Sausage casings help the ground meat inside form a particular shape, protect it, and often contribute to its flavor. But, with so many different sausage types and shapes, it’s not uncommon to ask – what are sausage casings made from?
Whether you’re buying sausages from a store or planning on making them yourself, learning about casings allows you to better understand their purpose and maybe help you avoid some you don’t like.
Sausage casings are divided into two categories: natural and artificial. Natural casings are made from animal intestines, while artificial ones are made from plastic, cellulose, or collagen. This article will dive deep into the sausage casing world and teach you everything you need to know about them.
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How Are Sausage Casings Made?
The production process of sausage casings varies depending on the material.
Natural sausage casings are made from animals’ intestines, more precisely, the submucosa, a layer of intestine containing collagen. These sausage casings are typically made from pigs but can also be made from goats, cattle, sheep, and even horses.
Traditionally, the intestines were manually cleaned, rinsed out, and then salted to prevent bacterial growth. Nowadays, machines do this job and ensure the intestines are thoroughly cleaned before use.
When it comes to artificial sausage casings, the process is different for every type.
Collagen casings are made from collagen derived from animals’ hides, tendons, or bones. They’re usually made from pork and beef, but fish and poultry can also be used for this purpose. The collagen is pushed into an extruder to form casings of different diameters and then dried.
These casings are cheaper than natural ones, and it’s much easier to control their size, which is why they’re widely spread. They’re also the only artificial casings that are edible.
Plastic casings are made from polymers (usually polypropylene, polyethylene, or polyamide). They are used for cooked meat and non-smoked products because smoke and water can’t penetrate the plastic. These casings are inedible, but don’t worry if you consume them by accident; they aren’t dangerous.
Cellulose casings are derived from plants. Typically, cotton linters and wood pulp are processed to get viscose, which is then extruded to obtain transparent, strong casings. In some cases, cellulose casings get treated with dye. Unlike plastic casings, these are permeable to water and smoke. Cellulose casings should be peeled off after cooking and are inedible. If you don’t eat meat and want to make vegan sausages, this is an excellent option.
Is Sausage Casing Made From Intestines?
Yes, natural casings are made from animals’ intestines. A layer of intestines called the submucosa is used for the production of sausage casings. It gets thoroughly washed with cold water to remove the blood and mucosa and then salted.
Their size depends on what animal they are made from, with lamb casings the narrowest and beef the widest.
Natural casings have many benefits. First, they are usually not treated with any potentially harmful chemicals. That’s why they are the only casings allowed for organic meat production by the EU and U.S. regulations.
Secondly, they enrich the meat’s flavor and maintain the texture. Natural casings also have an irregular shape and size, which makes them distinguishable.
What Is Chicken Sausage Casing Made Of?
Chicken sausage casings are usually of natural origin, i.e., made of animal intestines.
Natural casings add to the flavor and appearance of the meat, are edible, and can withstand high temperatures, which is essential if you’re cooking the sausage.
If you’re making chicken sausages, the choice is entirely up to you. Natural casings are typically the most frequent choice, but it depends on how big in diameter you want your sausages to be.
One of the downsides of natural casings is that they are irregular in size and shape. If you want your sausages to be of equal diameter, you may opt for collagen casings.
Although synthetic, collagen casings are also derived from animals and are usually edible.
Since chicken sausages are usually not smoked, so plastic casings are also used for them.
What Is Summer Sausage Casing Made Of?
Summer sausage casings vary depending on the manufacturer. Most often, the casings are made of animal intestines or collagen.
The casings made of animal intestines are of natural origin and often enrich the meat’s flavor. You can recognize them due to their varying size and shape.
They’re usually not treated with chemicals, which is essential to know if you have allergies or are trying to stay away from them.
Collagen casings are also often used for summer sausages. Although synthetic, the collagen is derived from animals, usually pork or beef. These casings are less expensive and edible, so they are an excellent alternative to natural ones.
Summer sausages can also be found in cellulose casings, which are derived from plants. These are not edible, so be sure you peel them off after cooking if you’re using them.
Some summer sausages are usually smoked. In that case, the only casing that can’t be used is plastic because smoke can’t penetrate the plastic casings.
If you’re unsure what casing is around your summer sausage, don’t worry because all casings are safe for consumption. You’ll easily determine whether you can chew the casing; if not, it’s most likely cellulose or plastic.
What Is Vegan Sausage Casing Made Of?
Vegan sausage casings are becoming more and more popular, even among people that consume meat.
Aside from being cruelty-free, these casings usually don’t contain gluten, GMO, or other potentially harmful ingredients. Plus, they’re used for organic, kosher, and halal production and are entirely edible.
These casings are usually made of a seaweed extract called carrageen and combined with glycerin, starch, and water.
It’s important to note they dissolve in water, so if you’re making your sausages, don’t rinse the casings out in water before cooking.
Artificial sausage casings made of cellulose and plastics are also vegan. Cellulose casings are made of pulp or cotton linters, but they aren’t edible.
However, if you’re making smoked or grilled vegan sausages, cellulose casings are an excellent option because they are smoke permeable.
Plastic casings are made of different polymers and don’t allow smoke penetration, which is why they’re only used for cooked sausages.
They’re vegan, but some people avoid using them due to the potentially harmful ingredients. As with cellulose, plastic casings are also inedible.
Similar to vegan sausage casing is vegetarian sausage casing – if you want to learn more, click here!
Sausage casings are available in numerous forms and can be natural or artificial. Natural casings made of animal intestines have been used for hundreds of years, contributing to the meat’s flavor.
Nowadays, you can also choose from various artificial casings made of collagen, cellulose, or plastic. And if you don’t consume meat or want to avoid potentially harmful ingredients, you can opt for vegan sausage casings that contain carrageen.
Hopefully this article helped you understand more about what sausage casings are made from and which option is the best for you.