Take your Engineer to school day - Help with Sausage Casings

Discussion in 'Sausage' started by bbq engineer, Nov 19, 2009.

  1. bbq engineer

    bbq engineer Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi everyone,

    Since I got a new grinder, I have made a batch of breakfast sausage that turned out great. Now I want to expand my repertoire and make some links. If you sausage experts could help me out with some pointers and answers to some of my questions, I would appreciate it.

    First off, what type of casings do you recommend (natural or collagen), and what are the advantages / disadvantages of each?

    How do you handle the casings...do you need to soak them first?

    What makes some casings tough after going through the smoker?

    How much pressure do you put behind the sausage when you are filling the casings / i.e. do they expand when you pump them full?

    Do you need to add water to the sausage that you are putting into the casings? I read a recent post where they did.

    Any thing else a sausage rook needs to know to be successful?

    Thanks for your help.
  2. pantherfan83

    pantherfan83 Smoking Fanatic

    1. I recommend natural hog casings 32-35mm for brat or keilbasa sized sausages. Natural casings are cheaper and hold their twist better.
    2. For breakfast sausage links use sheep casings 22-24mm.
    3. You can use the same sheep casings for snack sticks or use 21mm collagen. I think collagen are the way to go for snack sticks.
    4. For hot dogs, I would use the largest sheep casings I could find.
    5. For summer sausage & salami, I would use either beef middle or fiberous. The fiberous are really strong so you can stuff them really full and evenly. They provide a professional look. The beef middles give a more rustic look.
    1. Natural casings are stored in your refrigerator (some people freeze them, but I don't) in salt. Before using, you soak for 30 minutes or more and rinse (inside & out) to get the salt off. Unused portions can be re-salted and used later. They'll store for at least a year in the refrigerator. To some degree all natural casings have an odor, especially beef casings. This is expected and isn't an issue after cooking/smoking. You can use a bit of vinegar in the soaking water to take some of it out. Some say this also helps with the tough-ness of the casings issue which you referred to in your next question.
    2. Fiberous you also soak just to make them pliable.
    3. Collagen do not require soaking.
    I've not really had this problem. As I mentioned above, some say that vinegar in your soaking liquid can help with this.

    As little pressure as possible to hold the casing on the tube and allow them to slide off the tube easily and stuffed somewhat full, but not taught. If you fill natural casings too full, they will burst. I link after stuffing, so I have to be careful to allow enough give to be able to twist without busting them. Sheep casings are especially thin, so you have to stuff them really loose. Even if you think they are not stuffed enough, twisting the links will tighten them up. You have to get a feel for it.

    I don't think that water is added for stuffing, but to help the mixing process and ensure that the seasonings are evenly distributed.

    1. Keep the meat really cold during the entire grinding, stuffing, & mixing process. When grinding, it is best if the meat is partially frozen. Put the metal parts of your grider in ice water or the freezer prior to grinding too.
    2. Cut meat into strips that are narrow enough to fit in your grinding tube. Once the auger catches the strip, it will pull it into the grinder on it's own vs. having to push meat chunks in with the plunger.
    3. Keep the casings out toward the end of the tube when stuffing. I've put about as much casing on a tube that would fit before and as I used 1/2 or more of it, the casing would be all bunched up toward the back of the tube. This causes suction/friction between the casing and the tube and makes it a lot harder for the casing to slide off the tube and cause blow-outs. As you are stuffing, push the casings out toward the end of the tube so they slide off easily.
    4. If you don't have a dedicated stuffer, get one as soon as you can. They make a huge difference vs. stuffing with your grinder. There is a post on here with info on how to get a 15 lb-er from Gander Mnt. delivered for $150-ish bucks. That's a great deal. For less than $70, you can get a 5 lb-er from Grizley Tools.
    5. When linking, make two pinches and twist the link in between, then continue by making two more pinches and twist the link in between. In effect, you are twisting every-other link. This way, it doesn't matter which way you twist. If you make one pinch, then twist, you'll have to twist one direction, then the other on the next link and you'll have to remember which direction to go next. This is a pain in the butt and totally unnecessary.
    That's about all I can think of now. Good luck! Remember, even your mistakes will most likely taste good!!!
  3. oneshot

    oneshot Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

  4. fourthwind

    fourthwind Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    panther really covered it well. Until yesterday I had only used callogen casings. Not really convinced that it made a big difference in the end product yet. jury is still out. I have made a ton of breakfast links with the callogen and never got a complaint.

    Like it was said before. you just have to play with how much you stuff the casing. part of the fun of this little "hobby" of ours. you get to experiment!
  5. meat hunter

    meat hunter Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Hey Dana, Panthers info will set you on the right path. But if you are expanding into the sausage arena, have you picked up your copy of Ryteks book yet? I can't remember if you said you had one or not. If not, you gotta get it, a must read.
  6. mballi3011

    mballi3011 Smoking Guru OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I'm in the same boat here just got my grinder and the "Bible" from Rytak and I'm almosr ready to start grinding and stuffing. I well have to stuff the sausage from the grinder for now but we still have the fat guy in the red suit coming soon enough. But I just wanted to thank you all for the great info and I'm gonna be like a sponge and soak it all up.
  7. bbq engineer

    bbq engineer Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member


    WOW! I really appreciate your thorough and well considered response...CAN I GET SOME POINTS FOR THE PANTHER FAN OVER HERE?!? [​IMG]Great advice, That will definitely help me get started off on the right foot.

    Oneshot - Rytek's book was definitely on my list, and the book DVD combo looks like a great deal too...I'm ordering that tonight.

    Mark - Did Mrs. Mark deliver a grinder to you too?!? Man that is awesome...send pics so we can cheer!
  8. bmudd14474

    bmudd14474 Guest

    Great advise Panther you got Points from me [​IMG]
  9. pantherfan83

    pantherfan83 Smoking Fanatic

    Thanks for the points everyone. [​IMG]

    Hey BBQEngineer, do you have a smoker to cook these sausages in? Just joking, I followed your build in the Wood Smokers section. It was awesome!! Really nice design, workmanship, and documentation. Wish I had your skills.
  10. dangerdan

    dangerdan Meat Mopper OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Good info!!
  11. bassman

    bassman Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Another sausage head bites the dust![​IMG] You have the information you need to provide us with lots of sausage pics.

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