Over watering and then dehydrating snack sticks.

  • Last time I make snack sticks, I did them as a dry cure. I let them hang for about six weeks, and the things were pretty darn hard when I took them down. Tasted great, but tough to chew.
    I also made some cooked and smoked sticks the same time, and these tasted great but they were pretty soft when they were done, kind of like a cooked sausage.
    What I am aiming for is a snack stick that is firm like a store bought pepperoni.
    Now, pushing that meat mixture though the stuffer horn is pretty difficult, so today I added a lot of water to the mixture. I mixed it for about fifteen minutes in the kitchen aid with the paddle blade, and it got a pretty good consistency and what looked like good protein extraction.
    So the plan is to cook them tomorrow in the smoker and then put them in the dehydrator after to firm them up by removing some of the moisture. Has anyone tried this with good results or am I heading for a disaster?

  • I do snack sticks with a similar method.
    First I wouldn’t say that I “over water”, I think your goal is just enough water that works for your stuffing process.
    First I smoke sticks for 3 hours at 120 degrees.
    Now I move them to my oven that has a dehydration mode. Set at 150 degrees I run until sticks are close to the preferred dryness, then I turn it up to 180 until I hit 160 internal. The total oven/dehydration time is usually 2.5 to 3 hours. I hope this helps.

  • @ed_orum Hey Ed , my EXACT goal is the same as your own !! I want to duplicate traditional pepperoni . l have tried following the ingredient parts of the Waltons recipe and altering the smoking a bit . Bottom line is the end result is very tasty but not near what my vision is. l don’t have any way to hang my product due to the climate here so next batch will be totally different . l am sure that you like l realize the look of pepperoni is TOTALLY different than snack sticks , it can not possibly be mixed to the " proper " protein extraction and have the visual fat/meat contrast that pepperoni displays when sliced . l have not tried but l think if we start with the lowest smoke temp possible and end with a dry cool hang we should get closer to the wanted result

  • I made them today. The extra water made stuffing the casings super easy.
    Next, I put them in the smoker with no smoke for about three hours at 135 degrees.
    Then I pushed it up to around 150 degrees for another couple of hours, then set the smoker to 190 degrees (it was a little cold outside today) and took the sticks out at 162 degrees .
    Next they went in a water bath to cool them down, then into the dehydrator for a few hours, no heat.
    So it worked pretty well, but the texture is still not what I am looking for. Maybe the texture was because I used only beef chuck and no pork. The texture was, well, maybe “crumbly”, not the homogeneous texture of store bought pepperoni.
    I will try one more batch, this time add in the pork and see if it changes things. If not, I will go back to dry hanging them in the basement for six weeks.

  • @ed_orum But, after a day in the refrigerator the texture is pretty good, everything seems to have consolidated overnight and “tightened” up.
    This recipe was pure ground beef chuck. tomorrow I am going to try a 50-50 pork and chuck meat mixture to see how that comes out.

  • @ed_orum Are you using any sort of meat binder like Sure Gel or Carrot Fiber? I wonder if that would also help with preventing the crumbly texture. Glad to hear that it tightened up after setting in the fridge. You mentioned the recipe was pure ground beef chuck – was there any other additional fat added?

  • Walton's Employee

    @sstory When I read crumbly texture I immediately thought of two things. The first one, which will surprise no one if they read a lot of my responses to cured sausage issues, was protein extraction. It really does sound like that might have been an issue here, you want to make sure you are getting the proper level of protein extraction to let the meat, fat, seasoning and additives all bind together nice and tight. However, after reading that you mixed it for 15 minutes in a mixer I am thinking maybe it was overmixed? I’ve heard of that happening but have never actually seen the results of it. For mixing you can stop when the meat gets really sticky and when you grab a handful of it and pull it apart it stretches instead of breaking into 2 clumps.

    My second thought was Encapsulated Citric Acid but it doesn’t sound like you used any? If you added the ECA and held it overnight or mixed it too much after adding it you could have broken/dissolved the encapsulation and released the acid into the meat too early, which would denature it and give you a dry crumbly product especially around the edge.

    A binder like Sure Gel, Super Bind, Carrot Fiber or Soy Protein Blend might be a good idea as well.

  • @jonathon The product tightened up overnight in the fridge and the crumbly texture turned into a more homogeneous texture. Not exactly what I wanted, but much better than the day it was processed.
    As for the mixing, it was a shot in the dark I kept mixing it until all of the meat seemed to be one large sticky lump. Next time I will check to see that it stretches instead of breaking into two lumps.
    I did not use any ECA, nor did I use any binder agent. I have used powdered milk in the past, and will add it to the next batch (probably tomorrow).
    At any rate, it is getting there. I did not expect perfect results overnight, but on a positive note the keilbasa I made yesterday was cooked up for dinner and was the best I have ever tasted.
    Thanks for all of the advice, I really appreciate it.

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  • P

    I do it all the time. Still remember my mom saying it’s not a good idea. I’m sure if you are buying a nice steak and intend it eat it as a grilled T-bone you might notice some flesh cell break down (texture change). If you are going to use it in sausage you will not notice any difference. Made brats last night. Once frozen pork and elk. Refroze the brats. I do it time and time again.

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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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