Cured Sausage 105 - Casings For Smoked Sausage
Cured Sausage 105 - Casings For Smoked Sausage
Attend this entry-level class from Meatgistics University by watching the video, reading the article and post any questions you have!
What Are Common Styles Of Casings?
Smoked Sausage covers a wide variety of products, technically snack sticks and summer sausage would fall under this category. For our purposes today though we are talking about a bratwurst like product that is going to have cure added to it and will be smoked in a smoker. The type of casing that is used for this will be important as not all collagen casings are suitable for this.
The two most common styles of casings for this type of sausage are Collagen and Natural Casings like Hog or Sheep intestines. Collagen Casings come in 3 different styles, Fresh, Clear and Smoked. For a smoked product, Fresh Collagen should not be used, they won’t stand up to being hung in the smokehouse like Clear and Smoked will.
What Are The Sizes Of These Casings?
Collagen - Smoked Sausage will generally be 30mm or larger. Both Clear and Smoked Collagen have many options above this size.
Natural Casings - Smoked Sausage like Boudain or Kielbasa will almost always be 32-35mm or larger. However, you could make a strong argument that Hot Links belong in this category and those can be as small as hotdogs, around 26mm. So for natural casings, they can range from 26mm sheep casings all the way to 42mm hog casings.
How Are Casings Prepared For Use?
If you are using collagen casings there is no preparation necessary, simply remove them from the package, load them onto your stuffing tube and begin stuffing.
For Natural Casings you will need to rinse the salt off of the outside of the casing with clean running water and then soak them for 60 minutes in warm water before they are ready for use. If you purchased your natural casing in a “home pack” you will also need to flush the inside of the casing by running water through the middle of them. Then you load them on to your stuffing tube and you are ready to stuff.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The main advantage of collagen is the convenience, no preparation is needed for these casings to be ready to use. Another benefit from collagen is uniformity, they will be the same diameter throughout the entire run, this is especially important for commercial processors. Collagen casings are also less prone to blowouts than natural casings are. The biggest drawback of collagen is that it does not accept a twist as natural casings will. You can twist them and they will stay that way until you go and cut them at which point they will unravel and open slightly.
The main advantage of Natural Casings both hog and sheep is that they will accept a twist and once cut they will remain closed. Some people also prefer the snap of natural casings. The biggest drawbacks are the difficulty in getting them ready and the fact that they are prone to blowouts.
Other Styles Of Casings
Cellulose Casings can be used for skinless smoked sausage products like some types of hot dogs. Cellulose is made from plant material, is very strong, smoke permeable and even has a black stripe down the side to let you know if the casing has been removed or not.
*For beginners I always recommend collagen casings over cellulose or natural hog or sheep casings. They require less work and make the entire process less complicated and the fewer complications the better!
Here is a link to a website that has a handy Excel spreadsheet. It is, as it says a free non-commercial site.
As for Waltons dropping the ball, I vote they are doing a great job.
I think for all of us there are general guidelines, but unless you have a temperature and humidity controlled environment, both for the preparation, cooking (if you cook them) smoking, hanging etc, the results are bound to vary from batch to batch.
Personally, I am searching how to get my home made smoked and dry cured pepperoni to the exact texture and firmness of Margarita pepperoni from the store.
Through trial and error I have the flavor where I want it, but not the texture or firmness. I know time, temperature and humidity are all crucial, but the best I can do is in the basement and then subject to the environment that is there.
I figure as long as I am not killing anyone or making anyone sick I am making progress. Thanks Waltons for all of the great information so far.
Having said that, it would be nice to have your chart in an Excel spreadsheet.
Thanks Jonathon! One question tho! You eluded to 178 being high for a temp! Don’t you guys recommend setting the temp at 175 during the final stage to completion to internal temp? Three degrees shouldn’t make that much difference should it??
Sounds reasonable. Thanks for your input. Pulling the meat at 152 will make a big difference I bet! Thanks again.
@Kinger Thanks for the information. Your process, other than going to 178, is on in my mind. The only thing I do differently is an ice bath for 20 minutes. Showering for 10 minutes, if you are running a cycle and a fan in your smoker can work, but I still think an ice bath would bring it down faster and more. Last time I did thick summer sausage it was down to 110 in 20 minutes, I also tried showering it at 2 minutes on 2 minutes off for 20 minutes and it was only down to 136 (ish) but i did not have a fan running on them.
One more thing you might want to try, if you are stalled towards the end you can finish them up by putting them in a vacuum bag (I have done then hot, right from the smoker, some condensation in the bag but it still gets a good vac) and get some water going at around 165, it should get up to temp in under an hour depending on the thickness.
@Newbe There might be some breaking down of the meat but this shouldnt cause you too many issues. I have bought pork butts fresh, then froze them then processed and froze the product again. The taste might not be the BEST possible but it certainly wont be bad.