You’ve bought sausages, thought of a good recipe, and are ready to start cooking, but one thing has just occurred to you. You have no idea how to tell if sausage casing is edible.
You may have forgotten to ask the butcher, or it doesn’t say on the packet. Is there a way to tell if you can eat sausage casing just by looking at it?
Generally, cellulose or synthetic casing isn’t edible and should be removed, and if the casing is too thick or looks like plastic, it shouldn’t be eaten either. Keep reading to learn more.
What is the Casing Around Sausage Made of?
There are several types of sausage casings: artificial (collagen and cellulose) and natural.
Collagen casing is an artificial type of sausage casing and is typically used for dry sausages. It’s made of beef collagen and is quite fragile (so be careful when trying to close these casings). While collagen casings are edible, their texture can vary. Some may be slightly chewy, whereas others might be almost indistinguishable from the meat.
It’s permeable to smoke, and it will shrink when filled with meat. It can be used for different sausage types and sizes.
Cellulose casing is made of synthetic materials. Many butchers use them for Frankfurter sausages, but remove them before packaging. This casing is excellent for industrial processes as it offers uniformity, but consumers usually find it unpleasant to eat.
The benefit of this type of casing is that it’s not prone to breakage and is easy to handle.
The natural casing is used for a wide variety of sausages – pepperoni, wieners, fresh sausages, and more. These casings are typically made of animal intestines, but some butchers also use animal esophagus and bladder. The aroma and flavor from natural casings are believed to enhance the taste of the sausage, offering a unique experience to those who favor traditional methods.
Natural casings adapt quickly to the sausage’s shape, and size and generally are soft and very fragile. This type is also the most expensive.
On rare occasions, people use alternative casings made of plastic. They are impermeable, which is why they’re used for non-smoked sausages. It’s crucial to understand that plastic casings are never edible. Lately, a vegetarian casing has also become popular.
Related read: Sausage Casing Alternatives
Can You Eat Sausage Casing?
I’ve mentioned the types of sausage casing in the section above – two out of three are edible.
The only kind of casing you’ll need to remove from the sausage is the cellulose or synthetic casing.
But how to tell if sausage casing is edible can be tricky in particular cases. Maybe you can’t find any information about the product material. Here’s what you need to know, and it’s actually quite simple.
A very thick casing isn’t meant to be eaten. Although collagen casing is generally edible, some salami types have a thicker casing that you can’t really chew.
The plastic casing is easy to recognize – it doesn’t taste very good, and it’s impossible to chew. Also, this type of casing tends to be uniform and smooth, like on some Frankfurter sausages.
A curved sausage typically has a natural casing (which can be eaten), while a transparent casing is generally made of cellulose and gives the sausage a uniform shape.
Tip: It’s a good practice to ask your butcher or supplier about the casing if you’re unsure. They will be familiar with the products they sell and can guide you accurately.
So now you have an idea of what’s edible or not for us humans. For those dog owners out there, how many of you treat your furry friend to a small piece of sausage now and then? Are sausage casings safe for dogs? Click here to find out!
How to Remove Sausage Casings
In case you figure out that the sausage casing on the ones you’ve bought or have made isn’t edible, you’ll need to remove it.
Often, this is done before you cook or fry it, while sometimes it’s enough to remove it before eating.
Here are a few tips on how to do it.
- When eating Frankfurter sausages, you can remove the casing by peeling it off after cooking because it may be easier than if you do it before.
- In case you encounter a plastic casing, make sure you peel it off slowly and carefully. Meat can sometimes stick to the casing, which can mean that a part of the sausage will end up in the trash can.
- Some sausages are easier to peel when frozen. Make sure you have a sharp knife, cut along the sausage lengthwise, and slowly peel off the casing, ensuring it doesn’t fall apart.
Read also: How to Make Sausage Casing Tender
If the casing is particularly stubborn, soaking the sausage in warm water for a few minutes can help loosen it, making the removal process smoother.
How do I distinguish between natural, collagen, and cellulose casings when purchasing sausages?
Answer: The packaging usually indicates the type of casing used. Natural casings are often labeled as such or might mention that they are made from animal intestines. Collagen casings are typically mentioned as “edible” and might specify they’re made from collagen. Cellulose casings are usually labeled as “non-edible” or may specify that they need to be removed before consumption. When in doubt, always check the product description or consult with the seller or manufacturer.
How can I visually identify if a casing is edible?
Answer: While it’s not always foolproof to determine by appearance alone, edible casings like natural and collagen are often more transparent and cling tightly to the meat. Cellulose casings, on the other hand, tend to be more opaque and can occasionally look loose or wrinkled around the sausage.
Is there a taste or texture difference between edible and non-edible casings?
Answer: Yes. Edible casings, especially natural ones, may impart a distinct, often pleasurable bite or “snap” when consumed. Non-edible cellulose casings, if accidentally ingested, might have a tough or chewy texture, but they are generally tasteless.
How do I prepare sausages if I’m unsure about the edibility of the casing?
Answer: If you’re uncertain about the casing’s edibility, it’s best to cook the sausage as directed, and then remove the casing before eating. This ensures you’re not consuming something unintended, and you still get to enjoy the meat inside.
Are there any health risks associated with consuming non-edible casings?
Answer: While consuming a small amount of non-edible casing like cellulose occasionally won’t likely cause harm, it’s not meant for consumption and can be hard for some people to digest. Regularly ingesting non-edible materials is not recommended.
So, can you eat sausage casing? Hopefully, you now know exactly how to tell if sausage casing is edible and whether you should peel it off the sausage.
Some types are easy to mix up, but experience is a great teacher, and you’ll learn over time.
One thing is for sure – nothing terrible will happen to you if you accidentally eat a cellulose casing. It’s just not very enjoyable or easy to chew. Therefore, you’re meant to remove that type of casing before eating.