Tried my hand at snack sticks and need some help

Discussion in 'Sausage' started by shaneyb72, May 17, 2015.

  1. shaneyb72

    shaneyb72 Newbie

    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!
  2. waterinholebrew

    waterinholebrew Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    How you keeping track of your temps ? Ya have a good & reliable therm that are accurate ?
  3. shaneyb72

    shaneyb72 Newbie

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

    waterinholebrew Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  5. nepas

    nepas Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    c farmer and shaneyb72 like this.
  6. shaneyb72

    shaneyb72 Newbie

    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?
  7. shaneyb72

    shaneyb72 Newbie

    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???
  8. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    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".
  9. chef willie

    chef willie Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    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
  10. waterinholebrew

    waterinholebrew Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    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 !

    Hope this helps !
    Last edited: May 17, 2015
  11. shaneyb72

    shaneyb72 Newbie

    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.
  12. shaneyb72

    shaneyb72 Newbie

    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!
  13. nepas

    nepas Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    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.
  14. nepas

    nepas Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    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.
    Last edited: May 17, 2015
  15. baboy

    baboy Fire Starter

    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.
  16. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    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.

Share This Page