How To Make Homemade Snack Sticks - Recipe
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 setup 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 overal taste and mouth feel of your product.
25lb 80/20 beef trim
(or use 18 lb wild game meat and 7 lb pork fat)
1 package Excalibur Snack Stick Seasoning
1oz Sure Cure (packet included with seasoning)
6oz Sure Gel Meat Binder
(instead of Sure Gel, also try 4 oz of Carrot Fiber)
4oz Encapsulated Citric Acid
2 to 3 lb High Temperature Cheese
19mm Collagen Casings
2 Quarts Ice Cold Water
Start the initial grind with a 3/8in grinder plate, then grind a second time through a 1/8in 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.
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.
Place a small pan of water in the bottom of smokehouse during 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
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!