Different casings work better for smoking sausages than other types. What the casing is made out can reduce the amount of smoke that can penetrate into meat. Which is what you want when smoking the sausages.
Since the flavor is coming from the smoke, if the casing seals the meat from the smoke. The sausage will not get the full effect.
I have been writing about sausage making lately and have learned about the different types of casings. Knowing that smoked sausage is popular, I wondered if a certain casing needs to be used or do none of them work?
Does smoke penetrate sausage casings?
Sausage casings are penetrable by smoke. Natural casings will be more absorbent than synthetic casings. But natural casings do not hold up as well to hanging in a smoker.
Although you can use any casing type for smoking sausages. Choosing the right casing for the sausages you want to smoke is important. Knowing the differences between each one will help you decide.
Read more: Best Binders for Making Homemade Sausage
Casings For Smoking Sausage
When it comes to smoking homemade sausage. The most important aspect of a casing to look for is durability. A casing that will not rip or break while being hung in the smoker.
Sausage can be smoked without having to hang them. Instead they can be laid flat on the grate. One downside is that they will take up more room.
A grate mark could be left on the sausage, the shape could also change and become less uniform. Especially when using natural casings.
A strong casing is needed when hanging the sausage in a smoker. Otherwise they are more prone to breaking. The strongest edible casings are going to be natural and smoked collagen.
Every sausage type is permeable to smoke, meaning that they will allow smoke to penetrate into the sausage meat. Natural casings have the most porous skin.
Natural casings are the ones actually made from animal intestine. Animals such as cow, pig or sheep are commonly used. Natural casings require the most preparation and need to be properly stored before using.
Before using natural casings they must be soaked in room temperature water for about 45 mins. The salt or brine they are stored in needs to be rinsed off as well. Natural cases need the brine or salt to help preserve them unused, also keep them in a refrigerator.
Do not freeze natural casings because it can damage them.
Inedible casings like fibrous (Also called fibrous cellulose, synthetic or artificial) are very thick and tough. They can still be used for smoking but require longer periods of smoking.
These casings are going to be the strongest ones and least penetrable for smoke. Fibrous casings are used most commonly for a dry cured meat like summer sausage. Again fibrous casings are not edible and need to be peeled off.
Fibrous casings also need to be soaked before using them. Soak for around 30 mins in warm water. Fibrous casings can be stored outside of a refrigerator in a plastic bag.
The term smoked edible collagen casing is used to designate ones that are designed to be used for smoking sausage. The casing is not actually smoked or have any smoky flavor.
Collagen casings do not need to be soaked in water, but they need to be stored in a refrigerator.
The easiest way to think about the types of casings. Is to break them down into two main types, natural and artificial. Artificial has more different variations and is where the confusion starts.
Read more: Can You Eat Sausage Casing?
Sheep Casings vs Hog Casings
Both casings are natural casings, they are made after cleaning the intestines of farm animals. These casings offer the best flavor and tenderness compared to other.
Natural casings will vary in size depending on the type of animal it was from. The larger the animal the bigger the casing will be. This is because the intestine of that animal is larger. Natural casing from a sheep is going to be smaller than a pig (hog).
Hog casings are used more often than sheep casings. In commercial and homemade sausage making. A lot of popular sausage types use hog casings. Italian sausage, pepperoni, bratwurst and kielbasa. Most pork sausages will use a hog casings.
Hog casings can be used for smoked sausage, fresh or dry sausage. The smallest diameter for hog casings is around 30-35 mm.
Sheep casings are less common, but the tenderness and strength make them high quality. The reason they are used less is because of the sizes. Sheep casings are not as large as hog casings.
Sheep casings range in size from 16 – 28 mm. Making them popular for use with frankfurters and beef sticks. Sheep casings are great for smoking, because they are very permeable to smoke. The durability as makes them easy to stuff and cook with.
Ways To Smoke Sausage
Originally smoking meat was a just a way to preserve it. Especially cold smoking, because it could be used as a way to store food in the winter. Smoking meat along with curing is the process of flavoring and preserving meat.
Curing meat is a way to rid the meat of any moisture. Preventing any microbial growth and harmful bacteria. The reason cold smoking is used is because the meats are dried instead of being cooked with heat.
Cold smoking is also good for adding additional smoke flavor without further cooking the meat. Which could result in a dry meat that is undesirable.
Cold and wet surfaces will absorb more smoke. While you want the sausages to be cool, they shouldn’t be wet when smoking.
There are a few ways to smoke meat, both are either cold or hot smoked. Then the meat can be either smoked in the case or outside and later stuffed.
Cold smoked meats must be cured first, this like hot cooking will kill off bacteria. Hot smoking brings the meat up to a high enough temperature to cook off any pathogens.
The easiest way to smoke sausage is hot smoking. You can use any type of smoker with any heat source. Sausages are either laid down or hung up inside smoker.
The temperature should be around 200 – 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The sausage should be cooked up to 165 degrees Fahrenheit in order to be safe to eat.
You can smoke the sausages at 150 degrees Fahrenheit for the first hour, then turn up the heat to finish them off the second hour.
The lower the temperature the longer you can smoke the sausage. If you go too long though you run the risk of drying them out.
Smoke sausages for 2 – 3 hours, checking on them every hour. They may need to be turned, unless they are hanging. You can smoke them for longer depending on the amount of smoky flavor is wanted.
How To Use Fibrous Casings
Fibrous casings can be used to make large sausages. Since they can hold up to 6 lbs of meat. The most common type used is the mahogany smoked type. It has the distinct brown color to it, this is to give the sausage a smoky appearance.
Fibrous casings must be soaked prior to use. While soaking the casing, both the inside and outside are suppose to get wet. Soak for around 30 – 45 mins depending on the size.
Use either room temperature water, slightly cool or warm water. Dry off the sausages before smoking them. Do this by either placing them in front of a fan or hanging them in the smoker.
Let them dry naturally or with very low heat. Too high and the sausages will sweat. The reason for drying the sausage before smoking is to allow even smoking.
Wet casings can collect smoke and produce a white layer on the outside. This happens when parts of the sausage never fully dried.
Fibrous casings should be stuffed tightly and be firm to the touch. Leave one inch off extra casing on both ends. That way you can tie the sausage shut on both ends.
Fold over the casing inwards, and begin to fan fold the excess casing. Then you can make two cut inserts with scissors. This way when you tie a string around the end, the string will fall into the insert.
The insert will hold the sausage from slipping through the string. The string is used for hanging the sausage.