Hi All, I am newcomer to the art of smoking meat. I just purchased a used "Little Chief" to get myself started with the whole smoking process, and since, i have managed to make some really tasty venison jerky. Since i pretty much have the jerky thing nailed down, I have graduated to snack sticks, which is what my questions are about. I have a few questions about how to make a great batch. I made my first batch last night. The recipe included a list of spices and cure, but only used lean ground venison. well, I know that lean meat of any kind will dry out unless you add some fat to it. After going to the local meat market, which makes great snack sticks, they recommended a 50/50 mix of the lean ground venison with 80/20 ground pork, so this is what i used along with my spice recipe mentioned above. I stuffed the meat in collagen casings and smoked it in my little chief at roughly 150 degrees (+/- 10 degrees) for about 5 hours until I got a nice deep red appearance, as the recipe said. Then, I finished them in a 200 degree oven until the internal temp reached 160 degrees, followed by a cold water bath that was supposed to help "reduce shrinkage" per the recipe. Here is where my questions begin. When i took them out of the water bath after they had cooled (about 1/2 hour), the collagen casings were loose and not bonded to the meat at all. They were squishy because all of the fat had been cooked out of the meat, and congealed in the space between the casing and the meat. So, what i did was peeled the casing off, and washed the strand in hot water until the congealed fat came off, and then dried them with paper towel before storing them. When I tasted it for the first time, the flavor was out of this world, I would have preferred a bit more moisture, but not much, and it had a nice red smoke color throughout the stick. But what is bugging me is the casings. How do I avoid the problem with the casing being loose? I like the little snap that comes with biting into a snack stick, and would like to make some with that snap. Also, how tough are collagen casings?? When i was stuffing, i was leaving a tiny bit of slack, as my smoking configuration was to wrap it around the top rack of the little chief. I didn't want to blow out the casing while I was putting it on the rack, so i left a tiny bit of slack in the casing to allow for a sharp corner. As a result, the casings were taut before they went into the smoker, but not super tight. I DID get a nice flared crimp on the end, but i'm wondering how tight I can stuff those and still get them to wrap around the racks of the little chief without causing a blowout? Is this the reason that the casings were so loose after i cooked them?? and is grease normally able to permeate a collagen casing?? Another question: does anyone else have problems with losing heat while adding more wood chips to the little chief?? and is there any way to avoid that at all?? Do I add a few chips here and there to keep smoke coming without affecting the temperature as much?? does this work?? I have been just dumping the ash into a pail of water and reloading it from scratch every time. But then i lose heat, and it takes 1/2 hour or more to generate more smoke and get back up to temperature. I am a man who is willing to admit that i know nothing of the sausage smoking process aside from seasoning the meat and what i've picked up from making jerky, and would greatly appreciate any advice that you would be able to give me. Thanks in advance everyone. Take care.