How Big is Too Big for a Snack Stick Casing?

  • Team Orange

    This is my first attempt at making snack sticks (I am ordering Jalapeno and TexMex). I picked up an inexpensive vertical sausage stuffer, and found out that the “smallest” tube/horn included with it was a 15mm. The horn/casing chart says for a 15mm tube/horn, I need to go with a 26mm Collagen casing. I was hoping to go with a 17mm or 21mm casing, but I guess they are too small for my tube/horn. I haven’t seen any smaller replacement snack stick horns that would even fit my unbranded stuffer. My tubes/horns are plastic, have angled raised areas along the outside, and just twist into the stuffer a quarter turn to lock them into place. Now, looking closer at the 26mm size casing, it says that size is good for hot dogs. I feel like if I order these, they will turn out too big to be called snack sticks (maybe I could call them snack-dogs?). Since I’m kind of stuck because of my equipment, I guess I’ll just have to try the 26mm Casings for my snack sticks. Has anyone else made them this big? On a good note, I got my new smoker assembled and seasoned, so I’m going to go crazy smoking stuff… soon! Thoughts and ideas much appreciated! Thanks!

  • Team Blue PK100 Power User

    IndianaJohn You can use the 15mm horn and 17mm casings but you’ll have to unravel them to get them on, kind of a pain…I’d go with 19mm or 21mm for snack sticks. Your stuffer will have a hard time with the 17mm and you’ll need to add more water to the mix or you’ll need a friend that looks like Hulk Hogan to crank it and you’ll break it. Save yourself, learn from all our errors, and skip to a successful product. While we like to share our success stories and brag about how well we make stuff, if you look far enough back on Meatgistics we’ve all posted about one that got away or some equipment failure that forced us to up our game and learn. You can always go bigger to a 32mm, that’s where i started, now we do both 19 and 32. Stick are cool but they are rough on equipment. 32mm is more the size of Italian sausage for reference. Good luck and we expect pics!

  • Team Orange

    Parksider - A homebrew club friend had a hands-on grinding/sausage stuffing/smoking session for a few of us who wanted to learn (and I got the bug). We each made 5 lbs. of the German Hunter Sausages in Natural casings. They came out so good, I wanted to give sausage making a try, with an emphasis on hot tasty snack sticks. So you think 21mm casings will go onto my horn without having to unravel them? That would be great! My plan is to go a little heavy on the water when I mix to make it easier to stuff into the casings (I hope). I was reading that a little extra water should cook out of the sticks in the smoking/cooking process.

    Here are a couple of photos from my first sausage attempt (German Hunter Sausage), with buddies. I was proud of them. They came out really good!


  • Team Blue Admin Walton's Employee Power User

    IndianaJohn I don’t know about unravelling a 17 onto a 15mm. You can do it onto a 12 i think but I don’t think it would work on a 15. I think (and I don’t know this for sure) that a 21mm would be your best bet to get on a 15mm tube and you might have to unravel it also. If it slides on easy, awesome but I’d suggest you go with the larger collagen first and then try smaller if you want. Like Parksider (I’d recommend taking all his advice) said larger diameter is easier on your equipment and you!

  • Team Blue PK100 Power User

    I’d bet 21 will fit without unraveling. But I do think the 19 will fit but needs to be unraveled. I have so many different horns I have no idea what size they are or i’d measure them. Sorry…

  • Team Orange

    Parksider - I’m going to order the 21 casing, and try to make that work for me, even if I have to unravel them to get them on. I hate to end up with hot dog size snack sticks, they just sound a little big. Quick question on adding a little high temp cheese to the snack stick mix… the details say the cheese is cut in 1/4" cubes. My first attempt, I was going to try making a five pound batch of sticks with some 80/20 burger. Would you advise running the store bought burger through my grinder with the cheese (to get the 1/4" cheese cubes smaller for the mix), or throw the cubes in a processor to get smaller pieces for mixing with the burger grind? I do have some venison and pork butt chunked and froze, ready to grind (plan to mix 3 1/2 lb deer, and 1 1/2 lb pork), but I’d like to get some experience with burger before using my good venison. Thanks for the all the help answering questions you’ve probably heard many times before, to help get me started!

  • Team Blue

    I don’t think you would need to break down the high temp cheese. I use this quite frequently and have never had a problem expecially with 21mm casings. Cheese does make the stuffing a little harder, so if you ever decide to try the smaller 17MM or less casings, I would not use cheese on those.

    I use 22mm casings (because that is what my local meat market sells/uses) for most of our snack sticks or 21mm if I order them from Walton’s and they are a pretty standard size. My guess is that the 21s are probably the most frequently purchased size, but I could be wrong.

    I tried some 17’s one time just for the heck of it and they were a lot closer to a slim jim after they were smoked. I don’t really like them that small. But, this is obviously a subjective preference.

  • Team Blue PK100 Power User

    IndianaJohn I agree with NDKoze , I don’t see a need to break it down. the 19mm casing holds the cheese so 21 should be fine. I personally use a lot of 19mm we like the smaller size. But I also have a hydraulic stuffer so we aren’t manually cranking. You’ll be fine! I’d recommend keeping a notebook. I use a composition book and just log what we’ve done, I’ve been adding carrot fiber and water trying to “modernize” my processing so I’m logging all that info.

  • Team Orange

    NDKoze - I haven’t thought about looking for them locally. Just ordered Walton’s online. 17’s for Slim Jim size does sound a little small if they shrink. This will be my first journey into snack sticks.

  • Team Blue

    Parksider I have done some 19’s too and like them. I think I gravitated to the 21’s because with the 19’s it took up a lot more space in my smoker that is pretty maxed out with the 21’s. When I have used 17’s and 19’s in the past I have only done half batches (12.5lbs).

    I think I have some 17’s at home right now that I want to use, but haven’t decided on a mix yet.

  • Team Blue

    IndianaJohn Technically, the 15’s or 16’s are probably more of the Slim Jim size, but the 17’s are pretty small too and will task your stuffer.

    I would only try the smaller 15’s/16’s if I had a 5lb stuffer, or maybe my 11lb. But, anything bigger than an 11lb stuffer, I am guessing the Walton’s guys would discourage.

    And for anyone trying to stuff with a grinder, the smaller you go the harder it will be to push the meat through a grinder stuffing tube.

  • Team Orange

    Parksider NDKoze - I did have to unravel the 21mm casings to fit on my plastic 15 mm horn. After hand mixing for 20 minutes, I let the meat sit in the refrigerator for 12 hours before stuffing the casings. After 12 hours it was so firm, that turning the crank on the stuffer was very hard, thought I was going to break the stuffer hard. I’ve seen a couple of ideas on making the meat a little easier to work with. (1.) - One idea was adding some extra water when mixing the spices and cure (I also added a little carrot binder, instead of ECA). The original recipe called for 1 qt. of ice cold water (4 cups) for 25 lbs., but since I only did a 12 pound batch, I only used 2 cups of water. Next time, I could add one extra cup of water when I mix the meat and spices (3 cups total), but I think it would still become about just as firm after sitting in the fridge overnight. Someone else suggested adding/mixing in the extra water just before stuffing the casings, after sitting overnight in the fridge (I’m wondering if adding it at this point would affect anything). (2.) - The other idea to make the meat mix a little easier to work with, was to just go ahead and stuff the casings directly after mixing the meat and cure (before it firms up even more in the fridge overnight), then put the stuffed casings in the fridge for 12 hours/overnight (ready to smoke). I’d greatly appreciate any thoughts or ideas you might possibly offer on which method might work better over the other. Thanks!

  • Team Blue

    IndianaJohn Yeah, a 15 mm horn would definitely be too big for 21mm casings to slide on without unraveling.

    This is a table that I copied from a Walton’s Collagen casing page:


    I think you have documented some pretty good suggestions for if you have to leave your mixed meat in the fridge overnight.

    I would much prefer to stuff into the casings and then hang them overnight. I smoke all of my sausages during the winter or early Spring or late Fall time periods so that I can hang my sticks in my garage over night. I prefer this to putting in the fridge because this allows the stuffed sausage/stix to be separated from each other to start drying the outside of the casings prior to adding to the smoker.

    This is what I call my Sausage Rack 1000 :face_with_stuck-out_tongue_winking_eye:


  • Team Blue PK100 Power User

    IndianaJohn I’d get a bigger horn for starters, if you have to unravel 21mm to fit on might as well get a bigger horn. We’ve done both as far as stuff then wait or wait then stuff…I like stuff then wait or use accelerator. When i add in spice i like to mix it into the water and create a slurry so…in my head…it’s not pulling any moisture out of the meat, absolutely no scientific data to support my claim FYI…I will then add water if the mix still isn’t where I want it. but my hydraulic stuffer pretty much powers through. Lucky to have it. NDKoze great pic!!
    But how did they taste???

  • Team Orange Sous Vide Regular Contributors

    I recommend smoked meat stabilizer. Stuff and immediately smoke. It’s a cure accelerator. Good stuff.

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