From the Smoke House: Venison Snack Sticks

The best Christmas gifts are the ones that keep on giving. Over the years I’ve gotten many of these, my dehydrator, my grinder, cast iron cook ware and my jerky gun come to mind along with this year’s gift of an original Bradley smoker.

I took the smoker out for a quick test drive Christmas night with the smoked lobster tails, the leftovers of which Lorrell turned into a gluttonous 7 cheese, lobster and bacon mac and cheese. This weekend provided me the opportunity to try out a full smoke session on some venison.

I’ve been making venison snack sticks on the dehydrator for a while now, but I’ve always wondered what they’d be like in a smoker. I thawed two and a half pounds of ground venison and mixed in sweet and spicy seasonings from Hi-Mountain Seasonings. It is personal preference, but I pretty much exclusively use these and LEM’s seasonings for ground meat jerky and snack sticks. Both offer excellent consistent flavors. Why reinvent the wheel when so much time, effort and meat are at stake? For the two and a half pounds of meat I used the three pound measurements for seasoning and cure. I wrapped it back up in a glass bowl and refrigerated it for 24 hours.

Using my Cabela’s Jerky Blaster with the snack stick attachment, I laid out the sticks on the smoker racks. I inserted the four racks of raw sticks to the smoker, which I preheated to 200 degrees. I opted for hickory smoke and planned to smoke for about 1 hour with an overall cooking time of two hours. Yesterday was 30 degrees with a light breeze in Cheyenne, so this experience may be different when we get to warmer months. The temperature inside the smoker dropped about 70 degrees and took a long time to recover. Since I was smoking and drying and cooking, I don’t think that makes a ton of difference, but next time I may let the sticks warm a bit out of the refrigerator before throwing them right into the smoker.

After two hours the sticks were only at 145 degrees so I kept them in the smoker until they reached 165. This took an additional 20-30 minutes. At that point I pulled them and let them cool after wiping away the excess oil on the sticks. I ended up with a pile of snack sticks that had an awesome flavor. The smoke really adds to the sticks in ways I couldn’t imagine. A real success.

There was one glitch in the process, the tray of sticks on the bottom were overcooked, as a result of being so close to the heating element as it worked non-stop to get the temperature back where it needed to be. I would probably quickly switch top and bottom about 1/2 way through, or when the smoke stops. Thankfully, other than about two inches on each stick, the rest was edible.

All in all a highly successful first smoke. Next Sunday can’t get here fast enough as I have 1.75 pounds of pork belly curing in the refrigerator. Bacon is on the menu.

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