Snack Sticks - AC LEGG #116 with some additions to crank it up a notch...

Discussion in 'Sausage' started by dward51, Aug 1, 2016.

  1. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Well, I'm dang near out of the Smoking Gun jerky rounds from my last 10 pound batch, so I figured I would make sticks for a change.  I bought a AC Legg #116 kit from "Ask the Meatman" on Amazon a while back and this seemed like a good time to open it up.  Kit came with a bag of the #116 snack stick mix, a small bag of cure (cure and seasoning are not pre-mixed), and three 15 meter, 19mm diameter collagen casings for making up to 25 pounds of sticks.

    Here is the recipe I'm using today.  Starting with the basic #116 mix and tweaking it a little by adding honey, jalapeno powder, and some B&P special binder (phosphates) for added moisture retention. Just before stuffing I will add in a little ice water to loosen up the mix and finish off with some encapsulated citric acid for that certain twang. Recipe is for a 5 pound batch.  Measurements are all in grams (except meat) for precision:

    AC Legg #116 Jalapeno Honey Snack Sticks
    • 5 pounds of 80/20 ground chuck
    • 105 grams of AC Legg #116 snack stick seasoning
    • 5.7 grams of Cure #1 (I'm using up the rest of my LEM cure)
    • 142 grams of Honey
    • 11.3 grams of Butcher & Packer "special binder" (AmesPhos or other sausage phosphates will work)
    • 5.8 grams of Jalapeno powder (from Savory Spice Shop)
    • 1/4 cup of water to dissolve the cure in and mix with meat.
    Mix the above and then put into the fridge overnight to let the flavors meld and the cure do it's thing. The next day, just before stuffing and smoking add:
    • 17 grams ECA (encapsulated citric acid)
    • 1/2 cup ice cold water - I used a little less, but base actual amount on the "wetness" desired of the mix for stuffing
    I love this "postage" scale.  I don't know how I ever made sausage without one of these.  If you do not have one, it's worth the $25 or so to pick one up on Amazon (and they have higher capacity ones).

    80/50 ground chuck weighed out (tare out the bowl)

    AC Legg #116 seasoning mixed with the Jalapeno powder, and B&P special binder; cure #1 mixed with water; measured honey.  I figured I would use of the last of my LEM 17mm mahogany collagen casings also.  "Notes" with weights also shown.

    All mixed up and put into container for an overnight rest in the refrigerator to let the flavors meld and the cure do it's thing.  This stuff is pretty dang sticky due to the "special binder".

    Fast forward to the next morning.  Time to add the ECA, stuff and smoke. I have noted that ECA from different suppliers will sometimes recommend a different amount per pound of meat.  I'm using up what's left of my LEM ECA and their ratio is 3 ounces of ECA to 25 pounds of meat.  I'm making 5 pounds, so it was 0.6 ounces or 17 grams (ignore my sticker on the ECA container as that is a 1/2 or minimum load of ECA at 1.7 grams per pound.  I'm going full strength on these sticks).  Oh, and if you do not have a gram scale with 1/100th of a gram precision, they are also inexpensive and essential when weighing amounts for small batches.  I also like to verify calibration before each use.

    Prepped the e-WSM (WSM with an electric element & PID controller mod), loaded one of Todd's pellet trays with Pitmaster blend pellets, and then stuck the tray and pellets in the convection oven for 20 minutes at 200* (on convection) to dry them out.  No photos of that or the stuffing as I was working by myself and got pretty sticky loading the stuffer.

    I usually stuff the 17mm casings and feed them onto a turntable or lazy susan which the wife turns and coils the sticks on (one continuous length of stick.  I cut them to length for smoking after stuffing).  I was by myself and could not find her turntable (it the one she uses for cake decorating).  So, plan "B" was cut them as I go.  BAD IDEA.  I also remembered why I'm not a fan of 17mm casings.  They are a booger to get onto even the 3/8" LEM stainless tube, and cutting them as I went instead of at the end was causing meat to leak out the end of each new section (not tied).  Tried twisting the collagen, but that was a no go also due to blowouts.  OK, get the 19mm casings from the kit loaded and rock on.  Like I said, sticky so no photos.

    I did make a test patty with the meat left in the stuffing tube and it was spot on.  Excellent moisture retention and perfect twang.  Meat is cooked through, pink color is from the cure when it cooked.

    Onto the e-WSM for a 4 step smoke.  2 hours at 135*, 2 hours at 145*, 1 hour at 155*, and finish at 165* until done. The AUBER PID controller has up to 6 pre-programmable steps and is perfect for this. I did not bother with drying the casings like I would with natural as they were collagen. Also went with smoke from the pellet tray from the start (about 1/2 tray lit from both ends).  Should get 3-4 hours out of that.  The 17mm casings were mahogany and the 19mm are the clear ones.  Two grates spaced with two blocks of cut 2x4.

    At the end of the 155* cycle this is where they are.  Good color from the smoke.

    I'll post finished photos later....
    ab canuck likes this.
  2. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Done!  About 7 1/2 hours in the e-WSM. Temps ranged from 153 to 152, so it's perfect.

    Moved them inside on racks to "bloom".  I'll bag them first thing in the morning in brown paper bags.  Notice not really any shrinkage (and these were not stuffed super tight).  That is another plus from using "special binder" or phosphates in sausage & stick making.

    Cut open one of the 17mm ones.  Taste is spot on.  Just a little heat on the back end and a slight Jalapeno flavor.  These will be a big hit at the office tomorrow.  Should have made more.

  3. redheelerdog

    redheelerdog Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    I like the honey, jalapeno addition to the AC 116. I have used the 116 several times before and it really makes a great snack stick.

    Nice job Dave - Points!

  4. crazymoon

    crazymoon Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    DW51, nice job on the sticks they look scrumptious!
  5. smokinal

    smokinal Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    Nice job Dave!

    The sticks look delicious!


  6. nepas

    nepas Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    Them is good looking stix. The AC #116 Mix is good. Have you tried Owens BBQ sausage mixes yet?
  7. scottma

    scottma Smoke Blower

    Wow those look great Dave.  I sense making snack sticks in my future.  
  8. You know you have to send out samples !!     Great job looks tasty   [​IMG]

  9. driedstick

    driedstick Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Dang it man them look good,,, I will have to try this POINTS!!!!

  10. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Thanks guys!!!!

    And NEPAS, I'm probably going to give Owen's a try once I get close to running out of #116.  I've heard very good things about their mixes.
    nepas likes this.
  11. canuhover

    canuhover Newbie

    Those sticks look great.  Do you find #116 very salty tasting?  Some of the snax sticks mixes I've tried have been to salty.
  12. nepas

    nepas Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Nice  sticks. like the electric wsm too.

    You wont be disappointed with the Owens mixes.
  13. tjmitche

    tjmitche Smoke Blower

    Great looking sticks!  Can you explain the "extra ingredients" like the "special binder" and the ECA?  We're prepping to do about 30 lbs of sticks next weekend and I was wondering what these add?  Do they impact curing? texture? taste?  I see you added cure as well. Doesn't AC come with cure?

    Also, has anyone tried the AC Legg #188?  I was planning on giving that a try in addition to the standard 116.  


  14. dward51

    dward51 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    The special binder is Butcher & Packer #414 (a phosphate binder for sausage), AmesPhos is another popular brand but I think it is being discontinued.  Phosphates help with the retention of moisture in sausages. I think it also makes the mouth texture better (smoother).  Pretty much all commercial sausages will have a phosphate binder, but by letting the commercial butcher keep more mositure/water in the mix it is also a cost effective additive for commercial purposes (basically you are paying for more the liquid it holds instead of more meat, but it does improve the meat quality).  you can see what I mean about the appearance of the texture in the close up photo I took of the cut sticks in the first post in this thread.  I think the proper application of phosphates improves the product quality (but you can over use phosphates from what I have been told - I have not done so yet).

    ECA is encapsulated citric acid.  This is a way to get the twang you get from real slim jims and other fermented sticks without having to go through the multi-day fermentation process.  Basically little balls of citric acid are encapsulated by a outer shell of fat.  The fat will melt in the 140-150* range during the smoking/cooking process and release the CA to do it's thing.  By then the meat is set and you get just the twang.  If you put powdered CA in instead of encapsulated CA, it starts to work while the meat is still raw which will turn the color whitish/grey and also make the texture grainy.  This will also happen if you add the ECA in advance and let the mix sit or add ECA with a grinder as the stuffer. ECA should always be added by hand mixing at the last minute before using a manual stuffer.  That way the meat will set before the ECA is released.  Some people use cultured buttermilk powder (Saco buttermilk from the grocery store baking items isle).  It will also add a twang, but the ECA is more pronounced IMO and I like it better.  Also a little goes a long way as I only needed 17 grams for a 5 pound stick recipe.  I have gotten to the point that I use ECA in probably 90% of my sticks.  I will try a new mix "as is" first for the other 10%.  I bought some Owens BBQ mixes over the holiday and will make at least one batch of each flavor "as is" from the directions first.

    And yes, AC Legg mixes like the #116 do come with a bag of cure (unless it is a fresh sausage mix). The cure is in a separate bag and not pre-mixed with the other spices.  This also lets you take a bag of mix that can make 25 pounds and measure out enough for whatever weight you want to make.  I usually run either 5 or 10 pound batches. I just had some LEM cure that was already open and saved the Legg cure packet for later, using the last of my LEM stock.  I have not tried the 188 mix, but I do often add jalapeno powder to my sticks & sausages.  I'm a fan of that rather than using cayenne as you get more flavor and the heat is not just pure heat like it is with cayenne.  It has character. I have a Savor Spice Shop near my office and I get my jalapeno powder and 4 kinds of very wonderful and fresh paprika from them now.  If you have one near you, that place is a sausage maker's spice heaven.  They have dang near every spice I would ever want and the quality is spot on IMO.

    Bottom line is don't be afraid to doctor up a store bought spice mix (but try at least one batch as in the directions).  Also keep notes of what you changed/added and how it came out.  Nothing like 3 months later thinking those sticks I doctored up a while back were pretty good, now what was it I did and how many grams those extra spices did I use.....
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
    c farmer likes this.
  15. tjmitche

    tjmitche Smoke Blower


    Thanks for the follow up. Great info!  We've got that last weekend of late deer season coming up then we'll be smoking for the next couple of weeks.  Looking forward to making lots of sticks. I did  a little looking and it looks like the nearest Savory Spics Shop is 4-5 hrs away in about 3 different directions.  But it looks like they've got a great web site.  We'll have to do some online shopping.

    Thanks again,  good info!

    Todd M
  16. disco

    disco Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Great looking sticks and a great post!


  17. jipnsmoke

    jipnsmoke Smoke Blower

    Yes great looking sticks. Could you send some out to all of us? LOL
  18. smokin jay

    smokin jay Smoking Fanatic

    Nice sticks Dave! Like the 2×4's!
  19. Nice looking sticks. I have a question which may seem kinda silly but im using as MES 30 and for the smoking process should I just use the built in probe for my temp control along with maybe a second probe on the side for a second option/reading ? I see lots of guys use a hand probe in their pics but I hate to open the smoker during the process! I was thinking dual probe in two diff areas of the smoker for a diff reading area and then when they get to" temp" quickly hand probe the other sticks to make sure I get similar reads ??! Thanks in advance for the suggestions.
  20. jipnsmoke

    jipnsmoke Smoke Blower

    ​I drop two temp probes through the vent. One to measure inside temp. and the other probe in the meat. I don't rely on built in prob. They will mess up and when is the question. Just my input. Hope it helps you. Good luck

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