Sunday, April 5, 2015

Soy Chorizo Kitchen Tests

Cacique launched soy chorizo as a new product in April 2011. I decided to kitchen-test the product in June, 2011. I used Cacique's soy chorizo in my kitchen tests because it was priced the same as regular chorizo.

I divided the first 10-oz. package of Cacique soy chorizo into a 2-oz. control portion, which I placed in a separate pan, two three-oz. portions and four 1/2-oz. portions. I added nothing to the control portion. I added 1 egg to the remaining soy chorizo after breaking the roll into bits with my fingers. The roll separated very easily, and the control portion of soy chorizo felt like cooked, chopped taco meat, only lighter and spongier. 

After I added the egg, I used my fingers to mix it into the Cacique soy chorizo. The soy chorizo absorbed the egg, becoming more dense and expanding the individual bits by 1/3 to 3/4 their original volume. At that point, the soy chorizo would not form into patties. I continued to mix it while the chorizo absorbed the egg, noting that it took three minutes before it expanded to its maximum volume.

I added 1/2 cup bread crumbs next, and mixed the soy chorizo again until everything was incorporated. The texture changed as the bread crumbs absorbed the remaining egg and the spiced sauce from the chorizo itself. Once the bread crumbs were fully incorporated, the chorizo was slightly sticky but easily formed into a small loaf, which I then divided into two 1/2-inch thick, 3 1/2-inch diameter patties and four 1-inch diameter "meat" balls.

I used the digital timer on the stove to track cooking time. I tested three cooking temperatures: medium-high, medium, and medium low, using one portion of the first roll of Cacique soy chorizo at a time for comparison. I also tested using two different oils: extra-virgin olive oil and canola, discovering that at every temperature except medium low, the olive oil began to smoke well before the soy chorizo was done.

The results: Use canola oil or other fats and oils with a smoke point above 400 degrees Fahrenheit for best results when frying soy chorizo.

I repeated the most successful test methods with the second package of soy chorizo to ensure that all necessary time and temperature adjustments were made before taste-testing the product with my family and friends. I repeated those methods with a third package of soy chorizo. I used an electric tabletop grill for the patties and a slow cooker for the soy chorizo meatballs. 

Medium-low cooking for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side for patties and 3 to 4 minutes of continuous stir-frying for meatballs resulted in a product that still needed 1 minute on HIGH in the microwave to be considered safe to eat. Soy chorizo meatballs are ready to eat in two hours when slow-cooked on the HIGH setting in Hawaiian-style sauce. The spicy heat of the chorizo provides a perfect counterpart to the sweet-tart pineapple.

You can make your own soy chorizo using textured vegetable protein -- also known as TVP -- and the typical chorizo seasonings -- vinegar, onion powder, garlic powder, mustard powder, paprika and cumin. Homemade soy chorizo performs nearly the same as ready-made soy chorizo in identical kitchen tests, but you need one additional hour of prep time for the vinegar and seasonings to soak into the textured vegetable protein.

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