Snack Sticks 101

Discussion in 'Sausage' started by nrdk, Oct 10, 2014.

  1. nrdk

    nrdk Fire Starter

    Shamelessly stealing this thread idea from hickorybutt  in his Smoking Sausage 101 thread, as I am completely new to considering smoking sausage or snack sticks. I typically split a side of beef with the parents, and always seem to have so much ground beef left over and no sticks left, even when getting 40 pounds of sticks to start with from the local processor.

    I've done a few weeks worth of light reading on the forums here (kudos to nepas boyko driedstick dave and so many others)  and around the interwebs for some more information, however I'll be honest it's still a rather daunting task in just learning the basics and assembling the materials when compared to my typical smoke (pork butts, turkeys, chicken, ribs, or brisket) in my MES.

    So here I am, hat in hands, hoping to pool some advice and leave a nice centralized beginner's guide for those looking to get started and who may run into the same issues (albeit a nice one) that I have, with more ground beef than I know what to do with.

    Used the recipe found here  for the Long, Slow Smoke for Tang ala 'Nepas'.
    1. Starting Materials
      1. Jerky gun or Sausage stuffer (suggestions on type/brand or where a beginner should start?)
        1. Personally ordered the LEM Jerky Cannon with the 6" Stuffing Tube
      2. Hanging rack (seems necessary for a MES30 owner like myself, how to build/assemble one?)
        1. Hickory or Oak dowels purchased from local hardware store cut to fit smoker
      3. Casing (edible collagen casing vs natural? Supplier/store? Size for various applications?)
        1. Went with 21mm edible collagen for my first go, seems a bit more durable and forgiving
      4. Twine/string (necessary?)
        1. Going to personally use butchers twine as tie offs for bends, seems the best route 
      5. Cure #1
        1. USE
    Now I don't want to get to deep into all the individual seasonings, however I felt it is very necessary to underline the importance of key ingredients like Cure #1, as the danger of botulism seems to present to do without.

    What are other starting materials a typical weekend smoker like myself may be overlooking?
    1. Initial Processing
      1. Timeliness is key (keep meat cold!)
      2. Let your seasoned liquid sit before mixing
      3. Mix and let rest vs. mix and load and let rest in the fridge
    Anything I'm missing here? I've tried to compile what I see as 'best practice' from the various head honchos around, but definitely room for improvement.
    1. Stuffing
      1. Load the casing to the tip and get it ready to receive meat
      2. Using the aforementioned jerky gun or sausage stuffer, press the meat down to try and remove all air prior to loading up the casing
        1. Personally spent the extra $10 to get the Barrel Stomper, seems well worth it
      3. Press the meat to the end of the tube, tie a loose knot, then press some meat into the casing until the air in the casing is gone then tighten the knot
        1. Alternative, tie the knot tight but poke a very small  hole in the end for air to escape
      4. Best practice to load the entire casing and knot the end or pinch/twist off multiple times while loading? Need some experience to weigh in here
    Not sure what the best practice is for the actual stuffing, is it better to load the entire casing and knot the end, or pinch/twist off multiple times while loading, or to use twine/string to tie off between for hanging purposes? Definitely need some experience to weigh in here.
    1. Start your Smokin'
      1. Get the sticks out and let em hang on the rack at room temp for about an hour, get your smoker up to speed at this time
      2. Start out low, 120-130 range, and hit the AMNPS for the overnight to facilitate the drying process on the casings and get that nice tang
      3. Bump the smoker in the morning up by 10 degrees every hour (not to exceed 170), keeping an eye on the IT until it hits the 152 mark.
      4. Pull em and hit em with the ice bath for 5 or 10 minutes to cool down
      5. Let air dry (bloom) for a few (2 to 3) hours
      6. Paper bag them in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours to help with excess moisture
      7. Follow up by vac sealing or enjoying!
    Depending on your setup, this will obviously change, however as I use a MES30 and so many others seem to here, thats what I wrote it towards in mind.

    Please, dissect, critique, pick apart and enhance on the above for me, as I'm itching to give this a try and as well to keep this up to date and in place as a good write up for the future. Thanks again!

    Follow up #1:

    As mentioned above, I decided to jump in, however one goal was to keep my upfront cost reasonable. I managed to purchase the following for just under $100 as of 10/13/14, and it should get me through my first couple smokes to figure out how my sticks are turning out and if I want to pursue further.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2014
  2. Bearcarver has a good step by step. Take a look at it.

    Happy smoken.

  3. nrdk

    nrdk Fire Starter

    Agreed and thanks for the pointer, I've spent many hours pouring over Bear's step by step guides and definitely drew a lot of information from them and will continually revisit them.

    However, they don't translate quite as well into what most people typically look at for a 'snack stick' as there is no casing, thus no need for a stuffer or any of the issues I raised in regards to the casing/stuffing/prep etc. 

  4. I still use a stuffer with my naked sticks.

    Happy smoken.

  5. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Last edited: Oct 13, 2014
  6. driedstick

    driedstick Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hope this helps and let me know if I can help you out anymore. 

    A full smoker is a Happy smoker 

    Make your smoker happy 

  7. nrdk

    nrdk Fire Starter

    Saw your thread and have been drooling since, those look great and I'm thinking I may have to give caseless a shot, however the future wife loves the casing so I'll have to make sure I do a couple batches with casing to start with to get her on board.
    That is the exact one I'm thinking I'll start out with, need to make some measurements on my MES30 for the dowels and get that all in place. Hoping to have some time this weekend.
    Thanks! Really appreciate the time to look over and review, I know it's a chore but I'm trying to get an upfront idea of just how involved this will be prior to jumping in. Limited budget with a wedding coming up next summer, so really trying to restrict myself with new toys.

    Thinking I'll have to go with the gun to begin with, LEM jerky cannon seems well reviews and liked around here, and if I get positive reviews on the sticks I'll be adding a stuffer to my Christmas list.

    Called around a bit and struck out trying to find casings at the local butcher, unfortunately the butcher I used to use went under a few months back and just haven't found a good alternative since. May just order online for the 21mm collagen casings. 

    Thinking I should be able to pull all this off with under $100 upfront investment, and move forward from there depending on the results. Have a feeling I'll jump in the same as I did smoking and learn after a few batches, but really happy to be able to get an idea of what is required upfront with both time and money.

    The main thing I wanted to avoid before jumping into this was an o crap I don't have that moment, and I think with the input from everyone here I'll be able to do that. Thanks again guys [​IMG]
  8. chef willie

    chef willie Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Hey, you're very welcome.....hmmmm, I'm needing a stix fix myself.....thanks for the mention and motivation back. Waiting for UPS with some SS making stuff to arrive, that'll get me going....enjoy and post pics/results........Willie
  9. driedstick

    driedstick Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Sounds good this video may help also give you Idea on summer sausage and same way for snack sticks except no water bath and smaller casings 

  10. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Forgot to tell ya I have the Large Jerky Cannon, use it for when I make Sausage. Works nice, if you get it you mat want to order an extra small tube for the sticks.
  11. nrdk

    nrdk Fire Starter

    When you say extra small tube for sticks, do you mean the adapter on the end or the actual load tube? From what I've read the meat tube only holds 1.5 pounds, which means I'll be doing some reloading. As far as the adapter goes, I'm going with the Jerky Cannon 3/8" ID Stuffing Tube - 6" so I can load using casings (went with their 21mm casings as well, figured easier to just group the order). 
  12. tropics

    tropics Smoking Guru SMF Premier Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Thats the one my plan just got moved till next week, have a job to do now.
  13. nrdk

    nrdk Fire Starter

    Edited the original post to include some of the information collected here as well as what I personally have started towards and purchased, with links.

    Will be a work in progress for awhile. I'll update and post qviews when I start my first smoke (hopefully this weekend if I can get the fiancee to leave me to it)
  14. crazymoon

    crazymoon Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Nrdk, The Sausagemaker still has free shipping on orders over  $ 49 if you still need any supplies.
  15. chef willie

    chef willie Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    thanks....will check it out....YouTube can show u how to do
  16. nrdk

    nrdk Fire Starter

    Edit: Had some problems loading from my phone, not sure what the deal is but came back to finish it off

    Gatherin the ingredients:

    Got SWMBO to help mix it all up for me

    Gettin to the stuffing. Gotta say, very very impressed with the LEM Jerky Cannon. Did a 5 lb batch and took 4 loads of the LEM, 2 loads per tray which ended up perfect. Very easy to use, easy to clean, and not sure I'll even bother moving onto a Stuffer unless I get to doing a lot of batches.

    Done loading, these babies are goin in the fridge for the night and will head into the smoker tomorrow evening for a low and slow overnight, after getting a batch of ABTs and some chili done for a party tomorrow night. :biggrin:

    Last edited: Oct 17, 2014
  17. nrdk

    nrdk Fire Starter

    So a random question just formed, do I just stick the internal temp probe into one of the sticks? Won't that cause the meat to come out from the puncture?
  18. chewmeister

    chewmeister Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    Yep. No, the meat will not come out of the hole. The cure stiffens the meat especially after a rest in the fridge.
  19. nrdk

    nrdk Fire Starter

    That was my assumption and worked out for me last night, thanks for the reply

    Had some issues initially with the AMPNS not wanting to stay lit, ended up going with the chip loader all the way out to keep it goin since there was no wind. 

    In the smoker last night:

    Woke up to them at 128 IT after about 14 or 15 hours in the smoker, beginnin to look tasty.

    Gonna bump em 10 degrees an hour til they hit the magic 152
  20. Looking excellent!

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