Sausage Casings

Casings can be divided into two groups:

It is impossible to match the quality of natural casings. They can be used for almost any product. The biggest advantage of using natural casings is that they shrink equally with the meat and thus are great for making dry or semi-dry salami or sausages. That leaves their use to smaller butchers or sausage makers and it is the preferred choice for a home producer. Another advantage is that they are edible and you don’t even feel them when eating a well made smoked sausage.

The main reason that commercial manufacturers cannot use natural casings is the fact that they are not uniform and have a different diameter, texture and length. They also have a tendency to produce a curved sausage, especially beef rounds. The meat plant even knowing the length of the sausage, cannot precisely estimate the weight of meat it contains and by the same token cannot arrive at the correct price. And you cannot run a business when no two samples are alike. Natural casings are usually packed and stored in salt. Before use they should be rinsed on the outside and flushed out with water inside. Then they should be left for 30 minutes in a water filled container. That removes more salt from the casings and makes them softer and easier to work with when stuffing. Natural casings are usually obtained from pigs, cattle and sheep and can be generally classified as:

Small intestine casings Large intestine casings Other
hog and sheep casings, beef rounds (runners). hog and beef middles, bungs. stomach, bladder.

Hog Casings

hog casings
Casings Middles Bungs or fatends
30-32 mm, frankfurter, breakfast sausage, Italian sausage. 45 - 50 mm, Italian salami (frisses), blood sausage, sopressata. 50 - 90 mm,
Liver, Braunschweiger.
32-35 mm, bratwurst, bockwurst, Italian sausage. 50-60 mm, dry salami, liver sausage.  
35-38 mm, knockwurst, Polish sausage, bratwurst, pepperoni. 60-70 mm, cooked Braunschweiger.  
38-44 mm, Polish sausage, summer sausage, ring bologna, liverwurst, pepperoni.    

Hog Casings are sold in “bundles” or “hanks.” This unit of measure equals approximately 91 meters. One bundle of 38 mm casing will accommodate about 132 lbs. (60 kg) of meat.

Beef Casings

beef casings
Rounds Middles Bung Caps
35-46 mm, Ring Bologna, Ring Liver, Blood Sausage, Polish Sausage, Holsteiner. 45-65 mm, Bologna, Dry and Semi-dry Cervelats, Dry and Cooked Salami. 76-126 mm, Large Bologna, Lebanon Bologna, Cooked salami, Mortadella.

Beef casings are tougher than hog casings and should be soaked in water longer. When making fermented sausages beef casings also have a higher tendency to become slimy during fermentation or the drying stage. This is a minor inconvenience and the slime is simply wiped off.

Sheep Casings

Sheep casings are the highest quality small diameter casings used for sausages such as: Bockwurst, frankfurters, wieners, Polish Kabanosy and breakfast sausage links. These casings combine tenderness with sufficient strength to withstand the filling, cooking and smoking operations. Their diameter varies from 18 - 28 mm.

sheep casings

For a hobbyist natural casings are hard to beat. They are tender, they can be used for any type of a sausage, and will last almost indefinitely when salted and kept under refrigeration. Natural casings can be reused even if they have been soaked. Just apply regular table salt to the casings, place them in an air tight container such as a zip-lock and refrigerate. Don’t freeze as this will damage their structure and will weaken them.

Typical use for natural casings

Hog casings

Beef casings

Sheep casings

Note that beef and sheep possess a three part stomach making it difficult for use. Pork stomach consists of a one chamber with two entrances and has been traditionally used for making head cheeses. One opening would be sewn with butcher’s twine, the casing would be stuffed and the second opening would be sewn off.

Synthetic Casings

Artificial casings are inedible and don’t require refrigeration. They can be made in a variety of colors and diameters. White casings can be used for liver sausage, red for bologna, some casings come pre-printed, for example casings with deer antlers can be used for sausages made from wild game meat. Before use cellulose casings and other artificial casings should be immersed for 30 minutes in room temperature water to facilitate stuffing. Synthetic casings are straight, consistent in diameter, require less preparation and are easier to stuff. Those are good reasons why they are used by commercial manufacturers.

Name Description Use
Collagen 16-140 mm made from collagen which is the main ingredient of connective tissue, skin and bones. The casings are made from beef hides. There are several types of collagen casings on the market today. There are edible casings for making fresh and smoked sausages. Can be used for smoked or dried sausages. Edible:
breakfast links, wieners, frankfurters, fresh sausages.
Non-edible: ring style sausages, salami, good substitute for beef middles.
Cellulose 15-44 mm strong, can be used for smoked or air dried sausages. Non-edible:
skinless hotdogs and frankfurters.
Fibrous 38-198 mm come in different colors and are popular among processors who don’t smoke sausages with natural wood but instead add liquid smoke. A mahogany colored casing looks like if it were smoked. Casings exhibit excellent permeability for smoke penetration and moisture evaporation and can be used for smoked or dried sausages. Non-edible: summer sausage, salami, pepperoni, bologna.
Plastic 18-152 mm provide barriers to moisture, smoke and oxygen to maximize shelf life and minimize off flavors of prepared foods. They can be used for cooked products such as liver sausage, ham or cooked salami. Can NOT be used for smoked or dried sausages. Non-edible: Liver sausage, Mortadella, Cooked Salami.
Hukki 40-200 mm available in different net patterns for a traditional look of the products. Hukki are made as collagen (edible and not), cellulose, fibrous or plastic casings and the definition does not imply a new material but an unusual and decorative shape of the casing. Non-edible (plastic): for cooked products.
Edible: (fibrous) for smoked or dried products.