Post your bad batches of snack sticks! What worked what didn't. (Also on "good" wrinkles vs. bad)

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Meat Mopper
Original poster
May 18, 2021
Hi folks! After getting back into the swing of making small diameter (15mm) snack sticks, I kept scratching my head and asking: why aren't my snack sticks getting wrinkles?!? At some point, I had done something and they stopped getting wrinkles. The solution to that is part of what this post is about.

The other part is that I was thinking this could be a sort of picture-lookup of mistakes. I've got about 14 batches of different experiments, and instead of just throwing them out, I thought it might be helpful for folks to see how my snack sticks reacted in various different (and bad) situations. They could say "my sausage looks like that" and maybe have an easy tool to diagnose the problem. Possibly get other pictures on this page of failures, and get a sort of dictionary of mistakes. That could be useful.

I also need to clean out my fridge :)

How to get "good" wrinkles
This is a preference thing. Not everyone likes wrinkles, but I really do.

So the mistake I made that caused them to go away was in reducing the amount of water in my meat mix from 3oz/meat-lb to 1oz/meat-lb. This made all of my sausages denser, which prevented strong wrinkle formation. The sausages still tasted fine, but I didn't like how they looked anymore. After going back to increased water, the wrinkles came back.

Visual Analysis

Good wrinkles are long, bad wrinkles either match the grind (I believe due to fat-out) or show as tiny "stress" marks on the casing (I believe due to case hardening). These are all stuffed with the same material (except for B). Here's what I did for each (collagen casings all):
  • A - 4oz H2O per lb of meat (other sticks C-J are all 1oz H2O per lb). Cook 140F for 14hr, then set to 165 until IT of 158. Tastes good. Good wrinkles. Reads 55% on moisture meter.
  • B - This is a commercial beef stick. I didn't make this one. Just for comparison. Tastes great.
  • C - Nuke in oven at 250F for 30mins until IT of 170. Fat-out; tastes awful. toss it.
  • D - Turn dehydrator on max (160) and leave stick in it for 8 hours. Fat-out; tastes awful. toss it.
  • E - "5hr cook" (105,130,140,150,160) until IT 150. Try to further drying by putting in front of fan or dehydrator at low temp for a while. Hard to explain. Just doesn't taste right. Maybe a combo of case-hardening due to airflow and something else?
  • F - "5hr cook" until IT 150. Wrap in pink butcher paper and put in fridge two weeks. Reads 60% on moisture meter, so this one is actually less dry despite being two weeks older. This one tasted much better earlier on, and started tasting worse as I tried to push it by leaving it in the pink paper for longer. It's still decent, but not as good as A/B.


For these, I was testing whether Fine-T collagen or sheep casings would get me better wrinkles/dryness (thinking they're more permeable). No to both (or at least I didn't notice, maybe a miniscule difference). However, the great part of these casings are that they make your mistakes more apparent. And when you do make mistakes (other than blowout while stuffing), these casings are more forgiving than collagen.

G - Sheep casing, Nuke at 250F for 30 mins. I apologize about the yellow fat. If it was pork, at least you'd have white fat. So gross. Toss.
H - Fine-T casing. Same as G. So gross. You can see the error.
I - Sheep casing. 5 hour cook IT pull at 148. Tastes great! Sheep casing is great! Very delicate
J - Fine-T casing. 5 hour cook IT pull at 148. Tastes great! Fine-T casing is pretty good. Between collagen and sheep in terms of delicacy.

So there you have it! Hope that was a fun read of my mistakes!
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Reactions: 02ebz06
Very interesting. I love eating and making snack sticks but definitely have room to improve on my processes. I appreciate your write up and insight. Keep the info coming!!!
  • Like
Reactions: geostriata
Very interesting. I love eating and making snack sticks but definitely have room to improve on my processes. I appreciate your write up and insight. Keep the info coming!!!
Thanks! Glad it's interesting! It helps to try to get some benefit from my failures, since I sure as hell can't eat them :)
You are relentless.

Why not try ham?
I do have a little pork back fat on the side, to try that out and see how that helps.

I suppose just the knowledge that it can be done with all beef really makes me want to find out how. I will go as far as buying a bowl cutter if I have to (I do keep thinking it enables better texture). Whatever it takes.
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