Meat Processing Cheat Sheet

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Are you interested in making sausage, bologna, ham, jerky, snack sticks, and bacon at home? There is a lot to learn, but a little guidance goes a long way in preparing these delicious meats and snacks with confidence. Here is a handy list of guidelines you will want to refer to often.

Updated January 25, 2021.


General Guidelines

Note: Temperatures given are in F.

  • Always use cure for jerky, snack sticks, summer sausage, ring bologna, bologna, ham, salami, bacon, etc!

Sodium nitrite (sometimes referred to as Insta Cure #1, Prague Powder, or pink curing salt) is the one you will use most frequently. The correct ratio for sodium nitrite (with the exception of bacon, see below) is 1 ounce per 25 pounds of meat or 1 teaspoon per 5 pounds of meat. Buy sodium nitrite here.  

Sodium nitrate (sometimes referred to as Insta Cure #2) is only to be used in salamis, pepperonis, and other specialty items. 

  • If adding high temp cheese to fresh sausage, snack sticks, summer sausage, ring bologna, or bologna, add 1 pound of cheese per 10 pounds of meat. For example, 8.5 pounds of venison + 1.5 pounds of pork fat + 1 pound of high temp cheese + 2 teaspoons of sodium nitrite + the seasoning of your choice would make a terrific summer sausage!
  • When making snack sticks, summer sausage, ring bologna, or bologna, add 1 pint of cold water (per 10 pounds of meat) to your meat after it is ground to make stuffing easier.
  • After stuffing your snack sticks, summer sausage, ring bologna, or bologna, refrigerate them in a covered container to let the cure work throughout the meat. This also gives the seasonings more time to absorb into the fibers of the meat. (Curing times: snack sticks 1 hour, summer sausage 2-3 hours, bolognas 4–6 hours).
  • Cook to internal temperatures of 150 degrees for pork, beef, veal, lamb, and game and 160 degrees for products containing poultry.
  • After removing snack sticks, summer sausage, ring bologna, or bologna from the smoker, immerse them in an ice water bath for 5–10 minutes. This stops the cooking process.
  • When marinating muscle jerky, let it marinade for 12–14 hours if sliced across the grain, 24–28 hours if sliced with the grain.
  • When making formed jerky, shoot the strips onto a wire rack, and let the strips sit 1–2 hours in the refrigerator to let the cure work throughout the meat. Letting the meat cure before making the strips will change the texture of the meat, making it very difficult to load into your jerky gun.
  • If your smoker doesn’t run as low as 150 degrees, try cold smoking the product first before smoking it at 200–225 degrees. Cold smoke snack sticks and formed jerky for 20–30 minutes, muscle jerky for 30–45 minutes, summer sausage for 1 hour, and bolognas for 2 hours. Cooking times will be slightly shorter than the times listed for cooking in an oven. This cold smoking should not be done on warm days!

Fresh Sausage

  • Using venison? Add 20-30% fatty pork or pork fat.
  • Using pork? Pork butts are perfect! Add up to 10% pork fat for really juicy sausages!

Seasoning Blends

Casings

If you're not making links, form it into patties for breakfast sausage or fry it loose for casseroles and other dishes.

Cooking Methods

Using a grill: Cook the fresh sausages at 350 degrees with medium smoke until the meat reaches an internal temperature of 150 degrees.

Using a stove: Brown the sausage in a skillet over medium heat until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees.

Snack Sticks 

  • Using venison? Add 5-10% fatty pork, pork fat, or lean ground beef (70-80% lean).
  • Using beef? Use 80-90% lean ground beef.

Seasoning Blends 
These come with a cure packet.

Casings

Cooking Methods

Using a smoker: Smoke them at 150 degrees with heavy smoke for 1 hour, then increase the temperature to 200 degrees until the internal temperature of the sticks hits 150 degrees (approximately 30–40 minutes longer).

Using an oven: Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per 10 pounds of meat to the seasoning blend, then cook them at 200 degrees until the internal temperature of the sticks hits 150 degrees (approximately 1 hour).

Summer Sausage or Ring Bologna

  • Using venison? Add 10-20% fatty pork, pork fat, or lean ground beef (70-80% lean).
  • Using beef? Use 80-90% lean ground beef.

Seasoning Blends 
These come with a cure packet.

Casings

Cooking Methods

Using a smoker: Smoke it at 150 degrees with heavy smoke for 4 hours, then increase the temperature to 200 degrees until the internal temperature of the meat hits 150 degrees (approximately 1–2 more hours).

Using an oven: Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per 10 pounds of meat to the seasoning blend, then cook it at 200 degrees until the internal temperature of the meat hits 150 degrees (approximately 3 hours).

Bologna

  • Using venison? Add 10-20% fatty pork, pork fat, or lean ground beef (70-80% lean).
  • Using beef? Use 80-90% lean ground beef.

Seasoning

Casings

Cooking Methods

Using a smoker: Smoke the bologna at 150 degrees with heavy smoke for 6 hours, then increase the temperature to 200 degrees until the internal temperature of the meat hits 150 degrees (approximately 5–6 more hours).

Using an oven: Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per 10 pounds of meat to the seasoning blend, then cook it at 200 degrees until the internal temp of the meat hits 150 degrees (approximately 6–7 hours).

Muscle Jerky 

  • Using venison? The hindquarters or the backstraps make great muscle jerky!
  • Using beef? Brisket flat, top round, or eye round are great choices.

Seasonings (available in our store)

Preparation Methods

Using a smoker: Smoke the jerky at 150 degrees with medium smoke until it is rigid, but tender enough that it doesn't snap when bent (approximately 6–8 hours).

Using an oven: Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per 10 pounds of meat to the marinade. Set the oven as low as possible (usually 175–200 degrees), and prop the door open 1–2” to let some of the heat escape. Cook the jerky until it is rigid, but tender enough that it doesn't snap when bent (approximately 4–6 hours).

Using a dehydrator: Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per 10 pounds of meat to the marinade. Set the dehydrator at 150 degrees or as low as possible. Dry the meat until it is rigid, but tender enough that it doesn't snap when bent (approximately 6–8 hours).

Formed Jerky 

  • Using venison? Any ground venison works fine.
  • Using beef? Use the leanest ground beef you can possibly find!

See "Muscle Jerky" for recommended seasonings.

Preparation Methods

Using a smoker: Smoke the jerky at 150 degrees with medium smoke until it is rigid, but tender enough that it doesn't snap when bent (approximately 3–4 hours).

Using an oven: Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per 10 pounds of meat to the seasoning blend. Set the oven as low as possible (usually 175–200 degrees), and prop the door open 1–2” to let some of the heat escape. Cook the jerky until it is rigid, but tender enough that it doesn't snap when bent (approximately 2–3 hours).

Using a dehydrator: Add 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke per 10 pounds of meat to the seasoning blend. Set the dehydrator at 150 degrees or as low as possible. Dry the meat until it is rigid, but tender enough that it doesn't snap when bent (approximately 3–4 hours).

Bacon

Use a skinned pork belly.

Basic cure for a 10-pound pork belly (adjust as needed to match the weight):

  • 4 ounces kosher salt
  • 2.25 ounces dark brown sugar
  • 0.75 ounces cure #1 (sodium nitrite)

For a maple bacon, slather the belly in maple syrup before applying the cure mixture. For a peppered bacon, add 3 tablespoons coarsely-ground black pepper to the basic cure mixture and lightly dust the belly with more before refrigerating for the pellicle formation.

Mix the cure ingredients well and apply the cure to all sides of the belly. Put the belly in a large zip lock bag or covered container. Refrigerate it for seven days and flip the belly once a day. Very thick bellies might take several extra days to cure; the belly should feel firm to the touch.

After the curing process is completed, remove the belly from the bag, rinse it well, and soak it in cold water for 30 minutes. Then pat it dry with paper towels, set it on a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet, and put it back in the refrigerator uncovered for 18–24 hours to form a pellicle.

Preparation Methods

Using a smoker: Smoke the belly at 150 degrees with medium smoke for 2 hours, then at 200 degrees until the internal temperature of the bacon hits 150 degrees (approximately 2–3 more hours).

Using an oven: Cook the belly at 200 degrees until the internal temperature of the bacon reaches 150 degrees (approximately 3–4 hours).

Let it cool on the counter for 30–40 minutes before refrigerating or freezing it.

We carry a full line of meat processing equipment and supplies, including grinders, stuffers, seasoning blends, and casings. Our staff is also happy to help you with your meat processing questions! Visit us during store hours or browse some of our products in our online catalog here:

Location:
Meadow Creek Barbecue Supply
140 W Main St
New Holland, PA 17557

Phone: (717) 355-0779

Hours:
Monday – Thursday: 8:00 am – 4:30 pm
Friday: 8:00 am – 7:00 pm
Saturday: 8:00 am – 1:00 pm
Sunday: Closed

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