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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.

                    3. I am so glad I asked before I bought! There is a Mexican Meat Market very close by that I have been in, they have the best and largest avocados ever, and cheap, too, so I will have to go there. I will have to brush up on my spanish, though, because I don't think anyone in there speaks english! I know that a friend craves their tamales to the point of obsession.

                      When I looked at the ingredients all it said was pork, garlic and spices, but there was a lot of white stuff in there - fat? And it was so orange!

                      1. I'd like to add that there is a Portuguese chorico (sorry, there should be a cedilla on the second 'c'), and it is completely unlike Mexican chorizo. The Portugese variety is usually moderately spicy, and the filling is not finely ground, but rather chunky bits of things like shoulder, and usually cured. It is excellent stuff. I don't know whether Houston has much of a Portuguese community, but chorico is definitely worth the hunt.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: hungry_pangolin

                          I will have to check that out. I don't think there is a large Portugese community here, but then again I could be mistaken. It's a very diverse city! I'll look at some of the specialty/ethnic stores. Thanks.

                          1. re: danhole

                            And it you find chourico (or Spanish chorizo), I highly recommend following this recipe for cooking:

                            http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipe...

                            1. re: Megiac

                              That's a great web site. I've found many recipes there that have made it into my regualr rotation. Thanks for the link to this recipe. I haven't seen it before.

                              1. re: Megiac

                                I just tiik a look at that website. That is fantastic. Thanks so much for that, Megiac!

                                1. re: hungry_pangolin

                                  that is a great site! her cake would be good after any chorizo dinner: (brown sugar pound cake)!
                                  http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipe...

                          2. I use the Mexican Chorizo for breakfast with potatoes. I dont really like scrambled eggs, I like fried eggs. I use the Chorizo with potatoes. I break it out of the casing and put it in pieces with some diced potatoes and some water and then cook it down until the water is evaporated and you have some nice spicy potatoes with your breakfast. I also do this same thing and then put the potato/chorizo mixture in enchiladas that you bake. Delicious!

                            1. Mexican, and Central american Chorizo: "fresh", pork based, heavily seasoned, and usually spicy-hot to some degree. taken out of the casing and browned before adding to anything, especially to render the copious amounts of fat in it. Heavy on smoky, cumin, garlicky, chile flavor.

                              Spanish chorizo: "cured" pork based. high flavor, spicy but not hot. (hot varieties are out there too) sliced and served or added to any dish, beans, stews, etc. Has some fat rendering too. Flavors heavy on smoked paprika, garlicky.

                              Portuguese Chorico: similar to spanish, milder. great in stews

                              Cousin Andouillie sausage: also cured and ready to eat, high flavor, spice-heat.

                              those last 3, especially, are meant to be "Accent" sausages...not the kind of sausage you'd throw on a grill and go.

                              for example, Whole Foods carries a really tasty "fresh" andouillle sausage-very flavorful and garlicky. But its something i could grill or broil and serve as a main meat...i wouldnt call it anything authentic by any means

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: TSQ75

                                andouille grilled, with new orleans remoulade and shredded lettuce, on a crusty french roll.......oh....so......goooooood! always makes me think of this little place called "frenchy's cajun cafe" in gainesville, fla. a few years back. my sister and i were dropping off her daughter at univ. of fla. that weekend. we made two heavy-duty trips to frenchy's, and still talk about it today, some 20 years later!

                              2. My earlier post didn't get through... so here is an abbreviated version...

                                > Commercially produced Mexican style Chorizo tends to be low quality... its meant to hit an absurdly low price point ($1 to $2 per pound)

                                > In Mexico... you have two general quality types... Chorizo (made from lean pork... shoulder, loin, leg etc..... sometimes with lard added... other times you need to add it yourself so it doesn't stick to the typical cast iron comals) it tends to be spicy, tied in small ball. Then there is Longaniza made from less expensive cuts & some offal... its keep either untied or tied into long links... this tends to be less spicy. Both come with natural casing... Chorizo is softer... Longaniza is more firm. These are the basics.... there are regional varieties... Toluca (State of Mexico) is the town best known for its Chorizos... particularly the herby Green Chorizo. Xalapa (State of Veracruz) is best known for dried Chorizos, as well as Pata Negra serrano style hams etc.,

                                > Many Super Markets & Carnicerias in the U.S. make their own Chorizo & Longaniza... it tends to much higher quality than the Commercial stuff like Reynaldo's, Carmelita's, El Mexicano, Cacique etc.,... and costs about twice as much (but still a bargain at $2 to $4 a pound). Ask your butcher what they put in it.... Maciza, Lomo, Pierna, Espaldilla etc., are all good answers if you are looking to avoid offal. On the other hand there is a growing school of thought in Nutritional Sciences that offal, collagen etc., might play a key role in finger / toe nail, skin, hair & eyeball health...

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                  It may or may not be good for you, but it shouldn't taste so offal.

                                  Thanks for the note about the difference between chorizo and longaniza. Are they used in Mexico the same as here?

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    I am sorry... are you asking whether Chorizo & Longaniza are used in recipes similarly as they are used here. Or are you asking whether the distinction I made... applies in Mexico as well as the U.S.?

                                      1. re: rworange

                                        Ah.... well as I mentioned elsewhere in the thread Chorizo in Mexico is common in parilladas... also various types of dishes called Al Albanil (construction worker style)... such as Molcajetes or Kabobs that would have bacon & chorizo... along with other meats.

                                        In basic homecooking... people pan cook it... and use it as a base, much like sofrito is used... to stry fry with vegetables (I mention the common ones below)... as well as lean meats (cubed pork loin, chicken breast strips, ground meats etc.,). It also gets added to soups of all types... from basic Frijoles de la Olla, to Dried Fava & Nopales with fresh Mint leaves, and Tortilla Soups.

                                        One of the more interesting uses is to with Fideo seco (sauteed vermicelli or angel hair pasta).

                                        My cousins sold hamburgers at night in their Naucalpan neighborhood to pay for their secondary & preparatory school expenses.. they would blend ground beef with raw chorizo for their patties and had various varieties on different days (sometimes stuffing them with a local queso fresco made from goat milk, other times adding sauteed mushrooms into the patties etc,)

                                  2. re: Eat_Nopal

                                    Thanks for the info. Which type would be best for cooking in a pan or on a grill? My DH is very picky and if I were to put this in beans, or mixed with anything, he would not eat it. I would love it, though. He might go for it cooked with potatoes, but I'm not sure.

                                    As far as offal goes, if you eat Jello you eat offal, collagen, etc. Great for the fingernails and I have heard it's good for arthritis sufferers, too.

                                    1. re: danhole

                                      Like I mentioned... Longaniza is typically more firm than Chorizo so it stands up better to grilling... and in fact is a common item in Parilladas (mixed grilled meats & vegetables... usually steaks, chicken, chorizo / longaniza, cactus paddles, spring onions, new potates etc.,)

                                      A natural casing chorizo will fare just fine if you pan fry it. As a kid... I would bring down one my mom's copper skillets from its decorative place on the kitchen wall to fry up whole chorizo balls.. along with some asadero cheese... to make tacos (much to my mom's horror).

                                      Nowadays I prefer it in pot of beans... or sauteed with any or all of cubed nopales, potates, cabbage, calabacitas, cauliflour, quelites, jalapenos etc.,

                                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                        Next time I make bean soup I will add some cooked chorizo.

                                        1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                          In some markets it is easier to find a Philippine longaniza. One time I tried that, it was quite sweet.
                                          paulj

                                    2. In answer to your question of "is it spicy?" there is mild chorizo and spicy chorizo and everything in between. If you can't take spicy food at all, then probably chorizo is not for you.

                                      1. I don't (as Samuel L. Jackson once said) dig on swine, but I've found that a handful of local sausage producers who peddle their wares at the West Side Market here in Cleveland make a fine turkey chorizo. For those who are concerned about excessive fat/offal something along those lines might not be a bad option to look into. May not be mucho authentico, but it tastes good, and holds up quite well to grilling. Me, I use it, removed from the casing or purchased bulk, in my jambalaya when I can't find turkey andouille, or for in any of a number of combinations with poblanos and potatoes. Yum.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: LeslieB

                                          I saw some tofu chorizo the other day (Calif, ya know) ... I'm thinking about it.

                                        2. I love Mexican chorizo and the ingredients don't bother me but admittadly I do purchase the all beef variety if I have an option. I never use copius amounts so its not a huge dietary issue. If you just want the flavor and none of the mouth feel then chorizo made from tofu can be a good substitute. It's been a long time since I bought some, but some co-ops and natural food stores carry it, unfortunately the brand name escapes me. IIRC, Debrah Madison has a tofu chorizo recipe that is supposed to be good.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L

                                            The chicken chorizo that Trader Joes sells is spicier than any of the other sausages they have. I don't think they list chicken gizzards etc in the ingredients.
                                            paulj

                                          2. the big "spicy" question is sooooo subjective tho. I mean, what does each person define as spicy? and I'm not even talking about "how hot can you handle it"

                                            there's spicy, and there's hot. big difference. there's spicy, heavily spiced and flavorful, and there's hot...all thet flavor, plus heat.

                                            In the caribbean cooking i grew up with, I would label it spicy...but not at all hot. There was never a chile to be seen, and the extent of heat came from garlic and black pepper.

                                            spanish chorizo tends to just be spicy, and there are some specialty variations that are hot. mexican chorizo tends to be more on the hot side, and come in varying degrees of hot.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: TSQ75

                                              Don't get me wrong - I LOVE spicy, but because of a stomach condition I have to watch the heat level. So heavily seasoned food doesn't bother me, but too much cayenne, tabasco, jalapeno, etc., does.

                                              I want to thank all of you for educating me on this so I am better prepared to make a wise choice. There is no Trader Joes in this part of the country, and Tofu is not really something that appeals to either one of us, but there are mexican meat markets around every other corner, so that helps. Also HEB is close by, so I will try the brand Hollydolly mentioned.

                                              1. re: danhole

                                                I'd ask at the Mexican market if they have a store-made version that isn't very hot - 'chorizo que no es picante'.