Sausage casings are also sometimes called sausage skins. If you have visited a butcher's shop, you have probably come across these terms.
So, we all know what a sausage is. But what is a sausage casing?
Sausage casings are the skins that enclose the filling of a sausage. The filling can be minced meat, fat, seasoning, and sometimes even vegetables. This skin is used to give the sausage its firm shape with the help of meat processors. There are different kinds of sausage casings available in the market now.
Options starting from artificial, natural, animal intestines, to even vegan sausage skins, are available in the market for purchase.
Let's get to know these different types of sausage casings, and what kinds of sausages they are used for.
What Are Sausage Casings?
Sausages are a cylindrical form of minced meat, seasoning, and fat. This filling is enclosed by what we call a sausage skin.
Traditionally, the sausage meat mixture is stuffed into animal intestines. A lot of people were sort of repulsed by the idea of eating minced meat in animal intestines.
Now, there are a lot of artificial casings available in the market. Most sausages nowadays use this form of synthetic casings.
There are options available for a vegan casing as well.
What Are the Different Types Of Sausage Casing?
Without further ado, let's get into the description of five different sausage casings. The five main sausage casings are:
1. Natural Casings
Sausages were invented in around 4,000 BC. People would cook meat that was stuffed into the intestines or a goat’s stomach.
Now, the natural casings for sausages were constructed with a layer of farm animals in the stein called the submucosa. Animals commonly used are cattle, sheep, pigs, and even a horse at times!
Natural casings consist of naturally occurring collagen. Encasing minced meat in casings like this has been around for quite some time now. The all-natural collagen-based casing is safe to consume.
Now, instead of filling the intestines or the natural casings manually, high-speed machinery is used to make sausages in bulk. Machines are also used to scrub the intestines thoroughly before use. Previously, they had to be cleaned by hand.
A lot of people prefer using natural casing because of the visual appeal and flavor. Natural casings can give sausages a much richer and deeper flavor. These casings are also breathable and therefore give the sausage a better shape.
The readability of the casing also helps the sausage soak in a lot of the smokey flavor when cooking.
Natural casings do not give sausages a very perfect shape. Each sausage will be of a different shape.
2. Collagen Casings
People have been using collagen casings for quite some time now. These casings are made with animal collagen that is taken from cowhides.
During the making of these casings, some manufacturers also include tendons and bones. There are different variations of this sausage casing that is alternatively made with poultry or fish.
Because the casing is made with all-natural ingredients, it is completely edible.
3. Synthetic Casings
Synthetic casings are made with a mixture of plastic, cellulose, and collagen. A lot of the time, synthetic casings are not edible.
Unlike natural casings, a synthetic casing is a lot easier to fill. They can give the sausage a better shape, and weight.
Cases made out of viscose, which is a mixture of cellulose extracted from cotton linter or wood bulb, are called cellulose casings. Unlike natural casings, cellular casings are quite strong and translucent.
They are permeable when smoked. But, these casings are not edible and hence gotten rid of before eating. Oftentimes, plastic casings are used for sausages that are not smoked.
These casings of course have to be peeled off for consumption. Plastic casings are not permeable at all. Depending on the kind of synthetic casing that you are using, you might have to soak the casing in tap water.
A lot of the time, the casings also have to be poked with a knife before you stuff the sausage so that there are no air pockets.
Most synthetic casings are not edible and need to be removed before consumption. Cellulose, plastic, and viscose casings are not safe to eat.
4. Fibrous Casings
This is a casing that is made using mainly cellulose. A base of abaca paper is used to help strengthen the casing. Abaca paper, also referred to as manila hemp paper is popular for its high tensile properties.
These are quite versatile and are used quite frequently for their high stability. When dry the casing is stiff but strong. You need to add moisture to the casing by adding water to it and making it flexible enough to be stuffed.
Similar to synthetic casings, fibrous casings also have to be removed.
5. Vegetarian Casings
Vegetarian sausage skins are 100% plant-based. They are made with a mixture of starches, sugar, and vegetable glycerin.
Whether or not you can eat a vegetarian casing depends on the ingredients being used.
Depending on your location, vegetarian sausage casings can be a little bit difficult to find. But, the casings are also halal and kosher. These casings are completely edible and don't have to be removed when eating.
Sausage Casing Alternatives: 2 Substitute That You May Like
If you can’t get your hand on artificial or natural casings, you can easily make a casing of your own.
1. Muslin Casing
Usually, Muslin is used to make casings for sausages as an alternative.
You can cut 6 inches wide strips of the cloth that are 16 inches long to make a casing of about one and a half inches in diameter. Then, you will have to fold and stitch the strips together to make a tube.
This is a casing that has to be removed after cooking the sausage.
2. Freezing Method
If you don't want to use a sausage casing entirely, you can try and freeze the minced meat in the refrigerator. Try wrapping it in cling film and then freezing it to give the sausage some shape.
If you want the sausage to hold its shape even when cooking- you will have to add binding ingredients into the mixture such as soy protein, or bread crumbs.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What Kind Of Sausages Use Natural Casings?
Typically, fresh sausages, dried fermented sausages, wieners, snack sticks, and some types of frankfurters are made using natural casings.
2. What Kind Of Sausages Use Artificial Casings?
Usually, Frankfurter-type sausages are made with an artificial or cellulose casing.
3. Which Sausage Casing Is The Strongest?
When compared, synthetic casings are much stronger than natural casings. While natural casings may sometimes burst open when cooking- synthetic casings rarely do so. They are mostly used because of their uniformity and strength.
4. What Is The Purpose Of Using A Sausage Casing?
A sausage casing is what gives the sausage its shape. Without the casing, the filling of meat inside would spread around into a random shape. It will also not hold, and will most probably crumble apart on the pan.
There are a lot of different types of sausage casings in the market now. You can choose anything you like.
If you want a more rich and deep flavor, natural casings will be the right option for you. But, if you cannot stand the idea of having to consume meat from the intestine of some other animal, you can try synthetic, collagen, or artificial casings as well.
Just make sure that you know whether or not the artificial casing is edible. Vegetarian people have plant-based sausage casings options as well.
There are quite a few options for people with different needs.
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