What happens if you eat the skin on a summer sausage?

Eating the skin on summer sausage is generally considered safe, though some people may want to remove it for personal preference. The casing or skin on summer sausage serves an important purpose during the curing and cooking process. However, once the sausage is fully cooked, the casing is edible and offers no health risks.

Is summer sausage skin safe to eat?

Yes, the skin or casing on summer sausage is completely safe to eat. Summer sausage uses a casing to shape the sausage during the curing and smoking process. Casings are traditionally made from the cleaned intestines of pigs, cows, or sheep. Today, many commercial summer sausages use a collagen or cellulose-based casing.

These casings are edible and do not present any health hazards. The USDA and other food safety organizations consider the casings on sausages like summer sausage to be safe for consumption.

Why do some people remove the skin?

While the summer sausage skin is safe to eat, some people prefer to peel it off before eating the sausage. Here are some reasons why:

  • Texture – The skin can have a chewy, tough, or slippery texture that some find unappealing.
  • Flavor – The casing can impart a mildly unpleasant flavor.
  • Aesthetics – Some people don’t like the look of the skin around the slices.
  • Personal preference – Some people just don’t like eating the skin.

In most cases, removing the skin comes down to personal taste and texture preference. It does not indicate the skin is unsafe.

Is the skin good for you?

The skin or casing itself has little nutritional value. It is primarily made up of collagen, cellulose, or other fiber-based materials. However, leaving the skin on can provide some benefits:

  • More calories – The skin contains a small amount of protein and fat, adding around 5-10 extra calories per ounce.
  • Added texture – The skin can provide an enjoyable chewy contrast to the softer sausage interior.
  • Prevents crumbling – The casing helps hold sliced sausage together.

Overall, the skin itself does not add much nutritionally but provides some texture, flavor, and visual appeal that some enjoy.

What is summer sausage casing made of?

Traditionally, the casing or skin on summer sausage was made from animal intestines. Pig intestines were most commonly used. Today, there are two main types of casings:

  • Natural casings – Made from the cleaned intestines of animals like pigs, sheep, or cows. Provides authentic appearance and texture.
  • Artificial casings – Made from collagen, cellulose, or plant-based materials. Easier to use and less expensive.

Most major commercial summer sausage brands use artificial casings derived from materials like collagen or cellulose. Only some specialty or gourmet summer sausages still use classic natural intestine casings.

How is the skin added to summer sausage?

The skin or casing is applied when the ground meat sausage mixture is stuffed into casings prior to curing and cooking. There are two main methods:

  • Natural casings – Soaked and rinsed intestines slid onto the sausage stuffing tube before filling.
  • Artificial casings – Flat sheets of collagen or cellulose formed into tubes around the meat.

In both cases, once the ground meat filling is stuffed into the casings, they are twisted or tied off into links. Then the sausages cure through smoking or drying before the skin adheres tightly to the meat.

Does all summer sausage have a skin?

Nearly all traditional styles of summer sausage have some type of skin or encasing. However, there are some varieties that don’t use a casing, including:

  • Uncured beef summer sausages
  • Frozen extruded summer sausages
  • Some seasoned ground meat loaf mixtures

In most cases, the skinless varieties don’t undergo traditional curing and smoking processes. Without the skin, the sausages would lose their shape and fall apart during these processes.

Is eating the skin unhealthy?

There are no health risks associated specifically with eating summer sausage skins or casings. The skins are food-grade products adhering to USDA safety standards. Any seasonings or curing ingredients penetrate the meat, not the skin.

However, summer sausages are high in sodium and fat. The skin contributes minimally to this:

  • Sodium – Most sodium is in the meat, not the skin.
  • Fat – The skin has traces of fat, but most is in the meat.
  • Preservatives – Modern artificial skins are preserved but safe to eat.
  • Bacteria – Cooking kills any bacteria; skins just provide shape.

In reasonable amounts, summer sausage and the skin are fine for most people. Individuals with high blood pressure or on sodium-restricted diets may want to limit intake.

Does the skin have a different taste?

The skin itself has a very mild flavor. Any smoke, spices, or seasoning flavors come from the meat, not the casing. However, some find the skin has a slightly unpleasant taste or texture.

Reasons the casing may taste different than the meat include:

  • Saltier flavor from curing agents interacting with the skin
  • Tougher, chewier texture than the tender sausage meat
  • Off-flavors absorbed into the skin during cooking
  • An animal or intestine flavor in natural casings

In most cases, the skin has only a subtle impact on flavor. But for some, that impact may be unpleasant. This comes down to personal preference.

Is eating the skin healthier?

There aren’t any specific health benefits to eating summer sausage skins. Since they are primarily collagen or cellulose-based, they have minimal nutritional value. However, the skins do offer some advantages:

  • Extra protein – Natural casings provide trace proteins and amino acids.
  • Added texture – Provides a nice contrast to the soft sausage interior.
  • May be more satisfying – The chewier texture may help you eat less.

Overall, the skins add little nutritionally. But they do add some variety in taste and texture that some find enjoyable and satisfying.

Do all sausages have edible skins?

Most types of sausages have edible skins or casings. However, there are a few exceptions:

  • Raw fresh sausages – Contain no skins or casings.
  • Some chicken/turkey sausages – May use an inedible casing.
  • Meatloaf mixtures – Lack structural casings.

In general, traditional cured and cooked sausages like salami, kielbasa, bratwurst, chorizo, and summer sausage have edible skins. The skin is only inedible in some fresh, raw, or uncured sausages.

Can you cook summer sausage with the skin on?

Yes, you can cook summer sausage without having to remove the skin first. Common cooking methods like grilling, pan-frying, broiling, or baking work fine with the skin on.

Benefits of leaving the skin on during cooking include:

  • Holds sausage shape together
  • Prevents sausage from drying out
  • Adds texture and appearance
  • Easier than removing after cooking

The skin may shrivel, crisp up, or char slightly when cooked but remains edible. Just be sure to cook the sausage to an internal temperature of 160°F.

Does the skin shrink when cooked?

Yes, the collagen or cellulose-based skins on summer sausage will shrink and tighten when cooked. This is mainly caused by:

  • Collagen contracts and condenses from heat.
  • Moisture loss leads to shrinkage.
  • Fats rendering out cause the skin to tighten.

This shrinkage actually helps the skin adhere closely to the meat. It results in a tighter, denser texture and transforms the appearance from raw to cooked.

The skin may shrink away from meat near the ends exposing some of the sausage. But it will continue clinging tightly over most of the sausage.

Will cooking make the skin softer?

Cooking summer sausage generally does not make the skin appreciably softer. The collagen or cellulose-based materials are designed to hold up to high cooking temperatures. However, cooking may affect the skin texture in a few ways:

  • Shrinks slightly, developing a tighter bond with the meat.
  • Can become slightly crispy, brittle, or charred at high temperatures.
  • May soften or separate a bit at the very ends.

While the skin may pick up some color and crisping, the majority retains its firm, chewy texture during cooking. Thorough cooking ensures food safety as well.

Should you cook summer sausage before eating?

Most experts recommend cooking pre-cured summer sausages prior to eating them. Some key reasons to cook them first include:

  • Kills any remaining bacteria for food safety.
  • Renders fat to improve texture and flavor.
  • Makes the meat more tender and easier to slice.
  • Improves overall flavor through Maillard reactions.

Pre-cooked sausages are technically safe to eat straight from the package. However, a quick grill or pan fry improves taste and texture noticeably.

Fresh, uncured sausages always need thorough cooking to destroy dangerous bacteria before eating.


The casing or skin on summer sausage is completely edible and safe to eat. While some people may prefer to remove it before eating, the skin itself carries no health risks and can provide texture.

Summer sausage skin is made from food-grade collagen, cellulose, or natural casings. It simply provides shape and structure during curing and cooking. Any seasonings penetrate the meat itself, not the casing.

While the skins add little nutritionally, some enjoy the extra flavor, contrasting texture, and appearance they provide. Cooked summer sausage can be safely enjoyed with or without the casing based on personal preferences.

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