Pork casings are necessary for pork sausages to hold their form. For centuries, pork casings have been used in sausage making for their natural ability to keep moisture and flavor in while cooking pork sausages.
What Is Pork Casing?
Ever seen the thin layers of material visible around a pork sausage and other meat products? That’s the pork casing.
You can’t make a quality pork sausage without a quality pork casing. They stop the sausage juices from escaping while also absorbing BBQ smells, and this makes the final sausage tastier by the time you get to eat it.
Are Pork Casings The Same As Pork Skins?
Yes! Both terms can be used to refer to what keeps your sausage meat together. You can use pork casings for dried, cured, smoked, and even fermented pork sausages. Natural casings will shrink with the pork sausage, but artificial ones might not, making them look loose or slimy.
Can You Eat Pork Casing?
Yes, pork casings are 100% safe to eat. While they’re not considered part of the pork sausage itself, they’re still edible and made from materials that are safe to eat.
Some people might enjoy the texture and flavor brought to the pork sausage by the pork casing, while others might prefer to remove it before chewing it down.
Some types of pork casing could be too tough or too chewy, which makes them less appealing than the meat itself.
What is Casing Made Out Of?
There are two types of pork casing: natural pork casing and artificial pork casing.
As per the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), meat casings, also known as sausage casings, are made from the submucosa of the intestines of beef, sheep, and swine. In the case of pork casings, they’re made specifically from the small intestines of pigs.
Regardless, many people prefer the natural casings made from animal intestines.
Artificial casings tend to be flavorless and odorless, which is just a little disgusting for some.
What Is Natural Pork Casing Made Of?
Natural pork casings are made from the pig’s cleaned, trimmed, salted, and packed intestines. These are then soaked in water to clear away any excess salt and then stuffed with meat.
Many people think natural pork casings taste better than artificial ones and have the “smoked” sausage look most people associate with a well-made pork sausage.
They are also more susceptible to the BBQ smells and absorb moisture much better, giving them a distinct “meaty” flavor. They’re also usually more expensive than artificial pork casings, which is a reason some people prefer the latter.
What Is Artificial Pork Casing Made Of?
Artificial casings are created with collagen, cellulose, and plastic. While this might sound unnerving to some pork sausage lovers, all of these synthetic materials are extracted from animal materials.
Collagen is usually extracted from animal hides or bones. If you’ve ever seen pork sausages with a strong, transparent, and natural-looking casing, chances are it’s a collagen-based casing and might look just as a natural casing does.
Cellulose casings are made from plant fibers, like cotton or wood pulp. If you’re concerned about the environment, chances are you’ll prefer these over their plastic counterparts because they’re biodegradable. Cellulose casings are preferred for cooked or smoked sausages.
Plastic casings are the third type of artificial casing, and they’re made from many types of plastics, like polyamide or polyethylene. They’re strong and durable but by far considered the worst-tasting of all. They’re preferred for storing pork sausages in the long term.
What Does Made With Pork Casing Mean?
Next time you purchase a pork sausage with the “made with pork casing” label, rest assured that this is a safe practice.
The USDA enforces meat and poultry regulations to ensure customers know what they’re eating. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) regularly inspects meat processing facilities to ensure pork casings comply with their guidelines.
In the case of pork casings, they might cause sausages to taste or look differently, so companies must be 100% transparent with how they use their pork casings in their products.
Is Pork Casing Haram?
Pork casings are in uncertain waters for Islamic scholars, and pork and its byproducts are all considered haram (forbidden in Islam dietary laws). Since pork casings are made from pork intestines, which are a type of pork meat, they should be forbidden by technical definitions.
It’s also rare for people to purchase pork sausages just to consume the pork casings in them, given how they tend to come in small quantities and few people consider them a tasty meal.
However, as you saw above, some pork casings are made from artificial ingredients. For these cases, some scholars consider them halal (permissible).
On top of that, since many of these artificial pork casings are consumed in small numbers and are not the primary ingredient in the product, some Islamic scholars allow their consumption.
On top of that, artificial casings used in vegetarian sausages are considered halal.
However, you should talk with your local religious authority or a halal certification organization when in doubt.