Some personal thoughts on sausage casing.

There is an acronym used in computing:

 PICNIC

“Problem In Chair, Not In Computer”.

The same abbreviation could be used on casing. It is common complaint that the casing is tough. In this case the likely cause is

“Problem In Cooking, Not In Casing”.

See the picture above. These sausages are all the same weight but filled in the two most common types of casing. First sausage on left is collagen, the next hog, the next collagen etc.

Collagen Casing

Collagen casing was first developed in 1961 by the world largest healthcare company Johnson & Johnson who formed Devro (an acronym for Development and Research Organization) because of the promise it held for making synthetic absorbable sutures.

The company realized it also had a unique opportunity to innovate in another way—by creating the first edible sausage casing not made from animal intestines.

Advertising touted Devro as “figuring out a better way to make sausages after 3,000 years of trying.”

Collagen casings are mainly produced from the collagen in beef or pig hides, the bones, and tendons. It can also be derived from poultry and fish. It is a natural product, but when made it is very uniform in calliper, with most popular sizes in the UK of 28mm and 23mm.

Natural Casing

Was used for all sausage making before collagen. It made best use of the total animal when killed. In Europe the most popular types are pig (or hog) and sheep intestines. Beef casings are also common and in other parts of the world you will find goat and even horse casing.

Calliper will vary according to the type of animal, its breed and of its size. Sizes are from 19mm up to 75mm.

Alginate Casing

Is a gel obtained from algae. It is a natural product and purely vegetable based. Sausages are run through a tank of the liquid gel which then dries to give a transparent skin.

At Westaways

We use Natural Hog Casing on most of our sausages, typically on cheaper recipes we use Bovine (Cow) Collagen.

We do not use Alginate as we get poor visual appearance on cooking no matter if we use the oven, fry, or grill. After initial excitement, I get the impression that manufacturers are switching back to either natural, or collagen. We have some concern that the Alginate when it crystallises forms Acrylamide which is a known toxin. However, this only happens at high temperatures (over 120 degrees C), so this is unlikely when sausages need only cooking to around 75 degrees.

Cooking sausages

To be safely cooked, pork sausages should be probed to check temperature. It is useful to remember the phrase “75 to stay alive”. Ensure the core of sausage reaches this temperature in Centigrade. Most people like the skins to be browned, but do not overcook, if the core temperature is higher than 90 degrees for too long, the sausages will lose their succulence.

Both Natural and Collagen casings will become tough if they dry out during cooking. If using a dry heat in say an oven, or even on a griddle, do baste the sausage with a little oil. We sometimes find customers shallow fry with an oil and water mix.

Collagen is a uniform diameter so will be a consistent size, Naturals do vary, but will normally be bigger than 28mm diameter, so although all the cooked sausages are the same weight, the collagen casing on cooking is more uniform length than natural casing. See picture.

A busy professional caterer might prefer collagen as it is consistent, and if you have a cooking regime you will not have any variables in cooking time or size.

Conclusions.

We are lucky enough to eat sausages at Westaways on most days, and over many years have seen customers cooking all types of sausages on all types of equipment.

Appearance is a personal thing but in all other respects we enjoy any well-made sausage regardless of whether the casing is collagen or natural.

Top tip…. Enjoy your sausages, and if you have any queries get in touch we would love to hear from you.