First batch of meat sticks last night....

  • So I have a few questions about the product quality. I have a lot of experience making fresh sausages and doing traditional cured sausages. I have an ancient #12 Hobart that is probably 1hp. I’ve always used it as my stuffer too.

    I used another brands spice mix that I had on hand for a 10 pound batch. I boned out one of my own pork shoulders and added no additional fat. I ground it in a single pass through a 4.5mm plate. I added the spice mix, 1oz pink salt and 2oz of encapsulated citric acid then mixed in two batches in a KitchenAid for 4 minutes or so, adding the citric acid in at the end. I tried to stuff using a 3/8" tube with my grinder (with no knife and a stuffing plate) and it just made pink mush. I ran out and bought a 10# vertical stuffer and stuffed the rest.
    I hung it in my Masterbuilt smoker and followed the directions on my spice mix; 1 hr at 110, 1hr at 130, 1hr at 150 (with water in the pan), then at 170 until it hit 160 internal. It plateaued at 145 for hours. Took it about 8 hours to hit 160. Used no smoke.

    So the stuff that mashed into pink paste was super dry and had grainy consistency. The vertically stuffed batch had great consistency but was a little dry. I figure my shoulder was about 80/20. I think I over dried the product, even though it never reached 160. The casings are a little wrinkled. Some of my casing from the properly stuffed batch are partially filled with a jelly like substance.

    My questions are: Why are they dry? Too little fat or too long in the smoker? If too long in the smoker, what do you do when your product plateaus for so long? Finally, what is that jelly like substance in some of the links?

    I do know that I will be buying a proper meat mixer. The KitchenAid sucks for meat.

  • Walton's Employee

    @angler I have a couple of pointers that I think will help you.

    The seasoning you are using may or may not have played into it, salt content could have been an issue but with it being a seasoning we don’t carry I just don’t know. This is why we recommend using Excalibur Seasonings, all of the ratios for salt has been correctly calculated already.

    A single grind through a 4.5mm (3/16) plate is probably not enough for a snack stick. I’d recommend doing two grinds, the first one through a 3/8th plate and the second through a 1/8th plate. This will make protein extraction during the mixing process much easier.

    1 oz of sure cure is enough to cure 25 lb of meat, so unless they are using a different formulation (and they might be, did they send you 1 oz package for a 10 lb batch?) then this would be too much cure for 10 lb of meat.

    Stuffing off of a grinder is always going be a little harder than with a stuffer. You made the right decision in investing in one, it will make all future projects much easier.

    Adding the citric acid last in mixing is the correct thing to do, it prevents it from breaking down and being released too early into the product. However, putting it back through the grinder, even just to stuff, probably started breaking down the coating and released the citric acid into the meat. You have already fixed this issue though by purchasing a stuffer.

    I’d say you are right to look at a mixer as I think this stage is where the majority of your final issues stemmed from. When mixing for a cured sausage product, like snacksticks or summer sausage, you need to mix until you have protein extraction, this allows the meat, fat, water and seasoning to bind together. Mixing times necessary to achieve protein extraction can vary but 4 minutes in a kitchen aid mixer doesn’t seem like it would be enough. Watch this video to see what correct amount of protein extraction looks like Also you might want to consider adding a binder like Carrot Fiber as that will help everything bind together.

    So on to your actual questions! I am willing to bet they were too dry because they “fatted out” which is explained in the above video but basically it means you did not get enough protein extraction so when you cooked them the fat rendered out of the meat. This would also explain the jelly like substance on some of the links.

    Smoking snacksticks can take a long time, generally around 5-6 hrs for our process. Starting at 110° seems unnecessarily low to me, check out this post for a better smoking schedule and for more information on making snack sticks

    I hope that answered your questions, if anyone else has any other thoughts chime in!

  • That was awesome, thanks!

    I dug the pink salt package out of the trash and it was only 11.34 grams, so it was only .4 oz which sounds correct. I had assumed it was a 1oz package.

    I’ll watch the video and incorporate those instructions into my next batch.

  • Walton's Employee

    @angler I was glad to be able to help. If you have any questions after watching that video let me know!

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    Thanks for the response!

    I think a video on processed celery would be incredible. The only place I have been able to find celery powder as a cure was from “The Sausage Maker”, they have a Facebook page. It was expensive, designed only for sausages, and wasn’t packaged well.

    As for the tackiness, good idea with the cornstarch! There are a bunch of big brands with zero additives that were able to achieve the soft texture with no tackiness, so I’m thinking it has to be in the processing. I read an article where someone at KRAVE mentioned a couple details about how they process their jerky. He said they first inject the meat, then cook the whole pieces, then slice, then marinate, then dry. I have messed around with the idea behind this process a lot. Injecting with brine, sous-viding at a variety of temperatures and times, slicing, marinating, and drying. Decent results, but to be honest the high sugar method you introduced to me has seemed to have better results.

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