I've been wanting to try making some snack sticks for a long time, but my work schedule didn't give me a full day to spend with my smoker. Since the winter was so warm, my log haul got shut down early, and suddenly I had more time to spare than things to do. Snack stick time!!
I stopped in at Costco to pick up some 85/15 ground beef and while I was there, I noticed that they had ground pork on sale (best before date was that day, and it was less than 1/3 the price of ground beef). So I picked up a Costco sized package of each. I had read threads from people who had made pork jerky and raved about it, so I figured...why not snack sticks too. I weighed out 3 different batches of meat. First one was 2 pounds of ground beef, second was 1 pound each of beef and pork, third was 2 pounds of pork.
Since I had been given a package of Hi Mountain Pepperoni Snack Stick seasoning, the flavor of the day was obviously to be.....pepperoni.
I mixed up all three batches of meat using the recommended amount of seasoning and cure. Their recipe called for 1/4 cup of ice water per pound of meat, so that's what I added to the all beef batch. I felt that the texture was just too sloppy, so for the remaining 2 batches I cut the water in half and just added 1/4 cup per 2 pounds of meat--I was much happier with that mixture.
One of the most common complaints I've heard is that its very difficult to make the sticks after leaving the mix in the fridge for 24 hours, so I figured "Why not reverse the process??". With that in mind, I proceeded put all my meat through my brand new Cabella's Jerky Pistol that Miss Linda had given me for Christmas. I didn't have any of the oil used to lube the jerky pistol, so I just sprayed the inside of the tube and nozzles with Pan--worked like a charm. I can't say enough nice things about Cabella's Jerky Pistol. It holds just shy of 1 pound of meat and is a real pleasure to use--my only problem was getting my sticks to look like sticks instead of tree branches.
I had lined a bunch of Miss Linda's cookie sheets with wax paper and shot the sticks onto them, covered them with plastic wrap, and into the fridge for 24 hours.
Saturday turned out nice, it was about -4*C, about 26*F--cool, but not bad. While I preheated the MES 30 at 100* for an hour, I placed the sticks on the racks--it was pretty obvious that I need more racks, as I could only get 5 pounds of sticks on my 3 racks. Transferring the sticks from the cookie sheets to the racks turned out to be pretty simple--just lay the rack on the meat, turn the cookie sheet over, and peel off the wax paper.
Then into the MES. 1 hour at 100* with no smoke and then a 10* increase, with smoke, every hour for 7 hours, to an IT of 165*.
I had planned to use hickory (my favorite wood), but when I went looking for it, the cupboard was bare. Hmmmm. Well, I had picked up some pellets I really wanted to try--they seemed like a great flavor profile--Louisiana Grill's Competition Blend, of 50% maple, 25% hickory, and 25% cherry. I nuked them for 4 minutes, loaded up the AMNPS, lit them up with my torch, let them burn for a few minutes, and loaded the AMNPS into the MES. The smoke smelled GREAT!!!! Unfortunately, these pellets were designed to use in their pellet burner smokers and just WOULD NOT burn in the AMNPS. I must have relit them 6 times with the same result--nothing. Out of desperation, I tried dumping a handful into the MES chip pan, and low and behold, they burned perfectly. So for the rest of the smoke, I just kept an eye on the MES, and added more pellets as needed.
The sticks turned out great, but the pork "jerky" was just a tad overdone--I should have taken them out earlier, but I wanted maximum smoke time. They're still good, just have the texture (and touchness) of jerky cut with the grain.
As for the flavors of the 3 different batches, I was quite surprised. The taste of the all beef and the beef/pork mixture was almost identical--you would be hard pressed to tell one from the other. Both are VERY good, so with the cost savings, I'll probably use the beef/pork mixture again. The all pork jerky is excellent. Miss Linda is definitely NOT a jerky lover, but after tasting all three kinds, she says she will be more than happy to eat them--that means I have to share.
Beef and beef/pork--you can see the difference as the beef is darker:
All pork jerky:
Cooled and the excess grease wiped off (there was lots of it from the pork:
Ready for the fridge. Not much sense in vac sealing this amount:
Out of the 6 pounds of meat I started with, 1 pound is still in the fridge, ready to smoke.
The 5 pounds I cooked returned 3.7 pounds of finished sticks.
Thanks for looking.