Encapsulated Citric Acid questions

  • My question regards the use of ECA…Tomorrow, I will be grinding and mixing and stuffing 100 lbs of product for Summer Sausage and snack sticks for Christmas presents, however saturday and sunday will be dedicated to smoking and packaging.
    I’ve been doing this for awhile and never used ECA for my stuff, but decided to give it a whirl (I will only be using it on (1) 25 pound batch of snack sticks). With cleanup being the worse part of all of this, I do not want to dirty up my mixer again on saturday morning.
    I know that re-grinding with the ECA is a no-no and I have no intentions of doing that anyways. However, if I do not over mix the meat and keep it super cold when doing so, is it entirely possible that there will be no issue with the ECA dispersing into the meat before I actually get around to smoking it, and if so, if it’s already in the casings, what can actually happen to the final product if it indeed does?

  • Walton's Employee

    @matt93 Great question, sadly I don’t have a great answer! The issue is that you might be totally fine or you might end up with a dry and crumbly product. It will all depend on if the casing of the citric acid breaks down or not. Now, I did an experiment here a few days ago where I had a hot cup of water and a cold one and I added the Encapsulated Citric Acid(ECA) to both of them. Immediately the hot one started to dissolve the cottonseed oil that is used to Encapsulate the Citric Acid and within a minute the water was very tangy. After a few minutes, the cold water had some tang but nowhere near the same amount as the hot one. Even the next day there was only a slightly tangy taste to it, which to me meant that most of the encapsulation held.

    I would say that there is a chance that you will process with no major issues. The most important thing you can do to ensure this is to keep everything as cold as possible when dealing with ECA, and when you are mixing in the ECA add it during the last 60 seconds.

    Obviously I am not guaranteeing anything and you might end up ruining the batch. What will happen is the acid will release to soon and denature your product causing it to be dry and crumbly.

    My suggestion would be that even though clean up is a pain that you do that one batch the same day as smoking to ensure everything comes out correct!

  • Thanks you for the quick response, Jonathon…Interesting experiment that you performed; it would stand to reason that under normal circumstances that the cottonseed oil doesn’t break down until it reaches a temperature of 130 F, therefore keeping the temp down would be paramount in keeping it intact until the final stage of smoking/cooking.
    Cleaning up the mixer and stuffer is such a pain in the ass which is why we always try to do a minimum of 50 lb batches when it’s possible. I might just try it and see what happens. Protein extraction is so critical, so not sure how easy its going to be to mix in the ECA in the last 60 seconds without rupturing the oil casing…Quite the dilemma, and I hate wasting any meat.
    The mixer I bought that attaches to my grinder has made life SO much easier and I wouldn’t trade it for the old method of hand mixing, especially when doing 25 pound batches product.
    One more question: How quickly does the ECA permeate the product when it does rupture, and is there any real difference between letting it sit for a few hours before smoking, or going immediately from stuffer to smoker? I tend to overthink these things.

  • Walton's Employee

    @matt93 Yes, keeping it cold is going to be your best bet here without a doubt. Adding ECA during the last 60 seconds of mixing is always best practice, and that might be where you run into the real issue. I still say there is a chance that it is okay. You might get some breaking from the mechanical energy of the paddles but hopefully, it won’t be too much!

    I do all of the cleaning here of equipment when we are done with videos (@Austin always feels bad about that!) but I honestly don’t mind it, pop on a podcast and I am good to go!

    There won’t be a real difference between letting it sit for a few hours and going directly to the smoker, the only real issue will be if some of the encapsulation broke from the mixing. As for how quickly it permeates that’s 100% dependent on how well it is mixed into the meat.

    ECA needs to be at 135° for about an hour before it totally breaks down.

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