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Tempted by Chorizo - what should I know

We were at a store that caters to a hispanic clientele, and saw many different kinds of Chorizo. Some were really inexpensive and some twice as much. They all looked very orange. What is in this sausage? Is it spicy? How do you cook it? My DH loves sausage and wanted to try it, but I need more info. I cannot eat very spicy foods, and I was concerned that it had a lot of cayenne.

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  1. You probably don't want to know what's in it. Now that I know, I try not to think about it. I'd say it's lightly to moderately spicy, but then I've been known to eat pickled jalapenos right out of the jar. I usually grill mine when I grill beef and chicken for tacos, but you could pan fry it, too.

    1. I like the spicy and I use it mostly for queso fundito, quesadillas, and egg dishes. I nearly always cut it out of the casing and fry it into almost-crispy little nuggets. It will produce a huge amount of red grease that resembles jet-A fuel, and could probably power up a Citation. If you fry it in the casing, poke a few dozen holes so the grease doesn't shoot half way across the room.
      This should be a fun post, and I hope to learn more imaginative uses than my own few.

      1. I think much of the red coloring comes from smoked paprika.

        That being said I LOVE chorizo and whenever I make paella you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a copious amount of chorizo included. I use a basque chorizo and some other really common kind and it's delicious. I cut it from it's casing too as I've found that the casing gets chewy and funky looking after sitting in the paella cooking.

        1. The usual ingredients are pork, chilis, vinegar and other seasonings.
          We like it in breakfast tacos.
          Remove the sausage from the casing and fry. Should be thoroughly cooked. Drain well.
          We use Ore-Ida potatoes O'Brien in the burrito filling. Again cook til almost crispy. Stir in the chorizo to reheat. Add a couple of beaten eggs and incorporate into the potatoes/sausage. Serve in warm flour tortillas with grated cheese, sour cream and salsa.

          1. There are two distinctly different kinds of chorizo. There is the fresh variety that is removed from the casing before cooking and the style from Spain which is smoked and ready to eat.

            The Mexican et. al. version is great for adding to scrambled eggs for breakfast burritos. The Spanish version is great for eating on an appetizer tray with cheeses and good sherry.

            17 Replies
            1. re: bkhuna

              The Mexican version tends to be hot, the Spanish less so. The dried Spanish is more like an Italian salami, except it uses Spanish smoke paprika. In the USA, the hot, fresh Mexican version is more common.
              paulj

              1. re: paulj

                I've never bought it. What brands should I look for? Which are better/have fewer fillers than others? Or, does it matter?

                1. re: Gio

                  WHATEVER you do READ the ingrediants ... if you see lymph nodes and salivary glands gently put it back on the shelf and carefully step away.
                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/340224

                  It is best to buy it from a carnerceria in a Mexican market. Most have butcher counters where it is made in-house.

                  I wondered about Mexican chorizo. This is a recap of the 16 markets I visited ... ranking 23 Mexican chorizos (8 dry, 15 fresh), one upscale fresh chorizo (probably Spanish), 2 Salvadoran chorizos, 3 longanizas ... I CAN get a little obsessive when I'm curious about something.
                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/340905

                  Though that link is about Bay Area, there is a lot of general info in there about how wildly different chorizo can be at each market.

                  At the top were chorizos with hints of cinnamon and other spices. At the bottom it was like sawdust with gristle ... and El Mexicano was just in it's own special category in sausage hell.

                  The grind can vary from course to very fine.

                  If nothing else I learned how to cook it ... no, no, you can't hurrry chorizo ... it's a game of slowly fry and wait ... 20 - 30 minutes.

                  Use the lowest heat possible and you won't wind up with a pool of oil.

                  There are two types of Mexican chorizo ... fresh and seca (dry). The later you will see hanging unrefrigerated from dowls on the wall. The former is coiled (usually) in the meat case. Sometimes it is shaped like sausages and tied with corn husks.

                  The dry usually has more of a vinagar taste since that is used to preserve the meat.

                  So it is hard to say ... the best you can do is sample a little here and there. Ask on your local board who makes the best chorizo or for good Mexican markets.

                  As mentioned there is Spanish chorizo which is usually more solid and a different type of sausage.

                  1. re: rworange

                    Thank you so much rworange, for that inclusive description. I value all your recommendations and insights. You do an amazing amount of research for us. Thank you.

                    1. re: Gio

                      second that. thanks rworange!
                      is annato the bizarre red-orange color-generating ingredient, though, in the mex/salvadoran versions? i cannot imagine paprika gets you that neon color!
                      http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices/a...
                      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annatto
                      http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/B...

                      also, some cooking ideas:
                      http://www.all-foods-natural.com/arti...

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Good questions. Paprika and achiote have distinctive flavors that are absent in Mexican chorizo. I think it more simple- dried flaked chilis absorbed into lots of pork fat.
                        I think of chorizo sort of as Mexican Scrapple, better seasoned, but includes everything but the squeal.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          I think I'm afraid to try chorizo based on the ingredients. The spice parts sound good. But I don't want the experience rw had with the other bits. I almost g-g-g-gagged just reading her description of the El Mexicano.

                          1. re: Gio

                            When I got married to a lovely chicana, I too was afraid to eat chorizo. Lymph nodes and salivary glands? Not this boy!

                            However, I got over my aversion once I actually ate it. Just like menudo, that which doesn't kill you, actually makes you stronger.

                            1. re: bkhuna

                              Thank you for the encouragement, bk...I'll remember that when I'm in the market!

                              1. re: Gio

                                But do keep in mind that like menudo there are good and bad versions of chorizo, so if you get a not so great version, hope you'll give it another try.

                                I only found that one commercial brand with the scrap parts like lymph nodes etc. Most are just using cuts of pork or beef. On the lower end, I suspect some use organ meat. I think those are the versions that had the slightly livery taste to them.

                              2. re: bkhuna

                                Some of the brands sold around here have the lymphnodes and salivary glands,usually the cheaper chorizo.Here you can buy Chorizo San Manuel,made down in the valley,and it is all beef or pork.
                                Bought some at H.E.B. and cooked it with chicken breast tenders and potatoes, and ate it over rice.
                                I haven't been to Cuelbra's Meat Market on NagodochesRoad yet,but may stop by this weekend for the heck of it.
                                I like to use it in chorizo and egg breakfast tacos.
                                Just depends on the brand you buy.

                                1. re: HollyDolly

                                  Is there something wrong with including scraps such as these glands and nodes in sausage? Or are we buying into the marketing hype of Bob Evans and co, and thinking that only the 'finest' cuts of pork are fit for human consumption?

                                  Some chefs contend that the 'green' approach to meat consumption is to use the whole animal, from snout to tail, including the oink.

                                  If some of the bits inside the sausage bother you, don't even think about the outside - unless it is made with a plastic casing.

                                  paulj

                                  http://www.offalgood.com/site/what-is...

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    I'm all for using the whole animal, but it doesn't need to taste like it sounds ... the version I had was just slimy and was like eating spit.

                                    It's not like I'll ever turn down something like a frankfurter whatever may be chopped up in it. I'm a liverwurst and any wurst fan. I'd have no problem with chorizo with scrap meat if it tasted good. This was cheap, awful stuff and would make me wary of trying any other brand with those ingrediants.

                    2. re: Gio

                      I like Palacios brand Spanish chorizo. It's available in both mild and spicy. I use it for paella, pizza, beans, soups, and even just nibbling. No idea whether or not it has fewer fillers, but it's the "meatiest" I've found locally.

                      1. re: JoanN

                        Palacios brand Spanish. Thanks JoanN! I made a note of it. On my trip to the market this Saturday, I'll definitely look for that.

                        1. re: JoanN

                          I order the Palacios brand from tienda.com. We just got a shipment today, actually. My husband loves it.

                          There's also a wonderful fresh-type chorizo sausage (to be cooked, rather than cured) from Niemann Ranch that I buy in big quantities (and freeze) when I can find it.

                      2. re: paulj

                        Findability totally depends in your location. In NYC, you're much more likely to find the Spanish kind than the Mexican kind.

                        Danhole, not sure what kind you encountered, but I like the Spanish kind sliced and sauteed in olive oil with a splash of sherry. It's also great with lots of different Spanish cheeses, especially manchego. You frequently see it served this way in tapas bars.

                        I don't know exactly what's in it, but I do know that it's a pork sausage.