Top 5 Mistakes Made When Making Homemade Snack Sticks!
Learn about the top 5 mistakes made when making homemade snack sticks!
Hey guys, it’s Jon from Meatgistics and today we are going to show you 5 common mistakes that people make when they are making homemade snack sticks. Snack sticks are a great treat and a fun way to try some great seasonings as long as you are making them correctly! No one wants to put in all the time and effort into making a batch of snack sticks just to have an easily avoidable error ruin your batch! Read this article for the top 5 most common issues people run into when making snack sticks! …#3 will shock you!!!
#1 You are not using a Binder! The term Binder can be a bit misleading, yes it’s the main function is to help the product bind together but it does much more than that. A more accurate description of what it does is increases your margin of error for a few of these steps! For example, how long you mix and grind your meat are extremely important when making snack sticks because you need the correct amount of protein extraction, if you miss it by a little bit then your texture and taste are going to be off, well you can extend that margin of error by adding a low cost binder like carrot fiber! That is not all binders do, of course, they also give you more room for error in the smokehouse, make stuffing easier and they increase your final yield, meaning more snack sticks for the family to enjoy! For a few dollars, a package adding a binder is a great way to make sure you are making a better product. Have you ever had your casing separate from your meat during the cooking process? That is probably because you did not get enough protein extraction during the mixing phase and a binder can help with that!
# 2 You are not using Smoked Meat Stabilizer with wild game. Snack sticks can be made out of almost any meat block but you can’t treat an all-beef or pork snack stick the same as the one you are making out of a deer you got last weekend! If you are using any type of wild game like venison, elk, moose, etc. you need to be using smoked meat stabilizer. Smoked Meat Stabilizer is a cure accelerator that helps kill many common bacteria found in meat processing but especially in wild game! This makes your product safer and also helps to preserve the smoked flavor after packaging.
# 3 Your meat Block is too Lean! if you are making homemade snack sticks you want a fat percentage of 20% or more. The fat acts as a vehicle for the seasoning and coats your mouth and tongue with the taste allowing you to get more of the flavor and allowing it to linger longer. Fat also gives the snack stick a more pleasing texture and prevents it from drying up. Fat gets demonized by a lot of people because they associate the fat we eat with the fat on our bodies. Now, I am not saying you should switch to an all bacon and sausage diet but fat is essential to keeping our bodies running properly and it is going to give you a better all-around product.
# 4 You are cooking your snack sticks too quickly. If you start cooking at a higher temperature, you risk creating a tough and dry exterior and casing, sometimes known as case hardening. This can cause an issue because once the outside of the stick has cooked it will no longer efficiently transfer heat to the center of the stick, leaving you with an overdone exterior and an under-cooked interior. Case hardening 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 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 getting the smokehouse temp high enough to 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. For more information on this check out our Snack Stick Tutorial which will walk you through the process step by step!
# 5 You are either over or under stuffing your casings. If you have ever had your casings pop or burst during the cooking process there is a good chance you are overstuffing your casings. If you normally end up with an extremely wrinkly product then there is a good chance you are understuffing your casings. With anything you are going to link like sausages, it is better to understuff than to overstuff as you can always twist them a few more times to tighten them up, but you can not do that with a snack stick. It will take some practice but finding the correct stuffing proportions will help you with the appearance of your product and the ease of cooking.
So there are 5 very common mistakes people make when making snack sticks! If you have questions on what might be causing a specific problem for you leave us a comment and we will get back to you, or you can always follow me on here and send me a private chat if you’d prefer to not post your question so everyone can see it!
Jonathon Is there a reason that a finished meat stick would have a slightly gritty texture?
Thanks for any insight you may have.
phoffman Without more information the only thing I can think of is the seasoning (or another additive) did not mix in well enough with the meat, fat and water and some of it did not dissolve. That could be what you are feeling when you bite into it?
What seasoning did you use? Were there any additives like Citric Acid or a binder? What casings did you use? How much water did you add and how much protein extraction did you get? Give me as much information as possible on your process and I will see if I can pinpoint any other possible issues!
A close up picture of the snack stick diameter might be helpful as well.
Jonathon Thanks for the quick response. I am making my own seasoning and there are some flavors used in it as well. The composition of 1 lb is roughly:
70% Beef (80/20)
15% Pork (70/30)
Excalibur Sure Gel (used at recommended level)
Prague powder (used at recommended level)
4% seasoning and flavor
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
These ingredients were mixed in a stand mixer for 10 minutes and Encapsulated Citric added at the last second of mixing
They were stuffed into Walton’s 16mm smoked collagen casings
Thanks again for any insight you may have!
phoffman Thanks for the information. If we leave out the possibility of one of your ingredients in your home mix being the culprit then the most likely issue is the Worcestershire Sauce. It can denature the meat quickly which could be the cause of your issue. On your next batch I would say leave that out and see if it fixes it! Let us know if we can be of any further assistance.
Does soy sauce denature the meat like worcestershire sauce or is it ok to use in a meat stick?
That’s a great question but a difficult one to answer! Usually, Worcestershire Sauce will have a pH of 3.6 - 4.1 while Soy Sauce has 4.4 - 5.4. Negative pH (below 7) can cause denaturing in your meat and if you have something like the 3.6 (low range of the Worcestershire Sauce) it can cause issues even when added in smaller amounts.
If you look at the ingredients in Mandarin Teriyaki Snack Stick or Sweet Teriyaki Jerky (you can do this by scrolling down and then clicking on “Additional Info” button) you will see Soy Sauce as an ingredient, so it can absolutely be added, it just needs to be in the correct amount. This is a major reason that we recommend prepackaged seasonings, your at home recipe can be wonderful but it also has the potential to destroy your products.
So, if you are going to experiment with Sauces with a negative pH then my advice is to start at very low concentrations and work your way up till you find a good amount that provides the taste you are looking for and does not negatively affect your finished product.
Anyone else have any suggestions?
Question: This article mentions “filler”. I have been stuffing sausage and sticks using dehydrated milk as a recommended filler. Does that serve the same purpose? Also, I put Prague #1 in all that I’m going to slow smoke, but some call for ascorbic acid. What is the purpose of the cure and the acid?
Dehydrated milk can function as a binder, but not as good as one of the binders we sell (https://www.waltonsinc.com/seasonings/additives)
There are more efficient binders out there, or couple the dehydrated milk with additional ingredients, and you get our Sure Gel Meat Binder. It can definitely play a role and work, but I’d prefer using another binder, or Sure Gel for the extra ingredients.
Ascorbic acid functions as a cure accelerator and help protect the cured color of a product during storage. The cure is what helps us make a safer product by killing bacteria. Low cooking temperatures with snack sticks, sausage, jerky, etc. creates a perfect environment for botulism spores. Botulism can create a potentially fatal toxin and is one of the main causes of food poisoning each year, so we use nitrite in cure to retard the growth of spores. Cured meats can also have a different color, different texture, and a slightly different taste that people are familiar and accustom to.
Austin Thanks so much for your quick reply. I think I’ll get some of your Carrot binder. Sounds like it will do the job and have an application in thickening some of the sauces I create. So, just to be sure, if I use Prague #1 cure and ascorbic acid, what I’ll really doing is adding some additional insurance against bacteria and if I mix one day and stuff the next the combination will be ok? Again, thanks for the information.
Screamin I would not mix one day and stuff the next. Once you add the cure and mix, it will start working as you hold the product overnight. You can mix, stuff, and then hold overnight (if not using an additive like ascorbic acid or encapsulated citric acid). With the cure in there, the product will start to firm up and when you stuff the next day, it will become next to impossible to get it out of most any stuffer. Once you start and add cure, you need to get it into casings that same day.
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