The Art of Crafting Flavorful Beef Sticks

When it comes to portable meat snacks, beef sticks are a beloved favorite. These savory treats, also known as meat sticks or snack sticks, are a must-have in the world of sausage making. Similar to jerky, but with a thinner diameter, beef sticks can be made from various meats such as pork, beef, venison, or a combination of wild game.

The Basics of Beef Sticks

Beef sticks are made by grinding the meat and then stuffing it into either collagen or natural casings. They can be seasoned with a wide range of flavors and enhanced with add-ins like high-temp cheese, encapsulated citric acid, or cultures. Whether you’re utilizing leftover trimmings or venison, beef sticks are a delicious way to make the most of your meat.

Essential Tools

To embark on your beef stick-making adventure, you’ll need a few key tools. These include a meat grinder with 3/8″ and 3/16″ plates, a meat mixer (or your hands), a meat lug or large food-safe container, a stuffer with a 13 or 16mm horn, and a smokehouse for the final step.

The Perfect Meat Ratio

Achieving the right meat-to-fat ratio is crucial for creating the best beef sticks. To ensure a moist and flavorful finished product, aim for a range of 15-25% fat and 75-85% lean. When working with venison, it’s recommended to combine it with pork trim containing 50% fat content. This will help prevent dry and crumbly texture, a common issue with lean meats.

Further reading:  Discover the Perfect BBQ Dipping Sauce for Your Chicken Delight

Grinding & Mixing Techniques

For beef sticks, a fine grind isn’t necessary. It’s actually desirable to retain some visual separation between the fat and meat. To achieve the ideal texture, we recommend grinding the meat twice. Begin with a 3/8″ plate and follow it up with two passes through a 3/16″ plate. Remember to keep the meat cold during the grinding process to prevent smearing.

Once the meat has been ground, it’s time to mix it. For smaller batches (less than 25 lbs), mixing by hand is preferable to prevent breaking down any added high-temp cheese or encapsulated citric acid. The goal is to achieve a sticky and pasty consistency, with the seasonings thoroughly incorporated.

Flavors and Additives

Seasoning your beef sticks is where the real fun begins. One of our top recommendations is our No. 765 Honey BBQ Snack Stick Seasoning or No. 769 Willie’s Seasoning. These options provide a depth of flavor that can stand on its own or be combined with other add-ins, like high-temp cheese. Other popular choices include No. 769 Honey Sriracha Seasoning for a sweet and spicy kick or No. 798 Pepperoni Stick Seasoning for a delicious pepperoni taste.

If your seasoning doesn’t contain larger pieces, you can add them after the first grind, allowing the grinder to distribute them evenly. Additionally, our meat stick seasonings come with cure, which helps preserve the color and flavor of the meat while preventing bacteria growth. Follow the instructions provided to add the appropriate amount of cure.

Casings: Natural or Collagen?

To achieve the classic beef stick appearance and texture, you have two options when it comes to casings: natural sheep casings or small collagen casings. Natural sheep casings offer an irresistible snap, while collagen casings provide better uniformity and a rich mahogany color. Choose based on your personal preference. Some recommended casings include 20-22 mm Natural Sheep Casings (Home Pack), 20-22 mm Natural Sheep Casings (Preflushed), 21 mm Mahogany Processed Collagen Casings, or 21 mm Clear Processed Collagen Casings.

Further reading:  A Spicy Twist on Korean Beef Noodles

The Smoking Process

Smoking your beef sticks requires finesse. Gradually increasing the temperature is essential to prevent the fat from melting out and the encapsulated acid from breaking down. The choice of combustible material for smoking can also impact the taste and smoking process. Research the best options for optimal flavor.

For the best results, we recommend using a high-quality electric smokehouse, such as the Pro Smoker PK-100, which utilizes sawdust as smoke fuel. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions for smoking times and temperatures. As a general guideline, follow this processing schedule:

  1. Set the smokehouse to 120°F and let the sausage sticks hang for half an hour, allowing them to dry without smoke.
  2. Increase the temperature to 130°F and smoke for one hour with the dampers closed 75%.
  3. Increase the temperature to 150°F and smoke for an additional hour.
  4. Increase the temperature to 170°F and remove the smoke.
  5. Cook the snack sticks until they reach an internal temperature of 155°F.

Cooling and Storage

To cool your beef sticks after smoking, you have two options: air drying or an ice bath. If you choose air drying, let the meat sticks rest at room temperature for about half an hour before transferring them to the refrigerator to cool completely. The ice bath method is faster but achieves the same desired results: firm casings and a satisfying snap texture.

Once cooled, wait until the snack sticks reach an internal temperature of 39°F before vacuum packing or storing. When properly sealed and packaged, beef sticks can last in the freezer for several months or in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.

Further reading:  Grilled Ground Beef Kabobs: A Twist on Classic Burgers

Homemade Beef Sticks: A Rewarding Treat

Congratulations! You’ve successfully mastered the art of crafting your own homemade beef sticks. Whether you followed a venison or beef sticks recipe, you can take pride in every bite of these delicious on-the-go snacks. For more sausage recipes and tips, don’t hesitate to explore our collection.

For printable instructions, check out our recipe for Honey BBQ Venison Snack Sticks.