Snack Sticks too firm


  • A couple months ago I made a batch of venison snack sticks that came out very firm, almost like biting and chewing solid meat. It was the first time I had used pork belly for the fat so I was thinking it had some thing to do with that and haven’t used pork belly since. Well, this week I made a batch of sticks using beef (eye of round) and pork shoulder that came out firm also. I usually use a mixture of 50% pork shoulder with 50% lean meat (goose, duck, venison), and follow the standard Walton’s snack stick recipes and process. For these two “problem” batches I used the same overall recipes, mixing procedure and time and smoking temps and time as I do with batches that come out “normal”. What variables could I have messed up on that would cause the overly firm texture in the sticks?

  • Power User PK100 Regular Contributors Team Grey

    rjh2 it sounds like case hardening to me but if you followed the smoke/cook schedule I’m second guessing myself. If you got the time to list everything to exact process of what you did I may be able to pin point something.

  • Team Blue Big Green Egg Masterbuilt Canning Kamado Joes Regular Contributors Power User

    rjh2 first thing that comes to my mind is low fat content. Most pork butt is 70/30 at best.

  • Regular Contributors

    Another possibility is too much moisture removal during the smoke, although that is usually pretty apparent in the appearance and texture of the final product.


  • processhead Yeah, they look and taste the same as any other batch, just the texture difference.


  • cdavis This is one of the things I was thinking also. There are really only two variables in the process that I haven’t very tightly controlled: fat content and mixing time. Would low fat content result in chewy sticks?

  • Team Blue Big Green Egg Masterbuilt Canning Kamado Joes Regular Contributors Power User

    rjh2 I would think it would make them more solid but can’t say for sure. I always make sure I have about 25% fat content.


  • twilliams I’m not sure what case hardening is but it doesn’t sound like what happened with these. I do 5 lb batches. I grind the meat course once and fine once. Mix in a kitchenaid mixer for around 8 minutes with ingredients following the Walton’s recipes, adding in ECA and cheese for the last minute. Stuff in 19mm smoked collagen casings. Smoke in a Masterbuilt gravity feed charcoal grill on 150 deg for 3 hours, then 180 until 165 IT. Ice bath for about 10 minutes. rest at room temp for a while and then cut them up. The process is always the same. Just these two random batches that came out chewy. The only real variables that I haven’t controlled very tightly are fat content, which would naturally vary based on the meat I am using and mixing time. In this last batch, it did feel like there might not have been as much fat as usual and I probably ended up mixing a little longer than usual.

  • Sous Vide Dry Cured Sausage Traeger Team Blue

    rjh2 said in Snack Sticks too firm:

    cdavis This is one of the things I was thinking also. There are really only two variables in the process that I haven’t very tightly controlled: fat content and mixing time. Would low fat content result in chewy sticks?

    Low fat content would make for a very dry and crumbly stick, for sure. Same with a grind which was too small or exceeded proper temperature. Did you use a binder? This would also help with water retention. The smoke schedule would play a big role as well. Have you checked the calibration of your smoker??


  • Dr_Pain This batch was not dry and crumbly. It was solid and chewy. I used seasoning, sure cure, sure gel, water, ECA and cheese according to the Walton’s recipe, as I do with all the batches that come out good. I smoked the same schedule as all the other batches that come out good as well.

  • Sous Vide Dry Cured Sausage Traeger Team Blue

    I wonder if you had too much protein extraction??? I don’t think I ever mixed with my kitchenaid 8 minutes. Normally 3 or 4 minutes or just when it becomes tacky. If you have lean meats (or less than 30% fat) you will have less forgiveness on protein extraction. The more myosin you extract the more glue you have to bind the meat. The more you mix the higher the temp but that would only result in “fat out”, so if you did not fat out then maybe you just overmixed created a glued meat block??? Just speculating


  • Dr_Pain That is one of the things I was wondering too. While I haven’t seen this mentioned before as a side effect of too much mixing, it does seem to have some logic to it.

  • Power User PK100 Regular Contributors Team Grey

    rjh2 case hardening is when you run at a starting high temp in your smoke/cook cycle. It cooks the outside layer of casing and meat leaving the inside to not get the proper thermal process it needs. Your cook cycle definitely throws a red flag out to me, it is not your typical schedule one would use for sausage but if you have done it that way before and been ok then something could have also been a factor. Perhaps temp probe readings faulty. What seasoning were you using? Have you used this same seasoning before with success?

  • Sous Vide Dry Cured Sausage Traeger Team Blue

    twilliams Would you not have a hard outside and mushy inside with case hardening?? It has never happened to me with something I cook but did happen to me with one of my salami because my humidifier crapped out on me

  • Regular Contributors Team Grey Sous Vide Canning Dry Cured Sausage Masterbuilt Power User Meat Hack Winner Veteran

    I think case hardening from too high of temp and drying too quickly on dry cures are different in their own ways


  • twilliams yeah, my cook cycle is what it is because my smoker’s temp controller only goes down to 150 deg. I make up for starting a little high by holding it there for a longer time. I’m pretty confident my smoker is holding temp well and like you noted, this is always the way I smoke sticks and they usually turn out good. The two problem batches were with two different seasonings and I have used each seasoning several other times without issue.

  • Regular Contributors

    rjh2 said in Snack Sticks too firm:

    twilliams yeah, my cook cycle is what it is because my smoker’s temp controller only goes down to 150 deg. I make up for starting a little high by holding it there for a longer time. I’m pretty confident my smoker is holding temp well and like you noted, this is always the way I smoke sticks and they usually turn out good. The two problem batches were with two different seasonings and I have used each seasoning several other times without issue.

    Using a smoker without good low range temperature control can make it more difficult to get consistent results.
    People have absolutely figured out ways to work around this, but it still can have a negative impact when making sausage in a smoker designed for high temperature cooking and smoking.


  • processhead Are you thinking that by smoking at 150 for the first three hours, some batches will come out good and some will come out firm and chewy?

  • Power User PK100 Regular Contributors Team Grey

    Dr_Pain that would make sense and I am not 100% sure on that but with the temp at 180* to finish it I have a suspicion that it did get the meat inside cooked in his process. Only other thing I can think of is when you do a jerky process and you remove all the water through heat and drying. But it’s really stumbling me since he has had good results before with the same process

  • Sous Vide Dry Cured Sausage Traeger Team Blue

    rjh2 Re-reading I can’t say I have much better thoughts on what happened but I would like to share what I do in order to stick to a better thermal cycling schedule.

    I noticed that you mentioned that your smoker does not go below 150F. Are you smoking on a pellet smoker? If you do maybe you could try my method. I smoke my stick on my Louisiana Grill and I turn the pellet grill on to get to about the right temp and then shut it down (I have a smoke tube just to keep smoke going). I have a thermometer taking the ambient temp and when it cools too low then I turn the grill back on. It is a pain but a process that has yet to fail me (in the absence of funds for a dedicated smoker). I go through the cycling and normally finish my cooking with sous vide

    This was a small batch using that technique. I have since made a bunch more

    aeeb001f-19b2-4983-90a6-09f129f0cadf-image.png

Log in to reply
 

Suggested Topics

  • 2
  • 4
  • 4
  • 35
  • 6

Community Statistics

12
Online

17.5k
Users

4.1k
Topics

58.4k
Posts

About Meatgistics

Meatgistics is brought to you by Walton's (waltonsinc.com). Meatgistics is a community site, knowledgebase, forum, blog, learning center, and a sharing site. You can find help and ask questions about anything related to meat processing, smoking and grilling meats, plus a whole lot more. Join Austin & Jon from Walton's and sign up for our Meatgistics community today.