You may keep hearing food and cooking shows talk about chorizo meat and you may wonder what the heck it is. After all, it just looks like regular old sausage, so why is everyone going on and on about it? Well, there are a lot of good reasons why people are excited about chorizo.
Like most kinds of sausage, chorizo is pork based, mixing pork fat and meat together to get the proper consistency. Once that consistency has been reached, it's then forced into intestine or sausage casing to get the right shape. There are two different kinds of chorizo. There is European style chorizo, which is usually Spanish but could also be Portuguese. Then there is the Mexican style, which is somewhat more common in the US.
European style chorizo starts with the meat and fat, but then it adds in spices like sweet paprika. Sweet paprika is what you would generally get from the store if you bought it in the spice aisle. It may not say sweet paprika, it may just say paprika. All paprika is made from skin and insides of red peppers, but sweet paprika is made out of sweet peppers, meaning that they have no heat to them. That gives the paprika a more fruity taste instead of a more hot taste. Once the mix is right and the sausage has been formed, it is fermented, cured, and smoked. That means that when you buy them, you can just eat them without having to cook them. If the chorizo you get hasn't go through that process, then you will need to cook it before you eat it.
Mexican style chorizo is formed much the same way as European chorizo, since the Spanish colonized Mexico. However, there are some differences. For example, paprika isn't a native ingredient in Mexico, instead, native chili peppers, which are in the capsicum family, are used. The sweetness or hotness depends on what kind of peppers and how many are used. The meat in Mexican chorizo isn't ground, but it is minced instead. During that mincing process, the fat is minced in as well, mixing everything up. That means that you should see chunks of meat and fat inside the casing.
When you hear cooks and foodies going on about chorizo, it will be nice for you if you know what they are talking about and you can get excited about it too.