Make Snack Sticks at Home!
What are snack sticks? You might know them as Meat Sticks, Slim Jims™, Deer Stick or Beef Sticks but they are all basically the same product. They are a cured meat product that is ground, seasoned, stuffed into a collagen casing and smoked. Flavor profiles can range from a classic like Willie's Seasoning to the intense heat of Gigawaat Hot Snack Stick Seasoning. Cheese is often added to the snack sticks to add flavor and increase appeal.
Snack Stick continue to grow in popularity especially since they are a great on-the-go snack and with their increased shelf-life. Learning how to make snack sticks at home out of beef, pork, venison or any other wild game can help you make the most out of your meat!
Meat and Seasoning Block
Most of Excaliburs Seasonings are designed to work with a 25 "meat block". Some people will say that means add the bag of seaosning to 25 lb of meat, some will factor in the weight of the seasoning, meaning if the bag weighs 2 lb, add it to 23 lb of. And still others will also factor in the weight of the water and other additive. There is not a "right" answer to this, it comes down to personal preference.
Equipment and Supplies
Snack Sticks can be made with just a Walton's Processing Grinder, as they have the ability to double as a sausage stuffer, or just a Walton's Sausage Stuffer as you can purchase already ground meat for use. However, to be able to make the best snack sticks possible below is a list of equipment and supplies you will need.
- Walton's Meat Grinder
- Walton's Meat Mixer
- Walton's Sausage Stuffer
- Smoked Collagen Casings
When we are making snack sticks, or other cured sausages we want to grind the meat twice. The 1st grind should be through a 3/8" plate to take your meat from whole muscle chunks into roughly ground meat. After the meat has been ground once it should be put back through the grinder again, this time through a 1/8" plate (or the smallest you have) to further breakdown the meat. Be aware, the 2nd grind will take significantly longer than the 1st grind. Or, use the Walton's One Shot Grinder Head Attachment to complete both grinds in one pass.
Transfer your grind meat to your meat mixer and add water, seasoning and any other additives except for Encapsulated Citric Acid. If you are using the Walton's 50 lb Mixer your Walton's 12, 22 or 32 Processing Grinder can power this unit and do the mixing for you. If you are not then attach the handle and being mixing. Mix until you begin to achieve protein extraction, where the meat starts to become sticky and tacky. Then add your encapsulated citric and mix for another 60 seconds.
Choose the largest stuffing tube that your chosen casing will fit over and attach that to your stuffer. Load your stuffer with your meat, being careful to avoid any air pockets in the meat. Slide your casings over your stuffing tube and begin stuffing by turning the crank to push the piston down. Your hand that is not turning the crank should be lightly holding the casing onto the stuffing tube to make sure that it is being stuffed fully. If you hold it too loosely the casing will be under stuffed and cause you issues during the smoking process, hold it too tightly and you will burst the casing.
- Set Smoker to 125°F with no smoke or humidity and set dampers to open
- If you smoker will not start that low, load your sticks first, and then set smoker to lowest setting.
- Set smoker to 140° F and add smoke and humidity, set dampers to closed
- Set smoker to 155° F for 2 hours, setsmoke and humidity and dampers same as above
- 175° F until internal temperature of your snack sticks is 160° F for beef or pork, 165 ° F for poultry or wild game.
Take your snack sticks out of the smoker and place them in an ice bath. Your ice bath should be as close to 50% ice and 50% water as possible. Simply using a cold water bath will not be sufficient and you might end up with casings that peel away from the sausage. If you have the ability a shower cycle in your smoker will work as well, if not better than an ice bath. Snack Sticks should be left in ice bath for at least 10 minutes.
Blooming and Packaging
Snack Sticks should be left out at room temperature for 1-2 hours to allow them to bloom, this is where color development sets in the meat. Then put your snack sticks into a cooler or fridge overnight or for 12 hours. Bring them out, let them come up to room temperature and then vacuum seal for long-term storage.