Smoking Sausages: What's the Difference Between Citric and Ascorbic Acid?

Smoking Sausages: What's the Difference Between Citric and Ascorbic Acid?

Posted on: January 17, 2023

Sausages are quite popular. To most of us, the fact that they take a short time to prepare is a big advantage. For breakfast, lunch, or dinner, sausages work with a variety of accompaniments.

Sausages are quite popular. To most of us, the fact that they take a short time to prepare is a big advantage. For breakfast, lunch, or dinner, sausages work with a variety of accompaniments.

How do you like your sausages, smoked or fresh? Smoking sausages is probably one of the easiest things you can do in your food smoker. There are two different smoking processes for sausages: hot smoking and cold smoking. With hot smoking, the sausage is fully cooked during the smoking process, while in cold smoking, the meat is first cured before smoking, which drives us to our next point.

Do You Need to Cure Your Sausages Before Smoking?

Whether to cure or not simply depends on what you want to achieve, the type of meat you use, or the type of sausage made.

Curing your meat before smoking gives you an extended shelf life and prevents the sausage from contamination. When the meat is exposed to a low oxygen environment, especially during smoking, it kills various bacteria that can be harmful to the human body. Bacteria, mainly those that cause botulism, tend to incubate when they find a favorable environment, putting you at risk. Curing also helps achieve more flavor and allows the meat to hold more moisture during smoking.

There are different ways to cure sausage, including using nitrites/nitrates. To make your smoked sausage even more delicious during curing, people also add citric and ascorbic acid. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between the two to help you make a more informed decision the next time you are making smoked sausages.

Check out our entire catalog of articles on brining and curing your meat here:
What’s the Difference Between Pickling, Brining, Marinating, and Curing?
Curing and Smoking Meats for Home Food Preservation
Directions On Brining And Curing Your Meat For Food Smoking

Citric Acid

This is one of the most powerful weak natural acids and the fastest method to impart the traditional tangy flavour commonly associated with fermented/dry-aged food. When mixed with a proper curing agent, citric acid prevents the meat from spoilage and reduces the pH level, improving the texture. It’s ability to speed up the conversion of nitrite to nitrate oxide equally allows you to get a perfect reddish-pink colour without having to brine or refrigerate your meat overnight.

You can either use regular citric acid or encapsulated citric acid.

Regular Citric Acid

With the regular citric acid, there’s nothing that’s added to it, making it maintain its pH level. This allows for acidity to immediately dissolve the connective and muscle tissues, changing the overall texture.

Encapsulated Citric Acid

Unlike regular citric acid, encapsulated citric acid is coated in hydrogenated vegetable oil or maltodextrin. The coating (barrier) between the meat and the acid allows it to dissolve slower, giving you greater control when mixing citric acid and meat.

Another advantage of using citric acid is the alteration of the pH level, making the meat tender, which cuts down cooking time and makes it more receptive to spices.

How to Use Encapsulated Citric Acid in Sausage

Here are the steps to follow when you want to make your smoked sausage with encapsulated citric acid:

  1. Properly grind your meat.
  2. Add the spices you want in your sausage, cure, and water, then mix thoroughly.
  3. To the mixture, add encapsulated acid depending on how you want your sausages, either less tangy and acidic or vice versa.If you use 3–4 oz for every 25 lbs should do it. When you have a larger quantity like 100 lbs, 12–16 oz of encapsulated citric acid can be used.
  4. After stuffing, cook your sausages in the food smoker.
  5. To help set the casing on the sausage, you can put your sausages in an ice bath once ready and out of the food smoker. This also helps lower the temperature.

Caution against mixing encapsulated citric acid and your meat mixture for too long as you risk damaging the capsule, leading to the release of citric acid too early in the preparation process.

What About Ascorbic Acid?

In sausage making, ascorbic acid helps ensure the nitrates’ red coloring effect is enhanced. This prevents oxidation and discolouration, especially during storage. It is important to note that ascorbic acid is more of an antioxidant, which will prevent the fat from going rancid.

While it’s also used as a cure or accelerator, ascorbic acid doesn’t affect the flavour. When mixing ascorbic acid, you shouldn’t combine nitrate salt/salvianda with ascorbic acid in one go, but add one after the other in the mix as it can reduce the effect of both and fail to get the desired results.

Final Thoughts

Both ascorbic and citric acid play different roles in sausage making. To achieve a tangy flavour, you should use citric acid, but if you are looking to enhance the color, you should use ascorbic acid.

Interested in checking out more information about sausages? Look no further than our articles on:
How To Tell When Smoked Sausage Is Done
The Ultimate Guide to Smoking Sausage and Brats
All About Cold Smoking Sausage for Newbies
Sausage Preparation and the Pro-Tips on Seasoning

For more great ideas on how to get the most out of your Bradley Smoker, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Blog for more tips & tricks.