Chorizo is a pork sausage known for its vibrant red color and the kick of spiciness that it adds to recipes. There are two distinct types of Chorizo – Mexican and Spanish, one is soft, and the other is semi-hard, cured or semi-cured. They both come in casings.
Mexican Chorizo is soft and mushy before and after cooking. Chorizo has a very high fat content, which leads to the soft and mushy appearance and feel before and after cooking. As long as it is a bright red when taken out of the package/casing and then a duller red or even a light brown after cooking, it is still good, and it is still safe to eat.
There is a lot to learn about chorizo sausage. It is a pork sausage, but because of its high fat content and unique ingredients, it looks and cooks differently than regular pork sausage. A caution for those that have not used chorizo there are times it is not good and safe. If your interest is peaked and you want to learn more about this delicious sausage, read on!
Types of Chorizo Sausage
As stated before, there are two basic types of chorizo sausage that are most often sold in stores. It is important to understand the difference between the two.
This is the soft and mushy sausage. It is bright or dark red. Its spicy kick comes from the additions of vinegar, smoked paprika, and chili peppers. It comes in a casing, and you should remove this before cooking.
Mexican Chorizo needs cooking. Do not eat this type of Chorizo raw. You will become ill! It will be mushy out of the casing, and as it cooks, it will still be very soft, not as chunky as when browning hamburger.
This is a hard, semi-cured, or cured chorizo that is ready to eat. You will want to take the casing or skin off before you eat it. In this respect, it is like a summer sausage.
The ingredients in Spanish Chorizo are much the same as the Mexican. They make it from chopped pork and pork fat; it has the added seasonings of garlic, pimentón – a type of smoked paprika – and salt. Spanish Chorizo is spicy or sweet, depending on what type of pimentón is used.
History of Chorizo
The Spanish term “chorizo” is used to describe several types of sausage. Sausage became very popular in Europe after the Black Plaque. People realized that curing meat would give it a longer shelf life, and the cured meat was also incredibly versatile.
In the 15th century Spain, pigs were raised in villages and actually killed in the streets. The families would then prepare the chorizo to use or to sell. Spain invaded Mexico in the 16th Century and brought pigs with them. Chorizo eventually became a part of Mexican food preparation and consumption.
Mexican chorizo differs from Spanish because of the aging process. Spanish chorizo is more like salami, with a smoky flavor and harder consistency. The Mexican chorizo is a lot like Italian sausage; it is very juicy and spicy.
Finding Chorizo in the Store & Online
We will find both Mexican and Spanish chorizo in different places in stores. The need for cooking with Mexican chorizo means we will probably find it in the meat case with other raw meat. Usually, the label will clearly state cooking directions.
Spanish chorizo, again, being semi-cured or cured, will probably reside in the deli or cheese case. Cooking is appropriate, but consumption with no preparation is the case more often than not.
Cooking Mexican Chorizo
We have established that there are basically two distinct types of chorizo. They are both red, but one is hard and edible right out of the package, and the other is soft and requires thorough cooking.
Can you cook both types of chorizo? Absolutely! Here are the steps and some great tips when cooking Mexican chorizo.
Cooking Mexican chorizo properly is important.
- Cut casing down the middle and squeeze the chorizo into a non-stick pan.
- No oil needed. This is a very fatty food.
- Break the sausage apart and cook the sausage over medium heat.
- Continue to move it around the pan, breaking apart the chunks.
- You will want to cook it thoroughly, even though it will still be mushy. It should be dull red or light brown.
Check and Double-Check
To be absolutely sure that your chorizo is safe to eat, check the following after cooking:
Temperature, it should be 160ºF. It is hard to get an accurate reading for this, as cooked chorizo is very greasy and mushy.
Color is another good way to check if chorizo is ready to eat. Before, it will be a very bright red. After cooking, it will be a dull red or even a light brown.
The texture is probably the best way to test if you have fully cooked chorizo. If the texture is still sticky and very easy to mold it together, it requires more cooking. It should resemble cooked ground beef, but it will be tiny pieces of sausage. It should break apart.
This is an excellent video on the proper way to prepare Mexican chorizo and what it looks like as it is cooking and after being cooked.
Cooking Spanish Chorizo
You may eat cured Spanish chorizo right from the package; it will be tasty cold and on a cracker or with a salad. The semi-cured Spanish chorizo will need cooking, this is a softer chorizo, but it is not as soft as Mexican chorizo.
Cook the semi-cured chorizo in the following manner:
- Slice it into either thick or thin pieces.
- Add a small amount of olive oil to the bottom of the pan.
- If you are fixing it with vegetables, fry these until crisp, tender first.
- Add the slices of chorizo and fry for approximately five to six minutes.
- It is ready to eat when the color has turned a deep red.
How long does chorizo last? You must store Mexican chorizo in the refrigerator or in the freezer. It will last about one to two weeks in the refrigerator. It might last longer than that, but it will start to lose its flavor after that length of time. It may stay in the freezer for up to two months, but again, it will start to lose flavor after about a month.
Spanish chorizo will stay fresh and hold its flavor when stored at room temperature up to a month. Labels strongly recommend that when storing it unopened, at room temperature, it is still best used within a week.
Don’t Eat the Chorizo!
When is it not safe to eat chorizo? If the chorizo’s smell carries an odor of being off or spoiled, it is not safe to eat. Mold is growing on the casing or on the sausage itself, even though some people will tell you to scrape off the mold and eat it anyway, we do not recommend this. The beautiful red color has turned gray or even brown, dispose of it immediately. Don’t eat the chorizo!
Good Eats – Chorizo Recipes
There are a lot of great ways to eat Mexican and Spanish chorizo. Tasty recipes below:
Chorizo is a pork sausage, but it differs from the sausage that many people purchase and eat. It may take some getting used to the texture, color, and how it cooks.
Mexicans and Spaniards incorporate chorizo into their daily diet. So much so, that chorizo made our list of 21 Spanish Foods To Die For.
Remember that Mexican chorizo is soft, mushy, and bright red before cooking. It is also mushy after cooking, but it should not clump together. It will also turn a duller red or even a very light brown.
Spanish chorizo comes cured or semi-cured. It is hard, and it is red. The cured chorizo needs no preparation. Semi-cured should cook for about five minutes.
When in doubt, read the labels, pay attention to which part of the store you found it in, and then enjoy this delicious sausage!
Want to make your own chorizo? Read How to Make Spanish Chorizo?
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