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Tried my hand at snack sticks and need some help

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Okay, I really love snack sticks and wanted to try making some. Here is what I did...

-used 3 lbs. of 85/15 ground beef, 3/4 cold water, and proper amount of Cabela's Peppered Jerky seasoning and cure
-added small cubes of sharp cheddar to half the mixture
-mixed it all up good and stuffed into 21mm collagen casings (from kit)
-stored in refrigerator for about 21 hours or so
-set out to come up to room temp for 90 minutes
-smoked over pecan and apple in Mastercraft smoker cabinet
-put sticks in on grates at 9am at 120 degrees
-was at 125 at 9:30am
-was at 130 at 10am and added chips now
-was at 140 at 10:30am
-was at 165 at 11am and smoke was rolling pretty good now
-by noonish I was at 175-180 for the most part
-pulled them between 1 and 1:30pm when IT was at 157
-put in ice water bath for 10 minutes
-I had a tough time keeping temp at 170-180 and had spikes to 190 and drops to 160 but just kept at adjusting it over and over

Now here are my questions...
-I expected them to take 5-7 hours but we're done in 4-4.5 hours....why?
-sticks are a bit bigger than I like...should use smaller casing right?
-the casing didn't shrink and stick to the sticks like it should. Any ideas?
-I feel some of it wasn't stuffed full enough as I struggled with Kitchen Aide kit. Going to invest in LEM 5# vertical stuffer. Would this make casings loose? I ended up peeling casing off them anyway as I didn't like how it looked
-sticks just don't seem right to me. They seem a bit dry. They don't have a "snap". They were very greasy on the outside after cooking, cooling, drying. They also didn't shrink and shrivel like I see on everyone else's.
-do I need more fat? Did I "fat out"? Were my temps too high and too erratic?
-I don't see any nice cheese pieces inside like I see on other's pics. It seems like maybe it all melted away? I didn't use hi temp cheese, but I see others using regular cheese too. Too hot? Fat out?


Finally, sorry for the lack of pics. I promise to do it right next time!
post #2 of 16
How you keeping track of your temps ? Ya have a good & reliable therm that are accurate ?
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
I use a dual probe digital thermometer from Cabela's...one probe for smoker temp and one for meat. Seems accurate
post #4 of 16
I would do the boiling water test to know for sure. Here's a good thread to check out !

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/132670/calibrating-the-digital-thermometer-is-212-f-an-accurate-measure-of-boiling-water
post #5 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaneyb72 View Post

Okay, I really love snack sticks and wanted to try making some. Here is what I did...

-used 3 lbs. of 85/15 ground beef, 3/4 cold water, and proper amount of Cabela's Peppered Jerky seasoning and cure On track
-added small cubes of sharp cheddar to half the mixture Good here
-mixed it all up good and stuffed into 21mm collagen casings (from kit) Cabellas kits use 21mm Casings. You can buy 15-19mm from others.
-stored in refrigerator for about 21 hours or so. This does not hurt but you really dont need to do this. Mix stuff smoke can be done.
-set out to come up to room temp for 90 minutes Good
-smoked over pecan and apple in Mastercraft smoker cabinet Ok
-put sticks in on grates at 9am at 120 degrees Problem #1
-was at 125 at 9:30am Problem #2
-was at 130 at 10am and added chips now Put room temp sticks in here at 130 for 1-1.5 hours no smoke. Bump to your nest temp of 140
-was at 140 at 10:30am Temp #2 here at 140 for 2 hours. This gives the meat time to firm. Time at this temp 2 hours.
-was at 165 at 11am and smoke was rolling pretty good now. To hot to fast at this tem, Risk of a fat-out happens here. Next should have been a temp of 150.
Bump from 140 to 150 for 2 hours. Smoke applied is up to you. Check meat IT here. You should have a stall at an IT of 130-135
-by noonish I was at 175-180 for the most part To high of heat fat-out starting, meat pulling away from casing, fat on exterior of casing.
Bump temp from 150 to 160. This can be a time from 2-3 hours, check IT (I dont use probes, they can cause fat cavitation and false readings)
If needed bump heat to 165-170, Try not to exceed 170. Check IT. You should be close to 149. Take sticks to IT of 150 and hang at room temp, they will IT by themselves to 152. Water to cool is up to you but they wont IT at 152 after the water then hang
-pulled them between 1 and 1:30pm when IT was at 157 To hot of an IT
-put in ice water bath for 10 minutes (opt)
-I had a tough time keeping temp at 170-180 and had spikes to 190 and drops to 160 but just kept at adjusting it over and over. This is where most of your problems finalized. Temps to hot. Yes i understand gas smokers can be tricky as well as electric. Keep top vent open.

Now here are my questions...
-I expected them to take 5-7 hours but we're done in 4-4.5 hours....why? Temps not on scale
-sticks are a bit bigger than I like...should use smaller casing right? Your call. Most kits are 20-21mm casings
-the casing didn't shrink and stick to the sticks like it should. Any ideas? Old dry casings. Natural oils need to be in the casings. You can condition collagen casings by opening the pack and put in fridge for a couple days before stuffing. TIP: Rub a small length of casing on a paper towel. Did it leave an oily mark?
-I feel some of it wasn't stuffed full enough as I struggled with Kitchen Aide kit. Going to invest in LEM 5# vertical stuffer. Would this make casings loose? I ended up peeling casing off them anyway as I didn't like how it looked Yes, understuffed casings can lead to loose casings. The KA is a good grinder but lousy stuffer. My LEM 5LB has served me well.
-sticks just don't seem right to me. They seem a bit dry. They don't have a "snap". They were very greasy on the outside after cooking, cooling, drying. They also didn't shrink and shrivel like I see on everyone else's.
-do I need more fat? Did I "fat out"? Were my temps too high and too erratic? Yes dry from a fat-out and Yes temp to high.
-I don't see any nice cheese pieces inside like I see on other's pics. It seems like maybe it all melted away? I didn't use hi temp cheese, but I see others using regular cheese too. Too hot? Fat out? Cheese melted from the heat. I have used regular cubed cheese with great results.


Finally, sorry for the lack of pics. I promise to do it right next time! No problemo as we have all been there and have some failures. Keep on stuffin and smokin and your next batch will be great. Hope this helps some. My way works best for me, experiment and you will find your way.
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks so much nepas! Your advice will be invaluable next time I try!

So these sticks are okay, but not great. Still safe to eat though right?
post #7 of 16
Thread Starter 
This brings up some follow up questions related to my equipment then...

I have a very hard time maintaining temps at lower ranges (100-180). I am having to use the knob on top of the propane tank to limit the flow of propane to get that low. I assume a decent tank regulator that would give me some finer control would work better? If I do this what do you do with the control on the smoker itself....all the way up, all the way down, middle???
post #8 of 16
You need to install a needle valve on your smoker. Use the search here there are quite a few good threads in the needle valve mod. The KA is a pain to stuff with a good vertical stuffer will make your sausage makes no a breeze. I cannot recommend LEM. Read my thread "Is my LEM a LEMon".
post #9 of 16

Firstly, NEPAS is the Guru of Sausage IMHO so his detailed advice is spot on & I have done a few of his formulas with great success. Be that as it may, I have a difficult time adjusting my electric analog smoker to such precise temps and times. I'm a restless human, easily distracted by a beer or something sparkly, so had to find my own way with making sticks. I had some 30 MM casings and found them to make a killer 'Not So Slim Jim', as I call them. I also made 21 MM casings with a milder version for the GF who wanted less heat and slimmer sticks (whatever). I keep my collagen casings in the fridge along with the hog casings. I also switched to a Lem and invested in the slim SS stuffing tube made for snack sticks....well worth the price as the whole dam length of collagen slipped right on effortlessly. I don't try to twist nor tie anymore, although I will tie the beginning. A pinch at the length you want with a little meat in the pinch will hold the ends closed just fine ( a tip from Nepas). So, my method is to use buttermilk for some tang and allow the blob to sit overnight in the fridge and stuff early the next day, leaving the sticks out to come to ambient temps. Into the smoker for an hour with the door open to dry (a tip from Foam) and then I set it at 150, close the door and let it go overnight. I check them at about 6 AM and they are usually done about 8 AM. I just let them bloom on the counter. No ice bath the last 2 batches. Awesome stix, good snap, decent size. I cut the lengths to zip lock size and call it good. I use 93/7 GB chubs from the market. 4 pounds of beef and 1 pound of ground sausage. I tried cheaper, fattier GB and was very disappointed so never again. HTH, you will find your own way after a few batches. It doesn't happen overnight, or at least it didn't for me......Willie

 

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/185942/fresh-batch-of-slim-jims-recipe

 

http://www.smokingmeatforums.com/t/184183/not-so-slim-jim-jackpot

post #10 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaneyb72 View Post

I use a dual probe digital thermometer from Cabela's...one probe for smoker temp and one for meat. Seems accurate

Just to be clear, I was referring to your Cabelas probe that tracks smoker temp. I have an MES 30 I do sausage, cheese & bacon in & my stock therm is WAY off. So I use my Mav or igrill2 to track the chamber temp !

As far as stuffers a few folks on here as well as myself have this one & it's worked great for me !

http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200449319_200449319

Hope this helps !
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by WaterinHoleBrew View Post

Just to be clear, I was referring to your Cabelas probe that tracks smoker temp. I have an MES 30 I do sausage, cheese & bacon in & my stock therm is WAY off. So I use my Mav or igrill2 to track the chamber temp !

As far as stuffers a few folks on here as well as myself have this one & it's worked great for me !

http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200449319_200449319

Hope this helps !

Thanks! I'm torn between the LEM and Northern stuffers. The more I read the less close to a decision I am. I need to stop overthinking it as I'm sure I'll be happy with either.
post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
One slight modification to my original post...

I used the Hi Mountain Inferno Blend Snack Stick kit for seasoning and cure. The Cabela's peppered jerky kit was the jerky I made the day before...which turned out awesome!

Just wanted to be accurate!
post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by dirtsailor2003 View Post

You need to install a needle valve on your smoker. Use the search here there are quite a few good threads in the needle valve mod. The KA is a pain to stuff with a good vertical stuffer will make your sausage makes no a breeze. I cannot recommend LEM. Read my thread "Is my LEM a LEMon".

Did LEM get your stuffer problem fixed?

 

I looked at mine after you made your post, looks way different. Maybe their products have taken a hit with cheap labor. I dont like the stuffers with the bottom elbow, leaves too much meat and i throw it out. I dont make test pattys.

post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaneyb72 View Post

One slight modification to my original post...

I used the Hi Mountain Inferno Blend Snack Stick kit for seasoning and cure. The Cabela's peppered jerky kit was the jerky I made the day before...which turned out awesome!

Just wanted to be accurate!


While some folks turn out great results with HM kits, i dont like them. Found i needed to add salt or other dry  to make it taste right.. Try some cure#1 and experiment with other mixes.

The Cabelas kits are made by PS Seasonings which are good kits.

post #15 of 16

The LEM stuffer comes with metal gears while the Gander Mtn, Northern Tool etc are poly gears. I believe that most of the kits have 21mm casings because it is harder to get the 19mm casings on the plastic horns that come with most stuffers. You can order the LEM small diameter horn mentioned above but you do run the risk of premature gear wear with the poly gears stuffing with the small horn, to much back pressure and you crank harder. This can be overcome with an appropriate amount of water in the mix to make it flow easier. I do not regret purchasing the 5# LEM stuffer after messing up the poly gears on the Gander Mtn stuffer. The bushing were the handle screw threads into on the Gander stuffer also stripped over time making it hard to keep the crank attached.

post #16 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by nepas View Post

Did LEM get your stuffer problem fixed?

I looked at mine after you made your post, looks way different. Maybe their products have taken a hit with cheap labor. I dont like the stuffers with the bottom elbow, leaves too much meat and i throw it out. I dont make test pattys.

After sourcing the problem and tearing apart my stuffer, taking and sending multiple photos and other members here emailing LEM I did receive new parts to fix the stuffer myself. The new parts did fix it. But the pain in the ass it was to get them to send the parts and to quit telling me to "just add more water" isn't worth me buyin anything from LEM again. Also the machining on the parts is inconsistent obviously no QC going on where ever they get their parts.
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