Is there anything more delicious than bacon? That’s what I always ask myself when I eat it. What if you could have the taste of bacon without cooking it? Well, that would be a dream come true for any meat lover! And guess what? You can with pancetta!
Pancetta is Italian bacon that you can eat raw! It is made from pork belly and is cured, but not cooked. Pancetta is used to add flavor to different dishes such as pasta or to pair with cheese or fruit as an appetizer. It can be used in place of bacon and will add a more intensely salty flavor.
So pancetta is kind of like bacon, but how should I use it??
What is pancetta?
Pancetta is essentially Italian bacon. It is made from pork belly just like American bacon, but it is cured differently.
To make pancetta, the pork belly is cured with salt (and other spices), then dried for months. This results in a meat that is similar to beef jerky (though softer). This also results in an intense, salty pork flavor.
Historically, this process was developed as far back as 900 BC with the Greeks preserving meat using salt. The Romans in 200 BC seem to have been the first to adapt the process to use with pork, therefore creating the first bacon! (Thank you Romans!).
Nowadays, pancetta can come in large cubes or thin slices, depending on what you plan to use it for. It is a popular Italian cooking ingredient that can be used as an alternative to other types of bacon. It tastes much stronger than the usual cut of American or British bacon.
Can I Eat Pancetta Raw?
Pancetta can be eaten raw because it is preserved with salt. This method prevents bacteria from growing in the meat and makes it safe to eat raw.
In America, the USDA provides standards for meats and labeling, so the pancetta purchased in the US should be safe to eat and cured properly.
If the pancetta is handled improperly, bacteria can still grow on the outside of the meat, so make sure you follow the storing and preparing instructions. For example, don’t cut pancetta on the same cutting board as you used for raw meat (not cured). This can lead to cross-contamination.
Also, Eating raw pancetta is not recommended if you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system due to illness. This is the same for any deli meats or types of meat/fish which may contain bacteria on their surface even though they’ve been preserved. The heat from cooking will kill off any bacteria present, making it safe to eat.
How do you cook pancetta?
Pancetta doesn’t actually have to be cooked; it can be eaten raw (for most people)! It is similar to beef jerky in this way because it has been cured with salt and spices.
If you are going to cook pancetta, allow it to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes. Place slices into your skillet, then turn on over low-medium heat. Cook for approximately 5 minutes on each side, then remove from the pan and drain on paper towels or rags to remove excess grease.
You want to make sure not to overcook pancetta. It will become dry and lose its flavor if overdone. You also don’t need much oil because even a little bit of oil can make it soggy or greasy since it is so thinly sliced.
You can also prepare pancetta pretty much any way that you would prepare bacon. Some options are baking in the oven, microwaving, or even air frying!
Tips on storing pancetta to keep it fresh longer
Pancetta should be stored in the refrigerator. It will last about a month if sealed in the original packaging, but this depends on the manufacturer, so check your package dates. I did find one maker who stated it will last a whole year! Because of its high salt content and partial drying, it does keep longer than other types of bacon.
Once you open the package, pancetta is good for about a week. You’ll know when your pancetta has gone bad when it changes to a brownish color from oxidation (being exposed to the air). It will also start to smell foul after it has gone bad.
To increase the life of your pancetta, you can freeze it. If frozen for too long, some of the flavor may be lost, but overall, if sealed, pancetta will last about 3-4 months in the freezer.
If you are looking for delicious, raw bacon that is ready to eat out of the package, pancetta is your answer. You can slice it up and put it on a sandwich or in an omelet with some cheese. It’s easy enough to prepare at home so next time you’re not sure what kind of meat you want, try something new!
Now it is time for YOU to get Crafty with Ashy!
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