Types of Sausage Casings

Stuffing your own sausages will bring some variety to the usual burgers, dogs and chicken served at every BBQ. You have the choice between natural and man-made sausage casings to use on the grill. Natural casings come from the intestines of animals used for meat; usually cattle, pigs, goats and sheep. They have a great flavor and cook up nicely on the grille, but some may not enjoy the idea of eating animal intestine at their next backyard BBQ.

Strict regulations placed on natural casings, just like the ground meat they usually contain, ensure they are safe to eat. If fresh they are completely odorless and are not difficult for the human stomach to digest. If you can get over the “yuck” factor they really are the best option for sausage stuffing, especially for the grill.

The other option is man-made casings, which contain a variety of natural and artificial materials. Among the materials used in sausage casings are cellulose, collagen or materials of a synthetic origin. Man-made sausage casings have the advantage of holding together well and being easier to use and less gross during preparation. That said, their flavor just can’t match the juicy, satisfying bite of a natural casing that adds smoke and flavor when used on the BBQ.

Collagen casings are often used in particular for their highly stretchable nature, meaning it is much easier to pack more meat inside and producing a thicker sausage.

Sausage Preparation

Using sausage casings effectively starts with picking out quality casings. Especially important if going man-made, some casings don’t function as advertised, tending to split and come apart even when stuffed correctly. Do your research with consumer reviews and try out a variety of brands until you find what works for you and your stuffer.

Stuffing sausages is an art that will probably be a bit frustrating at first, with split casings that tend to come apart on the BBQ. Use a meat grinder to grind to a slightly coarser texture than that of hamburger meat. Good sausages are not completely uniform in their grind and taste their best with the added texture provided by coarser meat.

Your sausage stuffing machine contains a horn to spread the casing. This should be brushed with olive or peanut oil to lubricate the casing’s inside. As your meat and seasoning blend are pushed through the stuffing machine they will slide in easier. Slowly move the meat through the stuffer with the casing firmly inserted on the horn. Some machines have you do this by hand, while others will do it for you at the proper pace.

The key to smooth grilling is to eliminate air bubbles when stuffing the sausage casing. This is especially important with collagen casings as a burst air bubble on the grill may cause the sausage to come apart completely. If you do develop pockets of air while stuffing the meat, use a very sharp knife to prick the casing slightly.

Once the sausage has reached its desired length and thickness, stop stuffing and twist it around several times, forming a single link. Look at the size of the sausages in the supermarket for a good length and thickness that will be easier on the BBQ.

The Grill

When using self-stuffed natural casings you will usually end up with a thicker outer layer to your sausage. Grilling time should be adjusted accordingly as the temperature reaching the meat inside will not be as high. Collagen casings, like those used on many supermarket sausages, should be grilled like any other dog or sausage.

When the sausage starts to split at the ends, make a slight cut along the split and take a look at the meat inside. Pork and chicken sausages should always be cooked to well-done. Your guests will love your home-stuffed sausages and you’ll have the satisfaction of bringing something different to your table.

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