Hanging snack sticks in a smoker is a great way to use venison, pork, or beef for a lazy Saturday snack in the yard. So whether you’re making the sticks for your children or to spice up your birthday party, smoking these savory treats is the way to go.
But how exactly is it done? In this article, I’ll share everything there is to know about how to hang snack sticks in a smoker.
All you really have to do is prepare the smoker, then prepare the snack sticks (using about 80% meat and 20% fat), stuff the meat into the casings, and then hang the sausages from hooks in your smoker while remembering to leave the door slightly open. Read on to learn more.
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Benefits of Hanging Snack Sticks in a Smoker
When it comes to preparing snack sticks at home, the two common methods are racking and hanging. However, both have their advantages and disadvantages.
For example, racking is more effective at evenly heating the meat, but it requires turning the sticks around every now and then.
When you hang the sticks, the smoker makes more room for air circulation. Also, you don’t have to rotate the sticks all the time.
Even more importantly, the hanging method ensures that all ingredients bind together and the flavors develop their full potential.
Plus, hanging the sticks makes room for more meat in the smoker without leaving any grill marks.
Overall, hanging snack sticks in a smoker will result in a savory dish for everyone to enjoy.
How Do You Hang Snack Sticks in a Smoker?
Let’s have a look at the steps involved in hanging snack sticks in a smoker.
1. Setting the Smoker
Setting the smoker up for snack stick hanging is relatively straightforward.
First, you just have to remove the racks from the smoker and cut a ½-inch wooden dowel to match the width of your smoker.
Next, be sure to hang the sticks on the brackets holding the top shelves.
Then, just suspend the looped sticks from the dowels and prepare the smoke.
2. Meat Preparation and Stuffing
When it comes to meat preparation, you can hang snack sticks of any lean meat combined with fat (the perfect ratio being 80:20%).
Then, as you trim off the excess fat, get rid of the blood clots, cords, and other unwanted sections, grind the meat and fat through a grinder plate. You want the initial grind to be with a 3/8-inch plate and run the second one through a 1/8-inch grinder plate.
Tip: To help retain the meat color, a greater particle definition, and stop meat smearing, use a sharp grinder knife.
Next, you want to place the meat in a mixing tub, add the other ingredients for seasoning, and mix it all nicely until it distributes evenly.
The stuffing part is essential for hanging the sticks later on. You want to stuff your meat into a smaller-size casing of no more than 0.8 inches. Typically, the casings come in collagen or a natural sheep material.
Try not to leave air pockets when loading the sticks, and stuff them into long ropes. Of course, they shouldn’t be too long – it’s important they fit the smoker and don’t get too close to the heater. Ultimately, you can adjust the length of the ropes once you place the snack sticks inside the smokehouse later on.
As you finish stuffing the sausage, most of it will have already dried. For best results, hang the sticks in a room heated to 90° F for an hour for the cure to take in. Make sure they don’t touch each other during the process. The drier they get, the better they’ll be once they hit the smokehouse.
3. Smoking the Snack Sticks
After the sticks have been outside the smoker for long enough, you should place them inside, ensuring sufficient space between them. You don’t want the meat to stick together during the cooking process because the air needs to pass evenly on all sides of the stick.
Ideally, place a small pan at the bottom of the smoker the moment you hang the snack sticks inside. This will help increase humidity and keep your sticks from becoming too crumbly.
Once you’ve chosen your wood, you can hang the snack sticks or place them on the rack in a preheated smoker (preferably at 125°) with the door slightly open. If your smoker can’t reach a temperature this low, start with the lowest temperature possible, and follow the instructions for increasing it over time.
You should cook the meat at this temperature for about an hour and a half. Then, gradually increase the temperature to 135° for one hour, then to 155° for another hour.
Finally, keep the temperature at 165° until the internal temperature of the sausages reaches 160° F. The whole idea is to apply the smoke lightly when hanging the snack sticks. The whole process takes quite a few hours.
If you go straight to 160° and skip the gradual temperature adjustment, you’ll encounter a couple of problems. First, the meat will be too dry, and second, it will overcook the outside of the sticks.
In the end, the sticks will look like a burnt ring on the outside with an undercooked center.
As you can see, different cooking temperatures serve various purposes: applying the smoke, drying, finishing, etc. Going with a temperature that’s too low will result in your sticks cooking forever and a day.
However, setting the heat too high will squeeze out all the fat, and you’ll be left with very crumbly pieces of meat.
Note: You can smoke the sticks with hickory or apple. Insert a probe in the center of one of the sticks to keep track of the temperature.
As you smoke the meat, ensure that the small sections of white fat remain on the outside and the temperature is not too hot for them to melt. Otherwise, you’ll be left with sticks greasy on the outside, rather than keeping the fat inside.
When the casings become dry and brown in color, remove them from the smoker.
4. Cooling the Snack Sticks
After taking the sticks off the smoker, cool them with ice water. Do so for at least 10 minutes for the temperature to drop.
Once finished, place them at room temperature for about one hour, and then store them in the fridge or freezer. If you plan on devouring the sticks, later on, you can pack them in vacuum pouches.
4. Storing the Snack Sticks
When vacuum sealed, these tasty snacks can be stored in the refrigerator for no more than two weeks or six months in the freezer.
However, note that they only last one week in a zipper-lock bag inside a fridge, so make sure to finish them up beforehand.
The snack sticks are a great way to enjoy leftover venison or beef, and as you can see, they’re not as hard to make. In addition, they’re more budget-friendly than store-bought products, and you’re in complete control of what’s inside.
Tips for Hanging Snack Sticks in a Smoker
Be sure to leave enough space between the bottom of the stick and the burner. This will avoid over-smoking the bottom of the meat. One thing that makes preparing the snack sticks on the racks more convenient is that all parts get done evenly – if you turn them around, that is.
But you can solve the problem in a smoker by leaving more space between the sticks. Eventually, you may want to cut the pieces into smaller parts to accommodate them. Still, the sticks will turn out much longer than those hung on the racks.
When you hang the snacks, there’s no need to rotate or open the door. Instead, you can use a tape measure and cut them at around 37 inches, put the link in the tub, continue to stuff it, and cut accordingly.
Also, you want to place the sticks as close to the smoker door as possible to distribute the heat more evenly. Of course, you can still rotate them once or twice, but this is not strictly necessary.
The essential part when hanging sticks in a smoker is to raise the temperature very slowly. Otherwise, the bottom can cook before the top.
A couple of tips can help you avoid this: Use something to diffuse the heat from above the smoker, such as a large stone or an aluminum pan with sand. This will help even the temperature, so the bottom of the sticks doesn’t get too hot too soon.
If you’ve been holding off on hanging the snack sticks in a smoker, now’s the time to get the process started. With the instructions provided in this article, you should be equipped with all the practical information required.
Whether you go for beef, jerky, or venison snack sticks, smoking them in the smoker will make delicious snacks for the whole family to enjoy. Just remember to let the casings dry well before applying smoke, raise the temperature steadily, and make space between the central heater and the bottom of the sticks to keep them from getting overdone.
Hopefully, these tips have answered all of your questions on hanging snack sticks in a smoker. If you want to make sure you’re using the best smoker out there to make your snack sticks, click here!