How To Make Homemade Snack Sticks

  • Power User

    @Ode-Tom The Masterbuilt 40 models are good bang for the buck and Pit Boss 5 series vertical seems like a good option. If their smoker is anything like the grill I bought recently it should perform well. Both companies also have good customer support should you need it.

  • Walton's Employee

    @Ode-Tom Another option would be a smoker/pellet grill combo like the GMG, Yoder (might be a little pricey) or something like that? More bang for your buck and while not necessarily ideal for smoking snack sticks it 100% can be done and it gives you more use. I personally use only my pellet grill/smokerat home now. Though, admittedly when I do snack sticks or something I have either the PK 100 or the big commercial smoker here that I can use.

  • Hi Guys, I’m still in the hunt for a affordable smoker that will fit into wallet. You folks are the best at follow up. Thanks to all of you. I do have an idea and a direction for my temporary smoker. Will investigate further tomorrow. My best regards Tommy

  • problems with hydration in making snack sticks using excalibur maple-bacon mix. I’m working with aged Akaushi beef. age can be up to 60 to 70 days. I’m using 16mm smoked casings. in the directions for the mix no water is added. the first ingredient in the mix is brown sugar. Sugar is hygroscopic I added water to loosen (1# H2O/25# protein) it a bit and to make up for the dehydration during the aging. After cooking the next day the water leached out and the flavors were very weak. The next batch i made without water it set up like cement. I had to add some water to loosen it (to stuff). My electric stuffers won’t handle the load. I used my cured sausage stuffer (it has gears on it like a 59 ford 9 inch rear end, it is a beast) it did the job but it was a workout. The standard summer sausage mix i use calls for 3#of water per 25# of meat. It’s not excalibur brand and it works great. I know i have an issue with the age, and casing size. But i work as the butcher for a shop that raises the Beef. So it’s the product i use. I have 30 years experience in charcuterie and have always used my own seasonings I mixed myself. The water i added will effect the PH level and shy of doing an emulsification and with the marbling of the meat I think that will be a lost cause. I’m lost here. Any suggestions? Thanks

  • @raypete I also tie and hang in link bunches and the ones i added 1# of H2O after 12 hrs of hanging had excess moisture that sweated though the casings, not a lot but I’ve never had that happen with any sausage i have made, raw or cured.

  • @Jonathon Hey Jonathon, Ihave a Traeger smoker, have you used one? The lowest setting is “smoke” and pretty sure it’s at least 150 degrees. What would you recommend for me to successfully do snack sticks with it for the cycle? thanks.

  • Walton's Employee

    @Tomg Get a good probe thermometer that will let you measure ambient temps accurately. The Grill Eye Pro Plus is what we have been using, (the recent firmware update allows you to connect through wifi more consistently and from “anywhere”) and then experiment with propping the lid.

    We’ve done this recently with our oven and were able to stabilize the top rack at almost exactly 120°. We didnt have to prop the door open too much either, just a little bit to let the heat escape was all that was required.

    So, prop the lid with your ambient temp thermometer and move it around a few places to find hot/cold spots. After the 125° phase you can either try to get to 140° by increasing the temp or closing the lid more OR go right to 150°, the 10° difference isn’t going to make or break the snack stick though if it were me I would try for the 140°.

  • Power User

    Speaking of hot and cold spots. Never realized how much outside air temp comes into play until this last snack stick smoke. Being that I use LP and drawing air through there was a wide variance in temps. My smoker is thermostatically controlled. Early morning outside temp was 60 deg. No problem getting down to 122 for drying. Three hours later when the sun came out and the temps rose, had to keep adjusting it down because of temp spikes.

    The older MB 30 I had to prop lower door open even on lowest setting. The wind also comes into play.

    Wow…This is fun stuff!

  • Walton's Employee

    @PapaSop Outside temp and air flow sometimes absolutely comes into play! With a well-insulated smoker (@Parksider is going to appreciate his PK100 in the cold cold upstate NY winters) it’s not as big of a deal but it certainly still comes into play!

    These are the things we have to deal with when home processing, and when you take all of that into account and realize we are making a product at least 90% as good as a commercial processor it’s pretty amazing!

  • @Jonathon PERFECT! thanks I’ll give that a try

  • Hi Guys, tried my 1st SS. Made a 1/4 batch (6.25 lbs.) Willies and followed all the directions and the correct ratios. 4 my taste buds a little too spicy for me. Salt and heat is OK. Where or what do I change in the recipe to cut the spices a bit? Stay with me, I’ma learning. Tommy

  • Walton's Employee

    @Ode-Tom First thing I would try is using more meat per amount of seasoning. So, if you were going to use an entire bag that makes 25 lb, try using 30 lb of meat top distribute the seasoning amongst more meat. It is going to take some testing to get exactly what you want but that’s generally the best way to tone down a seasoning.

  • Thanks J, I’ll work in 10% increments increases to get what I like. Tks. Tommy

  • I’m looking to make some snack sticks but I want them to be sweet sticks. Do I just add surgar to the recipe or is there a completely different list of ingredients I should use?

  • Walton's Employee

    @Fblemler I’d recommend taking an already sweet blend like BBQ Snack stick or Honey BBQ and then adding sugar as opposed to trying t create your own. It’s difficult to get the correct ratio, especially for salt content when making a seasoning mix at home.

    You will have to play around with how much sugar to add per lb and it might change if you were to switch between seasonings.

  • @Jonathon Instead of the sugar you have at home couldn’t you use Dextrose to add some sweetness? That’s what I do when making Sweet Italian, I use the Mild Italian seasoning and add Dextrose to it and it works out great, in my opinion anyway. Just wondering if it makes a difference on the source of sweetener you use. I know Dextrose is just a simple sugar that is similar to the sugar most people have at home.

  • Walton's Employee

    @AdamCA Actually a lot of people use dextrose instead of sugar in making sausage and it has about 75% the sweetness of sugar so if you switch back and forth be sure to remember that. It is often used as a fermentation aid though.

  • Hi Guys, my latest question how do I make Snack Sticks.
    Any and all members that can help or have experienced this problem, please chime in…
    My first 5 lb batches have been adjusted to a level of heat and salt that I like. That’s good for me.
    Now my next concern. I’m using 19mm Smoke Collagen Casing. I have a problem with the cooked casing being very tough to bite thru and/or the casing comes off inside my mouth as I chew the SS. To me It appears the casing is not binding or adhering well to the meat of the SS. I can actually pull the cooked casing from the meat with ease.
    OK guys, your thoughts and suggestions needed. We’re headed in the right direction.
    Best Regards

  • Walton's Employee

    @Ode-Tom Does this happen right out of the smoker or is it after they have been ice bathed and packaged? Im going to guess that it’s after everything has cooled down? Most likely you have too much moisture in the package. Once you’ve ran them through the ice bath let them sit out at room temperature (un stacked, so single layer) for an hour then move them uncovered to a fridge overnight. Then vac pack them. If your problem is right out of the smoker then you might need either a longer dry schedule or add less water to your sticks.

  • Thanks J. I notice this during the cool down period after the ice bath. I’m thinking along the same lines. Maybe I’m adding to much cold H2O during my mixing. Next batch we’ll cut back on the added water.
    Thanks again

  • Hello Austin, is that a 12mm stuffing tube you are using on the 26# electric stuffer?

  • Walton's Employee

    @bpschuebel Yes it is, this was the first version of this stuffer that we got and it was before we determined that the motor was just not sturdy enough to do snack sticks. This is before I was in this department but I am willing to bet that that stuffer had to either be reconditioned or had the motor replaced after.

    We might shortly have a change in the electric stuffers that would allow future ones to handle stuffing snack sticks but for now, we still absolutely do not recommend it.


  • @Jonathon so I like the dryer wrinkled snack sticks as well. If I understand you correctly a few things I can do is up the fat like maybe 25/75; no binder, higher temp toward the end and no immediate ice bath?

  • Walton's Employee

    @BrianB Yeah all those things will work but probably what will you the best-finished product with a very wrinkly stick is to still use a binder but understyuff your casings a little bit to a lot depending on how wrinkly you want it. This is probably the easiest variable to manipulate without effecting the taste of the finished product too much!

    I’m going to do a video here shortly on the difference in appearance of an overstuffed, properly stuffed and understuffed snack stick.

  • @Jonathon video will help. Thank you

  • @Jonathon In the video when you say “you don’t have to twist the links like with other sausages” do you mean you can leave the ends of the links open? On some of the pictures it looks that way, on others it appears folks are tying the ends off. My only concern is that while smoking the meat will ooze out of the casings.

  • Walton's Employee

    @Hydrostan When using smoke collagen you can leave the ends untied. Or at least I always do and I almost never have any issue! It might be because I use a binder and get good protein extraction though. But as long as you do that then there is no need to tie off the ends, you might get a small bulb but it’s nothing more than a 1/2 inch or so and not tying them saves a lot of time!

  • @nbian1 Curious as to if you tried the lard. We butchered a pig, but have now used up all the excess fat. Don’t bake, so have jars of lard that I haven’t given away yet! Any helpful hits?

  • Walton's Employee

    @llyn, As far as I know, all the fat I have used has been back fat, but that doesn’t mean none of it has been belly fat. Belly fat (lard) should work perfectly fine though!

  • @Jonathon Another question: We had a heck of a time getting the meat into the 19mm casings. We made 10 lb. and used about 1 + quart of water. It took all our strength to fill those casings! Now our stuffing tube is 1/2" outside diameter, and 3/8" inside diameter. Do you feel our problem is not enough water or do we need a bigger stuffing tube?

  • @pauliedmondsjr So, I’m an old guy too and the kitchen aid seems like a perfect tool for mixing and grinding and stuffing, you could still combine two 5lb batches if you needed to?..I have a couple paddles, one with and one without a silicone wiper blade…how long do you find you need to mix it for good protein extraction and at what speed? Assuming that you have run it through a two plate grind first…

  • Walton's Employee

    @Hydrostan a 12mm tube is smalle enough to allow a 19mm casing on it pretty easily and it should stuff fairly easily. What was your meat block and how cold was the meat? What else was added to the meat and what were you using to stuff?

    I recently made some resturctured jerky and had a hard time because my meat had frozen bits in it. It kept clogging the all around jerky maker with tiny little bits of frozen meat. Same thing could be happening to you?

  • @Austin I have a question regarding shelf life. I made some snack sticks Tuesday, using Willie’s Snack Stick (Non-MSG), Sure Cure, Water and Carrot Fiber. I have them now vacuumed sealed in smaller packages after processing, blooming, and cooling, and sitting in the refrigerator. My intention is to put these into holiday gift bags for friends and family for Christmas. Will I have to freeze these between now (12/12) and Christmas or will they be ok as they are in the refrigerator? I already made 30# of H Summer Sausage and froze those. Any input would be appreciated.

  • Walton's Employee

    @rjsenk On anything like this we like to defer to the USDA. @Austin might possibly disagree with this but I find that unlikely.

    Now, I strongly disagree with their recommendations on the freezer life as I have eaten more than a few snack sticks/summer sausages that have been in the freezer for a lot longer than that!

  • @Jonathon Thank you Jonathon. Those guidelines helped out a lot. I agree with you on the freezer life of smoked meats though; I have had tasty treats that were in the freezer much longer than that.

  • Admin

    @rjsenk @Jonathon
    The timing listed on the freezer life is really more geared towards quality. FSIS also has another quote in that same bit of info that says “Once frozen it doesn’t matter if the date expires because foods kept frozen continuously are safe indefinitely.”
    Once you freeze meat, it is going to stay safe to consume and eat, but the quality may still degrade over time.

  • Walton's Employee

    @Austin Thank you for actually reading all of that…it was too many words, I just wanted to see the picture!

  • Hi, Austin. I have been making Willie’s snack sticks for a few batches and every time I get grease pockets between the casing and the meat. I followed the recipe to the best of my ability, including the smoke/cook schedule, except that I hand mix the meat thoroughly. Would you have any idea why I am getting grease pockets?

  • Walton's Employee

    @kanevak This is what is known as “fatting out” the grease is the fat that has rendered out of the meat. You can use a binder like Sure Gel to help and/or mix a lot more. You need to achieve high levels of protein extraction when mixing, this will keep everything bound all together and will prevent the fat from rendering out of the meat. This is an older video but it covers the topic well

  • @Jonathon Thanks for the quick reply! Is carrot fiber as good as sure gel? We hand mix for about 15 minutes adding the encapsulated citric acid in the last couple of minutes. I like to do a turn-and-squeeze technique to really mash and mix the meat. Is this a bad technique?

  • Walton's Employee

    @kanevak No, a turn and squeeze isnt a bad technique, it sounds a lot like what I do, so you are good there! As for carrot fiber I do like it a lot and it gives similar results to sure gel just goes about it a different way. Carrot fiber gives you a more moist product by holding water (*up to 26 times its weight) and sure gel helps hold everything together by adding protein and some other ingredients. So, sure gel acutally makes protein extraction easier and carrot fiber holds water.

    Unless you are using wild game and adding pork fat I think you will be fine with carrot fiber. In fact, even if you are using wild game and adding pork fat you will be fine but sure gel is better suited for that.

  • @Jonathon Thanks. I am using wild game and pork fat. I have used sure gel last time and still had “fatting out”. Maybe I need to just mix it longer

  • Walton's Employee

    @kanevak Yeah, my recommendation is to mix until you thin you are good an then go for another 3-4 minutes. While it IS possible to overmix, it’s VERY difficult

  • I am going to be making Teriyaki snack sticks for the first time soon. Does anyone recommend smoking Teriyaki sticks or is it better just cooked?

  • Power User

    @kanevak that would be a matter of taste if you like smoke flavor smoke it if it is not important then don’t but I would use the cooking schedule recommended in the video either way

  • Walton's Employee

    @kanevak I’d smoke them, I don’t think snack sticks generally take on a huge smoked flavor anyway, it’s usually just a nice little extra, not a dominating taste unless you are making lil’ smokies or something

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