Making snack sticks with pepperoni seasoning

  • Regular Contributors

    Interesting experience today. I make at least a couple 25 pound batches of snack sticks with my 30lb stuffer every week. Although I am using 17mm casings I can hand crank the stuffer and get good results. Once in a while I get a batch that is tougher but most are pretty manageable. I pre-measure everything so my batches are pretty consistent. The batch I made today was an experiment to see how pepperoni seasoning would work for snack sticks. Well lets just say the meat block was just shy of concrete after it was mixed. I tried to stuff it through the 10mm tube and sheared the key way on my stuffer. After replacing the key way I stuffed the remaining meat into 1.5" fibrous casings without any further issues. Any thoughts as to why the pepperoni seasoning created such a dense meat block? My recipe is the same every time, 17lbs lean meat, 8 lbs of pork fat, 1 quart water, 2.5oz of carrot fiber, 3oz of ECA and 1oz sure cure.

  • @vjbutler 1 Quart water ? I think the recipe calls for 2 quarts Bro .

  • Regular Contributors

    @Rusty Thanks for the reply. Most of the snack stick recipes suggest 2 quarts of water for home processors to make stuffing easier. I have been able to get away with one quart of water on all the other recipes and have still been able to successfully stuff 17mm casings. This meat block was significantly more difficult to stuff. I am wondering if there is something in the pepperoni seasoning that causes this? Always trying to learn as much as I can about a potential recipe before putting into production. In my case more water means longer cook times which translates into lower productivity. Even though this batch was very difficult to stuff the cook times compared to other snack stick recipes was within the normal 12-14 hour cook cycle I use. 2 quarts of water changes that cycle to 20-24 hours if I want to maintain the same quality product using the same equipment.

  • @vjbutler Hey VJ , Wow , you’re doing something far different than l , l’ve only been dabbling with making sausage a few weeks now and the snack stick recipe l follow from Waltons is about a 6 hour smoke process , l have used the 17 or 19 mm casings , 32mm and even 1 1/2" like a summer sausage casing . l smoke to an internal temp of 160* , everyone loves them but they are not near what l wish to produce . I have been using the TexMex and wpepperoni seasoning. My wish is to end up with a product like an authentic pepperoni without a cold smoke multi week process and my result is a far cry from such . Do you care to tell me about the consistency and texture of your snacksticks when they’re finished including cooking temps and duration ? I am wondering if you’re achieving the result l am hoping for , thanks for the reply

  • Not enough water.

  • Power User

    Agree not enough water and it’s the cure that stiffens the meat up. Not sure why it’s taking you so long to run a batch. I use 17/19mm smoked collagen casings, smoke for 4 hours at 150F and then simmer in water bath at 170F till sticks are 163F. Total of about 6 hours from grinder to the cooler. Done!

  • Regular Contributors

    @mike-weigand and @Parksider Thank you both for your reply. I understand that by following the snack stick recipe I am cutting the water in half as directed by the pepperoni recipe. I follow this same recipe every time and don’t have the density that pepperoni block exhibited. I use the same amount of cure and other ingredients so my question is really about the seasoning itself. Is there something extra or a different quantity of something that causes this higher density when mixed. The cook cycle I use is stepped up very slowly and smoked very slowly. This gives me a sharp snap to the casing, good particle definition and exceptional shelf stability. I have kept sealed bags in the refrig for several months with no sign of spoilage. I also have a good shelf life at room temperature. After the cook cycle I do a very brief cold shower before hanging in the cooler. From the cooler they go to a 50 degree low humidity room for 6-12 hours and then packaged. I adjust the time in the higher humidity cooler and low humidity room to produce the product I am looking for. I have commercial equipment for finishing if I want to use it but the result just isn’t the same. Hoping Jonathan might have some insight as to what is different about the pepperoni seasoning…

  • Regular Contributors

    @Rusty I am using a low power heating element to bring the temperature up very slowly. I preheat to 140 but as soon as the snack sticks are loaded the temperature goes down to around 110. It takes 2-3 hours to dry the casings thoroughly without overheating them. I smoke at 130-140 for 2-3 hours and then bump up the temp to 150 for 2 hours. I then raise the temp to 160-170 depending on how the product looks and feels. I hold this temp until I get the desired results which can be several hours. The internal temperature can be anywhere between 152-162. I find this low power, slow cook method to be very forgiving and very consistent. I remove the snack sticks from the smoker and give them a fairly quick cold water shower and then hang them in the meat cooler. When they are completely cool I move them to a 50 degree low humidity room for 6-12 hours then chamber seal them. I’m not sure this really helps much as there is a lot of time and equipment involved in the process I am following.

  • @vjbutler Is your end product a dense , firm , dry stick similar to “real” pepperoni ? What size grinder die do you use ? 1 or 2 grinds ? Thankyou very much VJ , as soon as l know your whole process l will try it myself barring the 50 degree room which is difficult to attain in Florida

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  • E

    Here is a link to a website that has a handy Excel spreadsheet. It is, as it says a free non-commercial site.
    As for Waltons dropping the ball, I vote they are doing a great job.
    I think for all of us there are general guidelines, but unless you have a temperature and humidity controlled environment, both for the preparation, cooking (if you cook them) smoking, hanging etc, the results are bound to vary from batch to batch.
    Personally, I am searching how to get my home made smoked and dry cured pepperoni to the exact texture and firmness of Margarita pepperoni from the store.
    Through trial and error I have the flavor where I want it, but not the texture or firmness. I know time, temperature and humidity are all crucial, but the best I can do is in the basement and then subject to the environment that is there.
    I figure as long as I am not killing anyone or making anyone sick I am making progress. Thanks Waltons for all of the great information so far.
    Having said that, it would be nice to have your chart in an Excel spreadsheet.

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  • K


    Thanks Jonathon! One question tho! You eluded to 178 being high for a temp! Don’t you guys recommend setting the temp at 175 during the final stage to completion to internal temp? Three degrees shouldn’t make that much difference should it??

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  • K


    Sounds reasonable. Thanks for your input. Pulling the meat at 152 will make a big difference I bet! Thanks again.

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  • @Kinger Thanks for the information. Your process, other than going to 178, is on in my mind. The only thing I do differently is an ice bath for 20 minutes. Showering for 10 minutes, if you are running a cycle and a fan in your smoker can work, but I still think an ice bath would bring it down faster and more. Last time I did thick summer sausage it was down to 110 in 20 minutes, I also tried showering it at 2 minutes on 2 minutes off for 20 minutes and it was only down to 136 (ish) but i did not have a fan running on them.

    One more thing you might want to try, if you are stalled towards the end you can finish them up by putting them in a vacuum bag (I have done then hot, right from the smoker, some condensation in the bag but it still gets a good vac) and get some water going at around 165, it should get up to temp in under an hour depending on the thickness.

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  • @Newbe There might be some breaking down of the meat but this shouldnt cause you too many issues. I have bought pork butts fresh, then froze them then processed and froze the product again. The taste might not be the BEST possible but it certainly wont be bad.

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  • @vjbutler no problem let us know

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