How to Make Deer Snack Sticks
With deer season almost on top of us, it’s time to start thinning the freezer. If you have trimmings or ground meat, you can make smokies at home. Smokies make for a great snack and they'll keep on a long day hike if you follow the same recipe we use today. Smokies, or sticks as some folks call them, are fun, easy, and a great way to make sure you’ve got room for this season.
You can use this recipe with any type of protein. Try making some bison smokies, or lamb smokies, then use some different spices to really create some true, original flavors.
Equipment for Making Deer Smokies
You will need some special equipment for this process. You will need a meat grinder with at least two sizes of plates, a sausage stuffer, and a smoker. You don’t necessarily need to have a professional grinder, anything from madewithmeat.com will work, or even a manual hand grinder will work. These days, you can get high-quality electric grinders for not that much more than a manual.
A sausage stuffer is necessary for filling the casings. We are using a large, commercial-grade stuffer today that can handle up to 25 lbs at a time. You can get a good stuffer that handles about 7 lbs at a time and sits right at the edge of your counter. You'll also want to make sure you have a 7 mm tip for your stuffer.
A smoker is the right tool for this recipe, but you can use pretty much anything where you can reliably maintain low temperatures for long periods of time. We highly recommend you invest in a smoker, though. If you like to eat meat like we do, a smoker like our Traeger 885 Ironwood will give you a reason to get up every day. Seriously, you’ll catch yourself thinking about what you can smoke next all the time.
Prepping Your Deer Trimmings
If you are starting with trimmings, make sure you have all the major fat, tendons, gristle, and everything else undesirable out. For our recipe, we are going to use about 12 lbs of venison trimmings. To that, we are adding about 1 lb of pork fat. This gives us a good protein-to-fat ratio. Too little fat will make dry, tough smokies, while too much will leave them greasy.
Seasoning the Smokies
We are going to season with the Bearded Butchers Cajun Blend Seasoning. You can use a shaker, but for snack sticks or jerky, we recommend our blends that are specifically formulated for further processing. This one has just the perfect combo of white and black pepper, smoked paprika, and other flavors to compliment the venison. We are going to use a 6 oz bottle for the size of our mixture. Toss the seasonings thoroughly by hand, making sure to get it all mixed in real well.
For a little extra kick, we are also going to add in some high-temp pepper jack cheese. This cheese will retain its shape in the smoker and won’t melt and rupture the casings. It’s also really good.
Don’t Forget the Cure
The next thing we add is a curing agent. The curing agent adds nitrates which prevents certain bacterial growth. Some bacteria, like the ones responsible for botulism, thrive in warm, low-oxygen conditions, which is just what happens in the smoker. The curing agent will prevent that growth and will also add a nice, pink color to our smokies. You can use pink cure or the more natural 506 celery juice powder. Either will work fine and you'll find instructions for using both on the linked product pages.
It’s Grinding Time
We start out with a larger plate size. We start with a 7 mm plate. It helps if your trimmings are in strips rather than chunks because the auger will help pull the meat in. The grinder also works the seasonings and curing agent through the meat. Once the meat has made one pass through, switch out the grinder plate to a smaller size. We are going to use a 4.5 mm plate and we are going to make two passes through the grinder.
The goal is to make sure the ground meat is broken down into small pieces and the fat is mixed in. You can make more than three passes if you would like, but pay attention for the protein binding that causes the meat to get sticky. That’s a bad sign, but can be reversed by putting your meat in the cooler for a little while or adding ice.
Stuffing the Smokies
Once the meat is ground, you will need to add some water. Add slowly and mix by hand. You want the meat to just hold together without being sticky or mushy. We start with two cups for our process, but don’t use all of it.
Next thing is to load a casing onto the tip of the sausage stuffer. We are using 17 mm casing here which fit a little tight on the tip. We just slide the whole thing on the nozzle, then cut the end off and tie it.
We are using a vertical stuffer that has an air-release valve. The valve keeps air out of the sausage, which can cause green mold. There isn’t any real trick here but to keep the stuffer going until you are out of meat. Tie off the end when you are finished stuffing.
You can twist the smokies into segments if you want at this point. W fold them over into about 24 inch sections because that’s what we know fits on our smoker.
Smoking the Smokies
We are going to get these smokies on our Traeger 885 using their wild game pellet blend. This blend is red and white oak along with hickory. We have our smoker at 165 to start, and we are going to leave the smokies on there for about 2 hours. Then, we raise the temp to 185 for another two hours or so. If necessary, we will raise the temp one more time to 205 in order to get an internal temperature of 165 degrees. We monitor our temps with a remote barbeque thermometer. These tools are game changers on the smoker.
Finishing the Smokies
Once you hit that internal temperature of 165 degrees, it’s time to get the smokies off the grill and get them cooled down. Quickly lowering the temperature helps prevent bacterial growth and also stops the cooking process. We put them on a rack and rinse with cold water until the smokies are no longer hot to the touch. Then, we move them into the cooler to chill.
Cutting the Smokies and Storing Them
The final step to making smokies is cutting them into lengths that are easy to package. You can measure however you choose, we like to just use our outstretched palm, cutting the smokies into stacks just past our thumb. A good- sharp knife, like the Victorinox boning knife gives you a slick, clean cut that looks professional.
These smokies are not shelf-stable, so they will need to be kept correctly. If you plan on getting through them quickly, a week or so in the refrigerator will be safe. A great way to store them is in vacuum-sealed pouches, then freeze. This way, you can simply grab a pack on your next outing. They will keep for about three months in the freezer.
Even though making smokies does require you to have a few extra bits of equipment, it’s an all-in-all wonderful and fun process. Once you own the tools to make sausage, you’ll find yourself coming up with all sorts of recipes for delicious, homemade recipes.
Deer Smokies Recipe
- 12 lbs venison, beef, bison, lamb, or any other protein
- 1 lb pork fat
- ½ oz curing agent
- 1 lb high-melt cheese
- Bearded Butcher Blend Seasoning, Cajun or your favorite one
- 2 cups cold water
- 17 mm sausage casings
- Grind trimmings with the pork fat, seasonings, curing agent, and high-melt cheese at 7mm, then twice at 4.5mm.
- Mix water gradually until ground meat comes together
- Stuff ground meat into casings.
- Smoke on prepared smoker at 165 for two hours, then 185 for two hours. Raise temperature to 205 if internal temperature has not reached 165.
- Rinse with cold water to reduce temperature.
- Chill in the cooler for several hours.
- Cut into sections and store or freeze.
Smokies will keep in the refrigerator for 1 week and in the freezer for three months.
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