Sausage Casings 101
Sausage casings are an essential part of making sausage and it’s important to have a high-quality casing. A premium casing is important in ensuring your end product is flavorful, processed evenly, and has great texture.
The type of casing used is typically dictated by tradition but also varies by processing technique, ingredients, and size. Most sausage casings are natural, collagen or fibrous, with a wide array of sizes and applications depending on the type of sausage. Sausages can also be made with cellulose, plastic and vegetarian.
Natural animal casings are made from the inner mucosa lining of the small intestine. These casings can be from hog, beef and sheep. Strict food safety standards mean you shouldn’t worry about getting sick from the casing. The benefit of natural casings is the flavor and texture they provide.
Collagen casings are processed, edible sausage casings produced from the collagen in cow or pig hides, bones, and tendons. These casings come in edible and non-edible versions.
These casings are manufactured from a straight chain polysaccharide found as the primary component of wood, and also straw and cotton. These casings are non-edible, and are to be peeled off before eating.
Fibrous casings are a non-edible sausage casings made from a form of cellulose material that peels away easily when cooked. Fibrous casings are most commonly used for making pepperonis, summer sausage, bologna, liverwurst, and other fine smoked sausages. Their durability allows tight stuffing, making them ideal for fine or emulsified sausages. There’s two main kinds of fibrous sausage casings — clear and mahogany. You can also get them printed with a design. The benefit of a mahogany casing is you’ll get a consistent color when you are smoking the sausage.
Plastic casings are typically used for hot dogs. This casing is non-edible. Plastic casings come in various sizes to stuff anything from larger bologna to smaller sausages like beef sticks.
Most vegetarian sausage casings are made of combinations of water, vegetable glycerin, sugars, and starches. Water-soluble polysaccharide casings are one option that closely mimics the carbohydrate cellulose, which is sometimes used in sausage production. Casings are edible.