Understanding Sausage Casings: Which Ones Can You Eat?


Sausages are a staple food that can make many appearances throughout ones life. There are sausages for almost any occasion, location or race of people. Breakfast sausage, summer sausage, Italian sausage, polish sausage etc.

One question that might come up when eating a sausage is. Can you eat sausage casing?

The only sausage casings not eaten are certain collagen casings, cellulose and plastic casings. The thick collagen casing commonly used for summer sausage or salami is inedible. Cellulose casings are removed before packaging and are used for skinless sausages.

There are two main types of sausage casing’s used for different kinds of sausage. Each type unique to how its made or where its sourced from. The world of sausages is big and that includes the casings used.

Types of Sausage Casings

Sausage casing refers to the outer layer or skin that holds the meat in shape. The casings are used to create form for the meat. The reason for casings is to make cooking and eating the sausage meat easier. They also have uses for specific types of meat. Each edible casing will have different mouth feel when biting into and chewing a sausage. Here I will go into detail about five types of sausage casing.

5 Types of casings:

The two main types are natural and artificial.

  1. Natural
  2. Artificial (Cellulose)
  3. Artificial (Collagen)
  4. Plastic
  5. Vegetarian
  • Natural
    • Edible: Yes
    • Source: A layer of the small intestine of farm animals. Pigs, cows, sheep, lamb, goats, horses.
    • Make: Bratwurst, Italian sausage, breakfast sausage, pepperoni, meat sticks, wieners, frankfurters.
    • Appearance: Natural casings when used give the sausage a curve.
  • Artificial (cellulose)
    • Edible: No
    • Source: Plant fibers such as cotton and wood pulp. The process is like turning wood into plastic. It is a synthetic casing.
    • Make: Skinless sausage, hot dogs, frankfurters, wieners.
    • Appearance: Casing is usually clear, but they can be pre-smoked. This casing is removed after cooking. The casing will be removed before selling to grocery stores. Sausage will be uniform in shape.
  • Artificial (Collagen)
    • Edible: Yes and No (they are safe to eat but are not recommended)
    • Source: Processed animal collagen. From skin, hide, bones, tendons. Even from fish or poultry.
    • Make: Breakfast sausage, snack sticks, dry sausages, smoked sausage, bratwurst. Summer sausage.
    • Appearance: Variety of sizes and shapes. Can be thicker fibrous casing that is inedible (that dark brown casing used for summer sausage).
  • Plastic
    • Edible: No
    • Source: Made from polymers, most common used is polyamide (nylon)
    • Make: Cooked sausages
    • Appearance: Curved, round or straight.
  • Vegetarian
    • Edible: Yes
    • Source: Plant based, Vegetable Glycerin, Sugars and Carbohydrates.
    • Make: Fresh sausages, vegetarian sausages
    • Appearance: Vegan sausages can appear very similar to meat sausages. Link or hot dog style, they appear rougher on the outside and kind of clumpy.

Natural casings are the most expensive because the process to make them is extensive. Natural casing size is determined by the animal intestine used, lamb being the smallest then, sheep, hog, beef

Read more: How To Store Natural & Artificial Sausage Casings: Full Guide

How To Know If Sausage Casing is Edible

Determining if the sausage you have purchased has a edible casing. The thicker the casing the less edible it is. Although you can cut slices out of it, eating the casing is going to be difficult.

So generally most sausages you buy are going to have edible casings. Any casing that is not suppose to be eaten will be so tough to chew it is obvious. The fibrous casing on summer sausages is paper like and is inedible.

You can check the ingredients listed and see what kind of casing was used. If there is no casing listed then it means they probably used a cellulose casing. This was removed after they cooked it and before the sausage goes to retail markets.

Also plastic casings are not listed on ingredients. They can be used during the cooking process. But will not be listed in the ingredients.

After peeling off the casings on summer sausage you can throw it away.

Amazon has great sausage casings to choose from, check out the best ones here.

Plastic Casing

Are You Supposed To Remove Sausage Casing?

Only remove sausage fibrous casings like you would see on most summer sausages. These are the strongest casings and are made out of inedible cellulose and plant materials. Instead these casings are mean’t to be peeled back as you slice the sausage.

You will be able to tell if the sausage casings are edible by seeing how thick they are. Typical sausage casings are clear so you can see bits of fat and spices inside the sausage. These are going to be edible sausage casings.

Thick casings that you can’t see through and have a solid coloring are going to be non-edible. You won’t be able to chew on them anyways so its very noticeable when the casings aren’t meant to be eaten.

How To Cook Sausage Out of Casing

You can split open sausage and remove the meat to cook it separately. The only reason for casings is to make cooking and handling easier. Smoking meats is easier when you can hang them up.

The best way is to remove the meat before it has been cooked. Slice the sausage from end to end. Do a shallow cut and then meat should be able to be pushed out. The casing should stay one piece and can be peeled away.

You can do this when the sausage is frozen or thawed out. Frozen works as the sausage will not crumble and break. I think this method is harder to peel back the casing, but you can run it under some warm water. This is good if you want to refreeze the meat.

With a completely thawed sausage you can form it into whatever shape. If you wanted to turn the sausage into a patty.

Tools To Use:

Either one should work fine.

  • Pairing Knife
  • Kitchen Shears (scissors)

Instructions:

  1. Run sausage under warm water (If frozen).
  2. Place sausage on cutting board
  3. Slice sausage from one end to the other.
  4. Peel open the slit.
  5. Push the meat out and pull casing off in one piece.

You may have to make multiple cuts, you can sort of peel them like a banana if this works best.

The best way to cook the sausage is in a pan. Similar to browning beef you can break up the sausage as it cooks. Depending on the size of pieces you want. If the meat is thawed you can used a potato masher while its cooking. Also a wooden spatula works great to break up the sausage, also do this while its in the pan.

Read more: How Do You Cook Sausages Without Splitting? BBQ,Stove,Oven

Can You Eat Summer Sausage Casing?

The typical summer sausage casing is inedible. The casing is designed for the cooking and storing of the sausage. There is no flavor and it would be hard to chew.

These casings are meant to be peeled back as you cut slices from the sausage. You can also cut each slice and then peel off the casing. This part is made from fibrous cellulose casing. It would be like trying to eat a waxy piece of paper.

There are edible sausage casings as described before. Natural casing are perfectly safe to eat as much as the inner meat is.

Unique Sausages

Thanks for visiting and reading, hope you have learned something new about sausages and the casings used for making them.

There is one more thing than I’d like to share with you. It’s this online Gourmet Food Store that happens to have the most unique selection of sausages I have ever seen.

They have bison, duck and even wild boar sausages. That’s not the only wild animal.

You can even find sausages flavored with blueberries or tequila. They have just about every popular type of sausage from around the world in their store.

Check out the sausages they sell here.

I wan’t them to remain successful so I can enjoy trying out their foods for years to come. That’s why I feel the need to share them with any readers to this blog.

So definitely take a look at Gourmet Food Store’s sausage selection, they also have a huge variety of other foods as well.

I guarantee you will find something that interests you. If you use my links I will get a small cut of any sales, which helps support this website. Thanks again for visiting.

Eric M Wilkens

Content writer and recreational cook. I also enjoy craft beer, comedy and the outdoors.

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