We all know that feeling. You fire up the grill, cook all your meat and veggies only to then be faced with a dilemma of whether or not to remove the sausage casings.
One friend tells you to take the casings off while another friend says it doesn’t matter. So which is it?
Can you eat sausage casings?
Any sausage casing that can be found in grocery and butcher shops is safe to eat. Some sausage casings are very thick and are still edible although they may be unpleasant to eat. Thick casings can be removed before eating the usage.
The only inedible sausage casing type is the artificial ones that are used during the mass production of skinless sausage and luncheon meats. Artificial casings are removed in the factories before sending the meat to the stores.
So you can leave the sausage casing on or you can take it off. It all comes down to personal preference.
However, it’s best to keep in mind which type of casing your sausage has.
There are three main types of sausage casings: natural, reconstituted collagen, and artificial. Here is some more information on the three major types of sausage casings, their make-up, and their uses.
Natural sausage casings are most commonly made from animal intestines or stomachs. While it is less common, some sausage casings are made from the animal’s bladder or esophagus.
You can find sheep, hog, lamb, and beef sausage casings at many butcher shops or online. Given the source of the casings, they are not necessarily uniform in size.
Natural sausage casings are generally used for fresh sausages and dry sausages. You will find natural casings on bratwurst, breakfast links, and pepperoni.
These natural casings are the most expensive of all the sausage casing types.
If you’re planning to make your own sausages, it’s worth noting that they are delicate and should be filled carefully.
When eating sausages wrapped with a natural casing, there’s a distinct snap in the bite. Other types of sausage casings are not able to achieve that classic texture.
Reconstituted collagen sausage casings are made from the corium layer of beef hides as well as the bones and tendons. In some cases, collagen is derived from poultry or fish.
The collagen fibers or fibrils are removed and processed to become sausage casings. These casings are easy to handle but delicate, so extra care is required when filling the sausages if you plan to make your own.
Collagen sausage casings are all generally uniform in size.
Most collagen sausage cases are edible and are generally used for dry sausages.
The collagen sausage cases that are inedible are much thicker and don’t break down if chewed. If you buy a dry sausage and notice a thick sausage casing then peel it before consuming it.
Artificial sausage casings are made from cellulose or plastic.
Cellulose sausage casings are derived from viscose, which comes from wood pulp or cotton linters. Plastic sausage casings are polymer-based.
Cellulose and plastic sausage casings are used for skinless sausages and commercial luncheon meats.
These artificial casings are generally used during the cooking process so that the meat retains a specific shape. The casing is peeled off immediately after cooking, well before being sold to the end consumer.
Vegetarian and vegan sausage casings have started to emerge as well.
These are made of plant-based products, blending flour and vegetables to create a similar texture to natural animal-based casings. As you’d expect, these sausage casings are edible.
Vegetarian and vegan sausage casings are used for plant-based sausages as well as for Halal and Kosher sausages. They are very fragile and must be filled with great care to avoid breakage.
Many vegetarian and vegan sausage casing producers state that they are similar in taste and texture to collagen sausage casings.
There are a few effective ways of removing the sausage casing if you do not want to keep the casing on your meat.
If you have an uncooked sausage and you’d like to extract the meat from the casing for a recipe then follow these steps to remove the casing:
This method is great if you do not need to retain the shape and you’re using it to prepare a lasagna, pasta sauce, or any other dish.
If you want to remove the sausage casing but you want the sausage to retain its shape then a great method is to parboil the sausage:
Parboiling should prevent the meat from sticking to the casing so it’s a fairly clean way to remove the casing. However, you should be careful when peeling and watch for any sticky meat.
After peeling off the casing, you can keep cooking the sausage and it should retain its shape fairly well.
Another method for removing sausage casing is to the partially freeze the sausage. This makes slicing the casing a little easier if you feel that the sausage is too squishy.
Partially freezing the sausage helps the meat separate from the casing as it gets peeled. However, it’s worth noting that the sausage may not retain its shape, depending on how you plan to cook it afterwards.
Dry sausage or deli meat can sometimes be wrapped in an inedible sausage casing made from plastic or collagen. Usually these are fairly thick and easy to remove.
There will usually be a label indicating that the peel should be removed before consuming. These casings are rarely mistaken for a regular sausage casing that can be eaten.
Local grocery and butcher shops will usually remove this casing if asked.
Overall, most sausage casings that make their way into our kitchens are generally the edible kind.
Inedible sausage casings are fairly evident as they’re quite thick. If you take a bite into a sausage with an inedible casing, it will be noticeable as it will not break down.
If the information on the label is unclear and you’re unsure about the type of casing on the sausages you bought then ask your local butcher.
Most inedible casings are on dry sausages or large deli meats to help preserve their quality. So most sausages that you would throw on the grill or include in your next dish should be fine to eat with the casing.