Collagen Casings 101 - Help & Information
Collagen Sausage Casings Help & Information
What are collagen sausage casings? What are collagen casings made of? What kind of collagen casings are available? Watch the video, read the highlights here, and then post your comments or questions below.
What Are Collagen Sausage Casings?
It is an edible product that is apart of the connective tissue found in animals. Because collagen is made from naturally occurring proteins, it’s also completely safe to use and eat. It makes a strong yet flexible and edible food casing. One reason to use collagen is that it saves money. Sausage production costs are lower when you use a casing that is consistent and uniform in size, shape, and color. It also reduces waste, and the uniformity makes storage and packaging easier and faster. It also saves money because the pricing is more consistent, especially compared to the commodity fluctuations exhibited in the natural casings market. Also, a reason to use collagen is because many consumers like the appearance, bite, and mouth feel it produces in a sausage. And, the last big reason to use collagen casings is because collagen is extremely versatile. Almost any type of sausage can be made with collagen casings.
What Is The Shelf-Life Of Collagen Casings?
So the next question you may ask is how long can I keep collagen casings? Shelf life should be between one or two years. It does really depend on your storage environment though. Ideal storage locations would be with a cool temperature between 40 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and dry. Casings will also last longer if left in the original and unopened package. We recommend that you reseal any opened packages and always store collagen casings in an airtight container. Just remember, once a package is opened, the casings can become more brittle and delicate at a quicker pace. This can lead to excessive breakage or blowouts during stuffing, which is simply a result of the moisture content of the casings changing and drying out.
Do I Need To Soak Or Prep Collagen Casings Before Usage?
Collagen casings are ready to use straight out of the package. So there is no soaking or other prep work like you have when using natural or fibrous casings.
What Types Of Collagen Casings Are Available?
The two basic types are Fresh and Processed casings. Fresh casings, as the name indicates, are for fresh or unsmoked sausages. Processed casings are for cooked or smoked meat snacks like snack sticks, hot dogs, German sausage, and other smoked sausages.
What are Fresh Collagen Casings?
Fresh casings are meant to be used as a replacement for various natural casings, like hog or sheep casings in fresh sausage applications. We have sizes from a 21 millimeter up to a 32 millimeter, and they are all clear in appearance. One thing to remember is that fresh casings are not designed to hang on smoke sticks in a smokehouse. They just don’t have the strength to support the hanging weight of the sausage. If you try to hang fresh casings, you might end up opening your smokehouse door after the cook cycle ends and find that the casings broke and all your product is laying on the smokehouse floor. Now, let’s look at the different sizes. A 21mm Fresh casing would be perfect for making breakfast sausage or just a normal pork sausage. A 4 inch link will make a traditional 1 ounce link. A 30 or 32mm fresh casing is what you might use for things like bratwursts or italian sausage. The 32mm is closer to what you may find in many store brand sausages, but Walton’s prefers the slightly smaller 30 millimeter casings because they fit on a bun just a little bit better.
What Are Processed Collagen Casings?
These casings are typically for smoked or cooked products like snack sticks, hot dogs, and a whole lot of other types of smoked sausages. Processed casings have two variants though: Processed Stix and Processed Fine. Both types of Processed Casings have a heavier wall weight than the Fresh casings, which allows Processed casings to be hung on smoke sticks during your drying and thermal processing steps.
What Are Processed Stix Collagen Casings?
Processed Stix are primarily a smaller diameter casing and are specifically designed for things like snack sticks. All our Stix casings are smoke color, and range in size from 15mm to 23mm with our most popular size being the 19mm. There is a very nice snap in the bite to Stix casings, which is great for many types of small diameter meat snacks, like everything from a traditional snack stick, or fermented snack stick, to even other dry and semi-dry sausage like a beefstick, pepperoni, or mini-salami.
What Are Processed Fine Collagen Casings?
These can be smoke, red, or clear in color. Sizes range from 21 millimeters up to a 34 millimeter. Inside the Processed Fine category, we have another two sub-variants. There are Fine-H and Fine-T casings.
What Are Processed Fine-H Collagen Casings?
The Fine-H variant is a heavier walled casing than the Fresh or Fine-T, but not as strong as the Processed Stix we just talked about. The Fine-H casings are specifically designed to be a replacement for “Hog Gut” casings and come in a 30 or 32 millimeter size. The red casings are awesome for making hot links, or any other smoked sausage, particularly for sausages that are meant to be spicy, as it can add a great eye-popping look to your final product. And, the smoke or clear casings work great for smoked sausages, like chili dogs, german sausage, and much more.
What Are Processed Fine-T Collagen Casings?
The Fine-T casings are stronger walled than the Fresh Casings, but are thinner walled than the previous Fine-H variant. Having a lighter wall weight will gives the sausage a bit more of a tender bite. Sizing on the Fine-T casings range from 21 to 30 millimeters. With a more tender bite and smaller diameter than the Fine-H, the Fine-T casings work great for hot dogs and frankfurters. My preference would be to use the 26mm Clear for making hotdogs and frankfurters.
Can I Twist Link Collagen Casings?
Collagen casings can be twist linked, but it is more difficult than natural casings. When making links from collagen casings, we would recommend using 2 twists per link. If you twist less than twice, it may not be enough to hold the link in place, and if you twist more, the increased pressure in the meat and on the casing can cause breakage. Other options for linking can include just cutting the sausage into links, or you can tie-off each link with butcher’s twine, but this is rather time intensive. Sometimes it will be hard to have twist linked collagen casings stay twisted, so many times it is recommended to tie butcher’s twine between the links to help keep the sausages linked.
What Direction Do I Stuff Collagen Sausage Casings?
The two ends of a collagen casing should look different when you first open the package. One end will be a more uniform hole and opening. The other end should have a tail on it. Slide the open end on your stuffing tube and stuff sausage towards and into the end with a tail (see pictures).
Can I Use Collagen Casings In A Smokehouse?
If you use collagen casings in a smokehouse, remember that the Fresh Casings do not have the strength to be hung on smoke sticks. If you are hanging Processed casings from smoke sticks during thermal processing, a simple trick you can use if you have any issue with the casings breaking during the cook cycle is to put a single, simple twist in the casing at the top where the casing goes over the smoke stick to help relieve some surface tension and potential breakage.
Why Is My Collagen Casings Wrinkling After Cooking?
If you have issues with wrinkling in your final product, check these two simple steps in your process. First, make sure you don’t understuff the product. Second, make sure that your cooling cycle is adequate following your thermal processing. Many times, improper cooling does not allow the final appearance of the casings to be set properly. You should have either a shower cycle for 15-20 minutes at the end of your cook cycle, or simply use a water and ice bath in a meat lug. Ideally, you should get the internal temperature of the meat product to drop to below 115 degrees during the showering process.
Watch WaltonsTV: Collagen Sausage Casings 101