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Does Smoke Penetrate Sausage Casings?
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.
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.
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 Know If Sausage Casing is Edible
Determining if the sausage you have purchased has a edible casing. The thicker the casing the less edible it is. Although you can cut slices out of it, eating the casing is going to be difficult.
So generally most sausages you buy are going to have edible casings. Any casing that is not suppose to be eaten will be so tough to chew it is obvious. The fibrous casing on summer sausages is paper like and is inedible.
You can check the ingredients listed and see what kind of casing was used. If there is no casing listed then it means they probably used a cellulose casing. This was removed after they cooked it and before the sausage goes to retail markets.
Also plastic casings are not listed on ingredients. They can be used during the cooking process. But will not be listed in the ingredients.
After peeling off the casings on summer sausage you can throw it away.
Does Sausage Need A Binder?
Binders are important to making sausage since the job of the binder is to “bind” the fat to the protein and provides a plump and juicy sausage. Now, there are plenty of sausage makers that will tell you that you do not need the binders if you prepare the sausage properly which is accurate.