8

Are air bubbles/pockets/loose casing in raw sausages okay food safety-wise? I don't know if it's just because they didn't fill them as full or if they formed from gases/bacteria. They are five days before the best before date Merguez sausages. Thanks!

12

It is most likely just a void. It is hard to pack a casing 100%. There will be voids.

Could it be (toxic) bacterial gas? Maybe but not likely.

  • 1
    Remember your going to cook them. Cooking not only changes the flavor of the meat but kills off almost all harmful bacteria. Air pockets, will get cooked to, and will usually "pop", but even if they don't any bacteria in the air pocket will be killed off. – coteyr Sep 28 '16 at 7:22
  • 14
    @coteyr Any bacteria in the air pocket may be killed off yes, but the toxins they leave behind can not be cooked off. – Trotski94 Sep 28 '16 at 7:30
  • 2
    True, if your meat is old enough to have toxins then best to throw it out. Usually though this is only really a problem, if the meat is stored at room temperature or stored (in the fridge) for a really long time. Standard meet rules apply. Once thawed cook it, don't let it set in the fridge raw for more then a day or two. – coteyr Sep 28 '16 at 7:33
  • 1
    As far as I know, bacterial toxins are not usually gaseous. There are spores etc. that can be carried in gas, but they can also be carried in (e.g.) sausage. – abligh Sep 28 '16 at 9:02
10

To avoid it, you'd need to pack them in a way that makes them more like hot dogs than sausages. Hot dogs are a smooth emulsion of (usually) reclaimed meat, fat and spices. Sausages are mince that's been somewhat loosely packed and cooked (usually smoked) in a casing along with herbs, fat and spices.

With synthetic casings, you can pump a bit more pressure resulting in a denser sausage with less air, but there's still going to be some. However, the hallmark of a great quality sausage is a natural casing, with little nooks of air, fat, spices, etc.

What you have sounds like quality sausage in a natural casing, and you should positively consume it when it's fresh (ideally within days of buying it!). But there's nothing wrong with leaving them out in the back of the fridge to age a little bit (really helps bring out the flavor of fennel / anise) prior to cooking them up, and they will be a little loose and crumbly.

If you pick up on even a slight acrid taste or smell, don't use them. Otherwise, you're fine.

  • * Sausages are cooked mince* -- they're not cooked when they're packed into the casings – Chris H Sep 28 '16 at 7:45
  • 1
    @ChrisH Yeah that doesn't quite read well and as intended, fixed. – Tim Post Sep 28 '16 at 7:54
4

The casing on a fresh sausage needs to be left somewhat loose because the casing will contract when it's cooked. If it were stuffed as tightly as possible, it would be almost certain to split open in the frying pan. Even for a sausage that will be poached first (boudin blanc, e.g.), which causes the casing to shrink much more gently, you must account for that shrinking.

Air bubbles are simply a natural consequence, as Tim Post says, of the size of the grind. You notice that tennis balls in their can also have "air bubbles" around them. If there are a lot of bubbles, it's a sign of perhaps not-quite-painstaking manufacture: usually the bubbles are pierced after the links are formed. This is again to prevent splitting: the air will expand when it's heated and that can rupture the casing.

The pockets are not a danger sign by any means, though. The only worrisome hypothetical I can think of would be that they appear to inflate on their own while the sausage is in cold storage: that means something alive is producing gas. (My guess would be that'd just be harmless yeast, but) When in doubt, throw it out.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.