Homemade beef sticks not only will let you save some money, but also achieve much better flavor and most of all, freshness and confidence in the ingredients being top quality.
Beef sticks are a quick and wholesome meal that can be bought at stores, but its price can vary a lot. If you buy large quantities of it at store then maybe a better solution would be to make your own? Especially if you have the right equipment in your kitchen.
Another advantage is the fact that properly preserved beef sticks have a long shelf life so when you make a huge serving one day, you can enjoy it for a long time.
It’s a good idea to learn how to make beef sticks at home, if you have a bigger family then they will all certainly appreciate it.
I will start with a simple recipe, and right below it I will post what I believe to be an interesting YouTube film if you prefer the video version ( the film isn’t mine ).
How to make Beef Sticks at home
Contrary to a popular belief, it is not such a complicated procedure, all you need is the right meat, seasonings and of course the tools. A lot depends on the method you use to prepare beef sticks but in most cases they utilize the same or similar procedures and kitchen tools ( don't forget about safety rules.
Before I move on to forming beef sticks, I will mention the tools you need:
- Meat grinder or stand mixer with a Food Grinder Attachment
- Jerky Gun with small tube or Sausage Stuffer Tubes
- Smoker, Dehydrator or Oven
- Plastic tubs big enough to fit few lbs of meat
- Sharp knife
- Cooking Twine
- Several steel mixing bowls ( preferably big ones )
- Smoker Thermometer with probe
- 1 4lb beef roast
- 1 1lb pork roast
- 7 tbsp A.C. Legg Snack Stick Seasoning
- 1 tsp Prague Powder #1 Curing Salt
- 19-21mm Collagen Casings ( For the sake of convenience I recommend the 21mm size, whereas strongly advising against any size below 19mm as it will make it very hard to push the meat grinder through such a small pipe ).
Step 1: Meat Grinding
This procedure consists of two stages, let’s start with stage one:
Start by making sure that the meat is properly cooled down ( temperature of about 30 degrees F ). It is very important, as the hotter the grease the harder it is to grind, and properly cooled meat prevents problems with grinding and the grinder clogging.
So get the meat ground-up using a thick grinder, put it in the bowl and leave in the fridge for about half an hour.
The time is up already? Great, take the bowls with the meat from the fridge and mix it thoroughly in a bigger bowl. Next grind it again, this time using a smaller grinding plate, preferably at least 3/8” or even smaller.
Step 2: Seasonings
Now that we have the meat ground-up, we can move on to a very important procedure which is seasoning. For now use what I posted in my recipe, but in the future, once you get experienced, I encourage you to seek new flavors by experimenting with seasonings.
Add the mix of condiments and curing salt directly to the meat and mix it thoroughly with your hands for few minutes ( about 5 ). Next add a glass of very cold water and mix it all again for 2-3 minutes.
Put the ready seasoned meat again in the bowls, then in the fridge for at least half an hour. If you want to have a better flavor, you can leave the meat for more hours.
Step 3: Grinding the meat again
After waiting again, this time for at least 30 minutes, you can take the cooled meat from the fridge. Next grind it up again using a small grinder just like in the previous step. What is it for? It will allow to better mix the seasonings and will give the meat mix a better consistency for beef sticks.
Step 4: Stuffing
This procedure can be divided into two methods, the first uses a stand mixer, the second uses a jerky gun.
Using Stand Mixer
Most people have a stand mixer and a stuffing set at home, which is why I shall discuss this method first. Sadly, it is not the best method and someone else’s help will be useful here. Of course it makes it possible to prepare good beef sticks but technically speaking it is not quite so easy and convenient.
Just put on a nozzle, and then stretch a casing 3-4” over the nozzle. Get someone else to help so they can slowly push the meat in the stuffer while you watch the casing so that it slides in the right moment.
Using Jerky Gun
I definitely recommend this method more as you don’t have to worry about what takes place when it comes to a stand mixer. A Jerky Gun is designed well enough to allow to load the meat mix in the casing fast and conveniently. You don’t have to worry that the meat will slip past the pusher when stuffing.
I won’t get in the details of using the gun here as there’s not that much to it, and if there is any problem then all you have to do is read the manufacturer’s manual.
Step 5: The last stage ! Cooking
You have three options to choose from, pick the one that suits you best and follow the tips.
There’s a lot of opinions on the matter which is why I will present my “universal method”. It will be necessary to have a meat thermometer that will allow to check the temperature inside the beef sticks.
Preheat the Smoker to 100 degrees F, and then put the beef sticks in, plug in the probe and leave the meat for an hour. After that time, increase the temperature to about 120-125 degrees F and leave it like that for about 4 hours. At the last stage, increase the temperature to about 170 or even 180 degrees F and wait for the beef sticks to reach an internal temperature of 150-160 degrees F. Once the thermometer indicates this temperature, turn off the smoker, take the beef sticks out and wait for a moment for them to cool off before you start eating them or putting them in the fridge.
The truth is, cooking with an oven doesn’t differ a lot from a smoker. Start by placing tinfoil on the bottom of the oven ( it will make cleaning easier by collecting all the grease ).
Next set the oven to 170 degrees F and place the beef sticks in the oven. For the first hour, leave the oven door ajar. After about three hours from starting cooking you can check if the beef sticks are done. They should reach an internal temperature of 150-160 degrees F. For that purpose, use the right meat thermometer to monitor the temperature and be sure that the meat is done and safe to consume.
Once you’re done cooking, do the standard waiting until the beef sticks cool down and start eating them or pack some of them in sealed plastic bags ( preferably ziplock ) and leave them in the fridge or freezer.
Using Food Dehydrator
Simply place the snack sticks in the dehydrator and wait for the temperature inside to be at least 155-160+ degrees depending on the type of dehydrator. Once the temperature is reached, the cooking will begin, and you have to start measuring time.
The first stage of cooking takes about 7-8 hours, after that time you can start controlling their texture. It is the best if you do it about every 1,5-2h to reach the satisfying result. Depending on the texture, it usually takes about 10 hours.
After taking them out, wait for 10 minutes for them to cool off, then eat some of them and pack the rest in plastic ziplock bags and put in the fridge for later.
For those who prefer a video version, I have found a useful video on YouTube ( it is not mine ).
Smoker vs Oven and Dehydrator Method
Beef Sticks have to be stored at low temperatures, much below 200 degrees F. The truth is that most types of smokers cannot achieve that. When using a charcoal smoker, it might be a very difficult task, which is why I mostly recommend an electric smoker, which has a very low temperature range, perfect even for cold smoking.
Most electric smokers have a cold smoking kit sold separately, the purpose of which is to ensure the right amount of smoke at low temperatures.
So if you want to try beef sticks with a smoky flavor then you have to be an owner of an electric smoker. Another advantage of this type of smoker is the ease of use at the oven level, all you have to do is set the temperature, close the door and you’re done.
An oven or dehydrator are another two very convenient devices, except that they don’t make it possible to create smoke. On top of that, not all food dehydrators are safe for preparing meat, in that case beef sticks, but why?
Due to safety reasons, meat should be prepared in the right temperature in order to avoid any bacteria. Some dehydrators simply don’t have a high enough temperature, make sure that your dehydrator comes with the right temperature range for meat ( 160 degrees + ).