How To Make Snack Sticks

  • Admin

    How To Make Snack Sticks

    Our latest how-to video for Meatgistics is about How To Make Snack Sticks.
    Watch the full video below, read the highlights here, and then post your comments or questions below.

    Share your input and questions

    Join in on the conversation about making snack sticks! What is your favorite flavor? Do you prefer beef, pork, wild game or chicken? Is there anything you need help or input from others in perfecting your process?

    What Makes a Snack Stick

    A snack stick is a meat snack stuffed into a small diameter casing, typically with a low pH from around 4.5 to 5.2 which provides that familiar tangy flavor, plus it helps aid in shelf stability. Another aid to shelf stability is a low water activity which means binding water in the product to make it unavailable to support microbial growth. This is not something that can really 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 beef, pork, chicken, wild game, or a combination of meats. We typically recommend using a lean to fat ratio of 80/20, but up to 30 or 40% fat is still just fine and the extra fat will mean more flavor.


    25 lb 80/20 beef trim
    1 package Excalibur Buffalo Bleu Cheese Snack Stick Seasoning
    1 oz Sure Cure
    6 oz Sure Gel Binder
    2 quarts ice water
    4 oz Encapsulated Citric Acid
    2 to 3 lb of high temp cheese
    19mm Collagen Casings

    Meat Grinding

    Start the initial grind with a 3/8" grinder plate, then grind a second time through a 1/8" 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.

    Meat Mixing

    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.

    Thermal Processing

    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.

    Wrap up

    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.

    Meatgistics: How To Make Snack Sticks

  • How do you cool the sticks? Doesn’t the ice bath remove the smoke flavor from the smoker?

  • @NDKoze the ice bath keeps the sticks from shrinking and getting wrinkly. Washing off the excess smoke does not hurt the sticks at all. All the smoke has already been imparted into the meat, thus the redness all the way thru the stick. In fact, if you use a bitter smoke it should help some by rinsing the harsh smoke off.

  • Admin


    If you are lucky enough to have a smoker that can withstand getting wet, and a faucet or hose nearby, you can simply shower them while they are still on smoke sticks or racks in the smoker and it is really quick and easy.

    If that is not possible, what I do, is just take a meat lug (or another large enough container to fit the snack sticks) and either fill it with ice water to let them sit in and cool down, or I’ll set the meat lug at an angle in the kitchen sink and use the use the kitchen faucet sprayer to shower them for a few minutes and let the excess water fill the meat lug and then flow out and drain into the sink.

    Like @zimathome said, it definitely helps keep the sticks from shrinking and getting wrinkly. It really helps your final product’s appearance! The smoke flavor is also already absorbed into the meat snacks, so you are not going to lose that smoke flavor during a brief 10 minute shower or bath.

    Hope that helps! If you have any other questions, let us know!

    –Austin Walton

  • Regular Contributors


    If you don’t mind them being a little wrinkley (which I don’t) I put them in a meat lug with a raised rack on the bottom and put a small kitchen fan above the add let cool for about an hour and then into the refer. They are such a small diameter when done they cool quite quickly.

  • The ones I made were 16mm. The first batch was a little wrinkly, but the others did just fine and cooled quickly with the water bath.

  • I don’t mind them being wrinkly at all. I just want to prevent the collagen casings from coming loose from the meat. I smoke 25 pounds at a time and cannot spray in my smoker. So, I think I will try spraying the sticks down in the lug in the sink idea. We usually do the sticks in the winter time when the weather is cold and we try to spread the sticks across 3 lugs and place in the back of my covered truck bed. But, evidently this did not cool them down fast enough, because they seem fine when we package/vacuum seal them. But after freezing and thawing the casings always come loose.

    Let me know if you have any other suggestions.



  • Admin

    When you’re making snack sticks, do you use a meat mixer or do you hand mix, and for how long?
    I wonder if you are not getting enough protein extraction (where the meat gets really sticky)?
    Or, it could be your cook cycle… What time and temp schedule do you normally follow?

  • We use a 50lb meat mixer and mix it pretty well. It is definitely sticky and is a bit of a chore to stuff with our 15lb stuffer. I am guessing we mix (crank by hand) for 10-15 minutes or so.

    I am using an electric smoker and have tried ramping up the temp and that took forever to finish a batch of sticks. So, I have been just running at 150 for an hour and then 200 degrees until the sticks hit 160 degrees and it takes about 8 hours per batch.

  • Admin

    Sounds like your mixing is good, and it is most likely just your cooling cycle then.

    Next time you do them, if you have any problems, let us know, but it sounds like a better cooling cycle will fix your problem.

  • Sounds Amazing!

  • @austin this is not anything I have ever tried because I don’t have all the adapters for my grinder

  • I use a 50/50 mix of venison and pork butt with a local seasoning and they turn out awesome!

  • Admin

    @stimy28 said in How To Make Snack Sticks:

    @austin this is not anything I have ever tried because I don’t have all the adapters for my grinder

    Stuffing tubes for a grinder are not too expensive. If you don’t have a sausage stuffer and want to try stuffing off your grinder sometime, take a look at these here:

    If you give it a shot and have any questions, let us know if we can help!

  • how do you get temp so low in the smoker or do i need a special one

  • Admin

    @rumbbq said in How To Make Snack Sticks:

    how do you get temp so low in the smoker or do i need a special one

    Maintaining a low temp is going to be very dependent upon what smokehouse you have. Just start as low as yours can reach.
    The smokehouse we cooked in was a commercial smokehouse (see this post) so we definitely have a few more options than most.

    If I’m cooking at home, my smoker only goes down to 150, so I’d just start at 150 and stay there for the first several hours, until I was ready to bump up to 175 or higher. Many small smokers and smokehouses can get lower, even to 100 or less, so it just depends on your Brand/Make/Model.

    For a somewhat inexpensive model, you can get from 100 to 275 on a Cajun Injector Electric Smoker
    Or a higher end model like a PK100 Smokehouse, temps can be as low as 60 (as long as your ambient temp isn’t higher) and up to 250

    What kind of smoker do you have?

  • @austin I have a pit boss pellet smoker. I believe it only goes down to 175-200

  • We don’t use any sure gel or citric acid our sticks always turn out good . We have a 12 mm horn on our hydraulic stuffer and it doesn’t want to push the meat through. How much water can I ad to 25 pounds without having to much shrinkage in the casings?

  • Admin

    @MatthewHolzer Both of those ingredients are optional. There are various reasons to use them or not use them, but we recommend using them.

    It’s always going to be slow and difficult pushing meat through such a small stuffing tube, unless you’ve got a vacuum stuffer. What brand/model of stuffer do you have? I would only recommend using up to 2 quarts of water per 25 lb of meat. I couldn’t tell you how well it would work using any more. You might also look at the lean to fat ratio in your meat as well. Extremely lean meat will difficult to stuff as well, and adding some more fat could help.

  • Power User

    From my experience too much water allows shrinkage, overheating smokehouse will cook out the fat-if you have a pool of fat in the bottom of your smoker it’s too hot. I made wood sticks to hang meat from out of hickory i keep them right on the sticks, ice bath or spray with hose and cold water-benefit of living in the northeast…Total smoker time is about 4-5 hours, i like a good smoke. Also put the sticks in the smoker for 15-45 until they are dry before adding smoke, it you try it while they are wet the smoke bonds to the water and runs off, looks terrible but still edible.

  • @Austin we have a mainca em20 hydraulic stuffer. We use half deer and half pork in our spicy sticks. We always mix our meat strips with the cure and seasoning and a little water then double grind.

  • Power User

    When we got our hydraulic stuffer I had the same issue. They were never meant to push through that small of a tube. I talked to a butcher supply company and he explained to me if you are using casings smaller than 32mm you WILL blow the motor out. We have a 1hp and he is it’s not if but when the motor goes if we continue to do 17mm casings. So i stepped up to the 21mm casings, i fine grind one time both pork and venison and add about 1qt of water to 20# of meat. It has helped but still a slow go and still trip the breaker on the motor a couple times when we do 100 pound runs. I mix the spice and water into a slurry using a wisk, that also helps.

  • Admin

    @MatthewHolzer @Parksider
    I cannot speak for the quality or abilities on a Mainca or other brands, but…
    We sell and recommend Talsa Stuffers. We have one here in our test kitchen as well. They do not have a problem running snack sticks on a 12mm horn. 10mm can get to be a little more difficult but can work fine still. A 12mm horn works fine for us and stuffing then into 19mm collagen casings.

    Even on the smallest Talsa we offer, at a 26lb capacity and 1.75HP, they will stuff snack sticks fine. I think a lot of the capability just relies on what brand and quality of motor is in the hydraulic stuffer.

    If you are doing half deer and half pork, the deer is going to be very lean so just make sure the pork used has a high enough fat content. You can safely use up to about 40% of the total product weight in fat and water (approximately 2 quarts water and meat at 75/25 lean to fat ratio), but that’s the limit I’d suggest. If you still struggle to stuff snack sticks at that point, it may just be a limitation on the stuffer you are using.

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