If you’re a sausage lover, you’ve probably wondered what goes into your sausage, or more specifically, what casings are used.
The confusion surrounding sausage casings is understandable, given the various types and shapes available.
Different types of sausages require different casings, and there are four primary types of sausage casings used today. In this article, we’ll explore each type of casing in detail.
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Natural Casings: Made from Animal Intestines
Natural casings are the most popular type of casings used for sausages. These casings are made from the cleaned intestines of animals, including pigs, sheep, and cows.
The most widely used natural casing is the 32-34 mm hog casing, which is commonly used for sausages like bratwurst.
Natural casings are available in a variety of diameters. Lamb casings, for example, have a small diameter of 19-24 mm and are used for breakfast link sausage and snack stick-type sausages.
In contrast, beef casings have a large diameter of up to 5+ inches and are typically used for sausages like bologna and salamis.
One of the unique features of natural casings is that they can form curved links, which is why they are used for sausages like bratwurst.
These casings provide a traditional look and texture to sausages and are often preferred by sausage makers who prioritize authenticity.
However, there are some downsides to using natural casings. They need to be detangled and thoroughly rinsed before use, and they also require salting and refrigeration to prevent spoilage.
Natural casings can also be more difficult to work with than other types of casings, such as collagen casings.
Collagen casings are made from beef collagen, which is a protein found in connective tissue and tendons. They are available in different diameters and can be either edible or non-edible.
One of the main advantages of using collagen casings over natural casings is that they can be used straight out of the bag, without the need for any special preparation like detangling and rinsing.
Additionally, collagen casings are a shelf-stable product, so they do not need to be salted and refrigerated like natural casings do.
Another advantage of collagen casings is that they are preferred for sausages that cannot contain any pork. This is because natural casings are usually made from pig intestines, so they cannot be used for sausages that are halal or kosher, or for sausages that need to be pork-free for other reasons.
However, there are also some downsides to using collagen casings. One of them is that the links are perfectly straight, which some people may find boring.
Another is that the links tend to unravel more easily than natural casings, which can be frustrating when you’re trying to cook or handle the sausages. To address this issue, some people use twine to hold the links in place when making sausage with collagen casings.
Some people believe that collagen casings do not have as much “pop” or snap as natural casings when you bite into them. This is because collagen casings are not as elastic as natural casings, so they do not have the same ability to expand and contract as the sausage cooks.
However, this is largely a matter of personal preference, and many people find collagen casings to be a perfectly acceptable alternative to natural casings.
Fibrous casings are a type of sausage casing that was invented in the 1930s and is made from coated filament paper. These casings are non-edible and come in mahogany or clearance colors.
Fibrous casings are usually used as a replacement for natural beef casings because they are larger in diameter and extremely strong, which allows the sausage to be packed tightly without worrying about blowouts.
One of the primary advantages of fibrous casings is their strength. This strength allows for the production of larger sausages that need a uniform shape, such as summer sausages. The casing can be stuffed very tightly without the worry of it breaking, resulting in a smooth and uniform sausage.
Fibrous casings also have an advantage over natural casings in terms of appearance. Because they are made from coated filament paper, they have a consistent appearance that can be customized to match the product being produced.
This consistency is important for commercial producers who want their products to look uniform and appealing.
Fibrous casings are also easy to handle, which is another reason why they are popular among commercial producers. They can be stored at room temperature, and do not need to be soaked or rinsed like natural casings. This makes them a convenient option for producers who are looking for a hassle-free casing.
Overall, fibrous casings are a versatile option for sausage makers who are looking for a strong, consistent, and convenient casing. They are particularly well-suited for larger sausages that require a uniform shape, and their durability means that they are less likely to break or tear during production.
Cellulose casings are another type of sausage casing that is widely used in the food industry.
Unlike natural and collagen casings, cellulose casings are inedible and are made from plant-based materials, specifically cellulose fibers that have been treated with chemicals to create a viscose material.
This viscose material is then used to make a tubular casing, which can be filled with sausage meat.
One of the primary advantages of cellulose casings is their ability to be easily removed, which is why they are often used in the production of skinless hot dogs. Because the casings are inedible, they can be easily peeled off of the sausage after cooking.
Cellulose casings are also ideal for large-scale and automated manufacturing because they are strong and can withstand high-speed filling machines. This makes them a popular choice for mass-produced sausages.
Cellulose casings are odorless and flavorless, which means they do not affect the taste of the sausage. They are also uniform in size and shape, which makes them perfect for creating consistent-looking sausages.
However, one potential disadvantage of cellulose casings is that they are not as permeable as natural casings, which can impact the way the sausage cooks and the texture of the final product.
Additionally, because they are not edible, some people may prefer the taste and texture of sausages made with natural or collagen casings.
In conclusion, there are several types of sausage casings available on the market, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Whether you prefer the traditional appearance of natural casings or the ease of use of collagen casings, there is a casing out there to suit your needs.