long as it tastes good!
    You may also want to try and stuff them tighter, you’d be surprised how much they can take.

  • @WildWest I would agree with @Parksider sausage HAS to be stuffed tight. Pretty sure I’ve pissed off multiple members of my family that want to help when making sausage when I get after them for not getting casings or tying the ends extremely tight.

    Also, I will most likely never take any meat past 140 on the smoker anymore. Finishing in a hot water bath is the ticket! You can get roasters at Walmart for $30

    EF01BD5B-F4A2-45C1-A33F-B3E36DD68EE5.jpeg F88F2940-9F77-4BF3-9411-EB19926E3E87.jpeg

  • Walton's Employee

    First great catch @AdamCA ! Using cold phosphate and citric acid together isn’t necessarily a harmful thing but they DO cancel each other out, so you probably had meat that was very close to it’s original pH and most likely the cure wasn’t activated all the way.

    However, I don’t see how that would be the problem with the casing. I think it is a combination of what @Parksider and @hotkarl said. Most likely it is a combination of them not being stuffed tightly enough and lack of humidity in your smoker. For stuffing, these casings are tough, really hold that casing on the tube and stuff them tight as you can, don’t worry about a blowout, I’ve never had one with mahogany casings.

    Also, are you soaking them long enough in hot enough water? Fibrous casings can do this if they are not soaked in hot water for 30 minutes right before stuffing.

    Lastly, if you want to introduce humidity check out this video/article from the Meatgistics University Cured Sausage 205-Advanced Thermal Processing

  • Power User

    @WildWest Another thought about the casings being tight. You can always twist them to tighten and use zip ties to seal them, it can be hard to tie them. I have zip tie loops that I zip tie to the sticks so it makes them easy to hang and reuse them.

  • Had this problem last weekend with 30 lbs of sticks. Smoked for 3-4 hours. Started at 125, 140, 155 after each hour. Then vac sealed and placed in Soux Vide . Water cooked at 162 for 1 hour. There was a lot of juice in bags. Casing looked fine until the ice water bath. Now they all look like a frightened turtle. Sausage taste is good…presentation is awful! I can not give them away as Christmas gifts unless I want to hear a bunch of jokes. Ideas? Not stuffed tight enough? Not smoked until internal temp was hot enough? Don’t water bath in bags? Other ideas?? Thanks.

  • Regular Contributors

    @mcherbies as a home processor i just dont think you will get away from wrinkling. If it tastes great dont let the appearance bother you. If friends and family are gonna make jokes of your hard work then they dont need any in my opinion. Good luck

  • @twilliams I agree with your comments. Like it or leave it! I am a small business owner. I tend to give sausage bundles to clients as gifts at end of the year. I also donate meat to the local Optimist Club for a basketball tournament. I bring the sticks and summer sausage to our local Pheasants Forever meetings. No one complains about the flavor…EVER! I am just somewhat of a perfectionist. I want the investment in time, hard work, and money to look great when it is finished. I am just asking if there is a simple adjustment I can make to take it from just ok to WOW!

  • @mcherbies what internal temp are the sticks when you pull them? I religiously pull them at 140 IT and go straight to the hot water bath shown in my pictures a few posts above. I had a ton of issues in the past with casings wrinkling before I changed to this process. However, this can also be caused from under stuffing. There is definitely a fine line when stuffing snack sticks. For me I’d rather deal with a blow out when stuffing than have my sticks look wrinkled.

  • Power User

    @mcherbies I agree with @hotkarl, I think it’s an issue of understuffing, and lack of humidity. Even when mine get a bit wrinkly they come back when I put them in the hot water bath, no bags. I’d encourage you to so some testing, just try a few sticks in/out of bags, you may be surprised. And if they don’t like the wrinkles tell them to make their own!!

  • Walton's Employee

    @mcherbies Do you have any photos we can look at? How much water did you use when mixing in your seasoning and did you use a binder? The fact that there was a lot of water in vacuum-sealed bags means that this was almost certainly “purge” (though not the bad kind!) from the meat and that shouldn’t be happening at that phase of the cooking process.

    Some wrinkling is often going to happen but you should be able to make a product at home that doesn’t wrinkle as much as the top picture.

  • I will need to take a photo sometime.

    I add a lot of water to the product. 10lb batch, maybe 2 quarts of water?!? I don’t measure it. It has to be wet to go through my 30lb stuffer. Even then, it tries to bust my stuffer from the pressure. (need to get a 11lb for the smaller casing stuff).

    I don’t know the internal temp when I pulled from smoker.

    It is likely due to understuffing as mentioned above. Hope to make more in a coming weeks.

  • Walton's Employee

    @mcherbies Yeah, 2 quarts of water per 10 lb is going to present a few problems for you for sure. We would recommend 1 qt per 25 lb batch. I’ve done as much as 2 quarts per 25 lb batch and even that was pretty soupy. Now, it DID stuff like a dream, hardly had to turn the crank but it gave me an odd texture…don’t remember if it did anything to the casing or not.

  • @mcherbies I find that when I use carrot fiber I like to use 1.5 qt to 25lbs of meat for snack sticks. It is boarder line too much water but the finished product is top notch and everyone raves at how much moisture is still in my sticks.B7227925-D767-4E00-A5C8-57F1CC3AAF73.jpeg

  • Regular Contributors

    @Jonathon the water that you prefer to use is what? Spring drinking water? Distilled water? City tap water?

  • Walton's Employee

    @twilliams We have distilled water here but I only use that when I am doing a ham, bacon or injecting other large cuts of meat with cure. When I am doing cured sausage (snack sticks, summer, etc.,) I do tap water. Wichita has pretty decent tap water and it’s never caused us any issues.

  • I use 20 lb lean meat ( venison, elk, moose or caribou) and 5 lb beef fat for my summer sausage, I grind the fat 1/8 and then grind the meat 3/8 then thoroughly mix the two then grind the mixture 1/8 and get great fat distribution and I think that grinding the two together 1/8 also help with protein extraction. I then divide the meat in 2 portions and mix all spices, cures and binders with 2 quarts of water mixing thoroughly and then thoroughly hand mix each portion with half the liquid and then combine them together and mix some more to ensure thorough mixing and protein extraction. I then soak my casings and stuff as tight as possible with stuffer and crimp with Hog ring crimper. I then follow a gradual smoke/ temp schedule with a maximum smoker temp of 180 degrees. It takes me 5-6 hours for 43mm casing and 10-12 hours for 73mm casings. Hot spots in a smoker will give spots of wrinkled appearance that you have in your picture but I find that usually only happens on the end closest to the fire. I have installed a convection fan from a old oven in my smoker and am planning on installing a 2nd one to keep the internal temp in the smoker constant. The convection fan makes a world of difference in maintaining temperature stability.


  • @akdave @WildWest the convection oven fans helped my home built smoker as well. I took another step further and added two fireplace fans with motors that are outside of the smoke chamber. Between all of the moving air and the added automotive sponges in water pans anything I smoke comes out almost to the exact minute… my smoker actually keeps temp better then our oven…

    8A8CA5B3-8DC7-4058-9D0D-85B0357C34D8.jpeg 909B930E-0875-4BB5-9799-9469B8B7F31E.jpeg

  • @hotkarl

  • Walton's Employee

    @hotkarl That is awesome! Glad you are using the sponges and your set up looks great

  • @hotkarl
    Picture perfect

  • @JPAP I’m new to this page and trying to figure it out. I just ground up about 8 1/2 lbs of pork/beef and letting it cure in the fridge for couple of days and going to smoke some summer sausage w/cheese on the 1st. I’ll post pics when it’s done.

  • Walton's Employee

    @JPAP Did you stuff it before leaving it in your fridge? If not then you might have a really hard time stuffing it into casings as the meat is going to be setting up and will get really firm.

  • @Jonathon No I did not stuff it, I have it in zip lock bags. I been taking it out and just kinda kneading it 1-2 times a day. I’m going to stuff it tomorrow morning. I have never used a stuffer before my girl just got me one last week. I want to ask any tips but I know you have all the tips. Lol

  • Walton's Employee

    @JPAP Okay, first don’t hold it overnight before stuffing (too late!) as it is going to set up and could be very difficult to stuff. For this, you might want to add some more water and make sure the meat is very cold.

    In general make sure your air release valve is functioning properly, make sure the gasket is on correctly (gap faces down towards the meat) make sure your gasket is lubicated with white oil before use and make sure you are stuffing on the correct gear. You never want to stuff on the top gear, that is just for quickly backing out the piston. If you ever see metal shavings on top of your gear housing you will know it is time for a replacement or at the very least get some food-safe machine grease on it.

  • @Jonathon I guess the part I was concerned about was the cheese in the meat curing and setting for couple of days in the fridge. Next batch I’ll grind and stuff in the same day then smoke it later.

  • @JPAP Just want to add in there thank you very much for all the videos, pics, posts and tips you all share. Thank you very very much they really help a rookie like me.

  • Walton's Employee

    @JPAP Glad to be of help, it is literally what I am here for!

  • Need little more practice with the vertical stuffer to be “smooth” when using it. Definitely need a C clamp to help hold it onto the counter. I still got good looking chubs tho for first time using it. Into the smoker in the morning.


  • 100% presentation, send out samples for the real taste test

  • 0695C83A-516E-4AD7-B601-CA5EB17FEDA7.jpeg

    After about 6-7hrs in the smoker this is the finished product. Pulled at 155 temp.

  • @JPAP Looks good. You will notice a change in flavor in a few days and also if you vacuum seal and freeze them. I personally like everything I’ve made better after a few weeks.

  • Walton's Employee

    @JPAP That looks excellent! Its hard to avoid Voids in the meat with a handcrank stuffer but those are minimal, very nicely done!

  • @hotkarl I don’t have a vac sealer yet. Hope I can be getting one this year sometime.
    I was going to double wrap in some plastic wrap then put in a zip lock freezer bag and freeze couple of the logs. I thought that would be good enough to store and freeze them. Any tips on freezing with out a vac sealer?

  • Power User

    @JPAP Old restaurant trick is to put it in a zip lock bag and put in water to get the air out of the bag. If you want to really keep air off it freeze the bag in a block of water that way no air can get into the bag. Like making big ice cubes.

  • Walton's Employee

    @JPAP Butchers paper, with a waxed side plus some thick plastic wrap, will help as well!

  • @JPAP both suggestions from @Parksider and @Jonathon are great ideas. You are on the right path!

  • Thank you all. That was only the 3rd batch I have done and it’s getting better than the last. Adding the cheese little more seasoning than called for and the flavor is booming. Don’t know how much it helps but I use beer instead of water also.
    My girl says it’s good so that’s plus because then she’s more inclined to me experimenting with different things and trying then. She’s only a little (a lot) picky. Lol Will be reading up and trying more new things when work allows me some time off.

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