Back Away from the Chorizo

I like chorizo. I’ve had it in fajitas, burritos, chili, appetizers, and omelettes. Spicy pork? Yes, please.

The local grocery stores sometimes stock fresh-ground chorizo, but more often than they just have your standard country pork sausage or Italian sausage. As a result, I finally decided to pick up a tube of this stuff:

Pork Chorizo

Pork? Not so much.

That soylent orange color? Yeah, pretty accurate, unlike the lies the fast food giants like to tell us.

I got the package out to make an omelette this morning. The instructions say to “remove from casing” before cooking. Apparently they meant the packaging, because there was no casing around this pasty muck, near as I could tell. I squeezed it out into the pan and tried to ignore the funky lumps as I attempted to crumble it for cooking.

After a few minutes over heat, I noticed no change in color or consistency. Meats are supposed to brown, right?

Time to look at the packaging again. “Cook to an internal temperature of 160°.” They don’t seem to care how. Okay, the stuff is sizzling and parts are starting to look a little crispy. Gotta be done.

Still bright, nuclear orange. Hmm. Are we sure this is pork? To the ingredients!

Yes, first ingredient is pork. But then came the dreaded parentheses. What, pray tell, pork products are included?

“Salivary glands, lymph nodes, and fat (cheeks).”

Back up, Mr Butcher Man! I don’t even know what salivary glands and lymph nodes look like! A series of tubes you just chop up and spice to hide all hint of flavor? I understand you want to use as much of the animal as possible, but is this really necessary anymore? We’re not all Andrew Zimmern or Bear Grylls. You know why? Because we’re not paid to be!

But hey, I can be adventurous. Is this how it was done back in the day? Maybe it’s like pig’s feet or haggis, a remnant from a time people really did have to find a way to eat every bit of an animal to get a meal. Maybe this is what I’ve been eating all along at Mexican restaurants and just didn’t know it. Ignorance is bliss, right?

So I poured in my beaten eggs, cooked it up, flipped, added cheese, and slid it onto the plate.

Understand, chorizo is greasy. Just like any other sausage or fatty meat, you’re going to get some runoff. This stuff took it to a whole new level by leaving a liquid even brighter and more orange than the original product.

Okay, okay, thought I. Let’s not panic. It’s wrapped in egg and cheese. Man the hell up and take a bite.

I tried. I really did. I even had myself psyched up enough I expected a pleasant surprise. Sadly, this tasted nothing like the stuff I got in the local Mexican joints, nor was it anywhere near as tasty as the ground chorizo I bought from the grocery stores. Maybe it was just the thought of the ingredients getting to me, right? Took another bite. Now that it didn’t catch me by surprise, is it really all that bad?

Yes.

Okay, one more bite.

No. No, no, and hell no. Just plain wrong. Into the garbage can.

Just to be sure, I consulted Wikipedia for a second opinion. The chorizo article has a history of the meat from several countries, but nowhere does it mention goddamn salivary glands. From the “Mexican chorizo” portion:

Based on the uncooked Spanish chorizo fresco, the Mexican versions of chorizo are made from fatty pork (however, beef, venison, kosher, and even vegan versions are known). The meat is usually ground (minced) rather than chopped, and different seasonings are used.

Fatty pork. Like where the bacon comes from, perhaps? Or at least somewhere where there is actual meat, not just leftovers. It’s no wonder the taste and texture of the stuff I’ve been eating is completely different from this spicy sludge.

Learn from my pain, my friends.

Next to the pork chorizo I bought is a tube of beef chorizo. I haven’t gone back to see what it’s made of, yet, but I can’t imagine it’s any better.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

22 comments

  1. I checked back today to see if you’re still among the living after ingesting only a few bites of this mush. I was pleasantly surprised to see you are Ok and have made a few more posts to the blog since that faithful day. God speed, my brother. God speed. :P

  2. Mrs. Scales says:

    Is the brand you bought the brand in the picture? Because I love chorizo! However, I have learned that the flavor varies on the brand.

    • Mike says:

      Yep, that’s the stuff. I’ve seen it at Walmart and Kroger (aka Smith’s, I think) stores.

      I like chorizo, too, but the stuff from restaurants I’ve been to isn’t anything like this stuff. I’ve since found some fresh-ground at a local butcher that was terrific. A friend of mine also grinds her own from pork shoulder.

  3. […] covered supermarket chorizo in the past, so I’m going to focus on hot dogs and smoked sausage instead. The running gag […]

  4. Kevin says:

    I’ve had that exact same brand of chorizo you had, and it’s disgusting. I later tried a more expensive brand made from Boulder, CO, and it was awesome. It just goes to show that chorizo is not something you want to get cheap.

    BTW, unlike cheap chorizo, haggis is delicious! It taste almost like dirty rice. You should definitely get it frozen from a British import store.

  5. Barend Venter says:

    The beef version also is made with salivary glands, tongue, and cheeks. It’s quite delicious, given that I grew up eating beef tongue I don’t feel particularly squeamish about it either.

  6. Vicente says:

    You all don’t know that salivatory glands are one of the highest sources of heart healthy vitamin k2 besides gouda cheese and natto. I swear anything from Mexico is hated on so but at least they tell you ask Oscar what he puts in his hotdogs.

    • Mike says:

      Thanks for the tip, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to taste like the chorizo ground from pork shoulder. A local butcher grinds up some great chorizo.

      You’re dead on with Oscar Meyer’s wieners. They’re disgusting. Ronald McDonald can shove his burgers up his ass, too. Sure, they’re beef, but you’ll never be able to identify which parts of the cow they’re from.

  7. Uncle Hank says:

    Sorry to inform you bud, but true Mexican chorizo is made from pork cheeks, lymph nodes and the salivary glands. There are all kinds of different part you could use but it is the glands and organs that give it that distinctive and mildly livery flavor that is pure luxury. I will guarantee you that the stuff your favorite Mexican restaurant uses has those wonderful glands as well. It us the cheap brand you bought that put you into that wrong turn. Orange? Chorizo is never orange. Never use that stuff again, and try again. This time use a better product. Don’t get bucked off that burro so easily my friend, you liked it at the restaurant for a reason…when done properly, it’s heaven.

    Oh, about the search you did that popped up venison, beef…etc, these are merely different types of meat that can be used. Most will still contain some gland to give it that special flavor. Tofu chorizo? Yes, it exists and should be avoided at all costs unless you have weird food issues and would probably starve to death outside of our modern puffball society we currently live in.

    Enjoy!!!

    Vegetarians…go fuck yourselves.

    • Mike says:

      Thanks, Hank. In the time since writing the post, it strikes me as similar to haggis and other foods where every part of the animal is used for reasons of convenience, cost, etc., especially historically. We don’t always need to eat that stuff, but it’s not impossible to make it palatable. The cheap stuff is probably a case of getting what I paid for. I’m not keen on the idea of tripe, for example, but run it through the right chef and I’d probably give it a shot.

  8. trajhver says:

    cooked in for a while and didnt seem to crisp up or become not-mooshy. was a bit scared at first.. tried to drain the grease that cooked out some as I could. Still seemed pretty mooshy until i added in a scrambled egg. Once the scrambled egg cooked enough to be firm and not liquid i started mixing it with the chorizo and I think that really helped. It absorbed some of the greasiness and it went to looking edible
    : )
    warm tortillas to pick up the chorizo with, and I like to dip in tapatio.

  9. Evan says:

    For a few years now I’ve been using the same brand of chorizo you used, and it’s actually quite delicious if cooked thoroughly. The trick is cooking it on medium-high heat until it solidifies and the goopy mushiness is gone — it’ll get crispy on the outside and almost look overdone. By that time most of the grease will have cooked out, and the texture is much more appealing. Throw in some pan-fried potatoes and scrambled eggs and you’ve got yourself a damn good breakfast.

    Just make sure you get the pork version of that brand! The beef stuff appears to be not from this planet.

  10. Sarah says:

    Trader Joe’s makes “soyrizo” (vegetarian) and I kid you not… it’s fucking delicious.

  11. Meetcha2nite says:

    I feel your pain brother! Finally, I have found the solution to your problem. This product does not contain “the meat” and is meant to be added to your pork or beef to make it chorizo. I’ve use this product several times with the exact same result as you until last night. I was cooking this stuff up and just wondered how it would be if I added good ol Bob Evans to the mix. And wallah, to my amazement it was the correct texture and taste… give it a try and enjoy. Thanks

  12. Lori Calderón says:

    You may have used too much, there is a balance for sure when cooking this. Traditionally the red/orange comes from spices and peppers, it’s not just pork. And Mexican chorrizo, unlike Spanish chorrizo, is uncooked usually. It’s also finely chopped so it isn’t going to “crumble” like ground beef. The general rule when cooking with this sort is 2 fingers width of chorrizo to 2 eggs. (I go by my fingers width which is a little over an inch together, so about 1-1.25 inches cut into the tube for 2 eggs) it’s best to cook the chorrizo on medium for a while and move it around the pan, it will burn in spots if you don’t. Gradually it will turn a deeper red and start to look “crumbled” but not burned. Then add the eggs and stir. It’s delicious, you can also add chopped potatoes for papas con chorrizo :)

    • JEM says:

      I married a Mexican and moved to California after growing up in Louisiana on Cajun food. I still am not a fan of Mexican food, but my husband has taught me how to make papas con chorizo using this very brand, and I love it. He cuts the potato into slices, the thinner the better. Then he starts the potatoes in oil on low with a lid until they’re mostly cooked. Also adding salt and pepper. Then he adds some chorizo and let’s it sit on the pan in a lump for a couple minutes with the lid on. After a few minutes, he mixes it around with the potatoes until both are cooked. Still on low heat. Then, after moving the potatoes and chorizo onto plates, I scramble eggs in the same pan for the flavors of the chorizo to soak in. He likes to eat it with tortillas. I’m happy without the tortillas. It’s really good. Not sure what went wrong for the people who are complaining. But I don’t think I would have had a clue what to do with it if I just picked up a package in a store, either.

  13. Can it kill you? I feel like I’m dying.

  14. Yes it is supposed to be orangey in color due to the spices. And lmao it all depends on where you get the chorizo from, like if your buying it from meijer or something ew. Get it from an authentic mexican store.

  15. CDR says:

    Chorizo is on a heart healthy person not to eat list for sure, but try either the lean beef, turkey or even the vegan soy version, it’s the spices that give it the flavor. Chorizo was invented by the poor in Mexico when they were slaves under Spanish rule to make use of the butcher’s unwanted scraps of pork and what they could afford for protein but became mainstream.

  16. I was taught by a Mexican friend of mine how to make breakfast burritos using chorizo. I didn’t find out until recently that there’s a Spanish version that is more like a solid sausage. Anyway, the point of Mexican chorizo is not to yield meat; it’s to provide an extremely flavored grease in which to cook your eggs and potatoes (for burritos – it’s also used the same way with other ingredients). There seems to be a lot of confusion, understandably, because of the two major versions. It fact, I’d say it’s dangerous because some people might see the use of chorizo in a recipe and get the raw kind instead of the cooked one. Last time I checked, you’re flirting with trichinosis and e-coli when you eat under-cooked pork. I see people complaining that it disintegrated into a greasy blob when they heated it. Yep, that’s Mexican chorizo for you.

  17. Luralene Schultz says:

    I enjoyed your article and the laugh. I myself loved chorizo until I tried making it at home. While waiting for it to cook I made the mistake of reading the ingredients. I haven’t been able to eat it since.

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