I’m sure you’ve had a slice of pepperoni pizza before, but have you ever wondered: what is pepperoni?
What is it made of, and how is it made?
Soft, bright red, and lightly smoky in flavor, it’s most often used as an American pizza topping.
It’s similar to salami, in that it’s dried and cured meat, but it’s not usually eaten on its own.
Chances are you’ve seen pre-sliced pepperoni in the store. It’s soft and chewy but rarely used in sandwiches like salami.
Ready to learn more? Let’s get to it!
What Is Pepperoni Made Of?
Pepperoni is a type of spicy salami. And it’s believed to have been invented in America in the early 1900s.
Made from either pork only, or a mixture of beef and pork, it has a 70:30 meat-to-fat ratio.
Both are ground into smaller particles before being mixed with spices like paprika and garlic.
Color enhancers and starter cultures are also added, the latter of which is required for curing.
The result is finger-licking goodness that has become America’s favorite topping for pizza.
How Is Pepperoni Made?
Pepperoni is made by grinding meat (pork, or pork and beef) with fat until it’s about 2-3 millimeters in granulation.
Next, this blend is mixed with seasonings and cultured bacteria, similar to sourdough starter, before being stuffed into casings and fermented. Finally, it’s smoked and dried.
Some pepperoni recipes include salt, sugar, chili pepper flakes, coriander, paprika, and garlic. Others keep it simple with salt and paprika.
Either way, the stuffed sausages need cultured bacteria to ferment.
It sounds a little odd, I know. But it’s a lot like making sourdough – and it even gives the meat a slightly tangy taste, just like sourdough bread.
Many manufacturers ferment, smoke, and dry their links for weeks to get the best flavor. But they’re ready after about a week.
How to Use Pepperoni
Pepperoni is a classic pizza topping, but it can be used in many more creative ways!
It’s savory, salty, and flavorful, so why not get creative? Here are some ideas for how to use pepperoni in all kinds of dishes.
Stir it into pasta sauces to give dishes an extra kick.
Just chop the pepperoni into smaller pieces or thin slices and add them to the sauce during the last few minutes of cooking.
Or make a simple pepperoni, garlic, onion, and butter sauce if you want something simple.
Just sauté the onions until tender, then add the garlic, pepperoni, and butter. Mix until fragrant and serve over noodles.
If you like meaty sandwiches, why not add super tasty pepperoni?
This is best when you get a whole sausage since the pre-sliced packs are usually quite thick.
I like thinly sliced pepperoni with crunchy lettuce, juicy tomatoes, lots of cheese, and banana peppers!
Muffins or Biscuits
The next time you make a batch of savory muffins or biscuits, consider adding chopped pepperoni.
It’ll bring a wallop of meaty, smoky flavor, and the color is unmatched.
Use it how you would bacon – and don’t forget the cheese!
You can also use pepperoni as part of your breakfast routine.
Fry chopped pepperoni into scrambled eggs. Use it like bacon with toast and runny eggs. Or even use it on top of a bagel with cream cheese!
What Does Pepperoni Taste Like?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that pepperoni has been a classic pizza topping for decades. And it’s easy to see why.
Pepperoni tastes salty, smoky, and slightly tangy with a chewy texture.
Some versions are spicy, and others include extra seasonings, such as fennel and black pepper. However, paprika is a prominent flavor, along with a noticeable tangy from the curing agents.
If you eat pepperoni ‘raw,’ it’ll be pretty soft and flavorful. But it’s so much better when it’s cooked.
First, it ‘cups’ in the oven. So you get crispy edges and a nice pool of tasty oil in the middle.
And it’s extra scrummy on bread with melty cheese and tomato sauce!
Where to Buy Pepperoni
Unlike other cured meats, pepperoni is readily available in the U.S., and it’s pretty cheap, too.
You’ll find it in the following places:
- Grocery Store – From huge supermarkets to local food shops, you’ll find pepperoni in the deli meat section. It’ll usually be pre-sliced, though you can find it whole on the meat counter or in stores with a more extensive selection of cured meats.
- Butcher Shops – Most pepperoni slices or link in grocery stores will taste the same. So if you want something a little different, head to your local butcher.
- Online – From slices to artisan links, you’ll find all kinds of pepperoni online. Just be sure to check the location of the shop – anything outside of the United States may come with customs fees.
How to Store Pepperoni
The best way to store pepperoni is in an airtight container in the fridge.
That’s how you can keep its intense flavor and attractive color intact.
You can also freeze it, though that’s often unnecessary since it has a very long shelf life.
Pepperoni is a very versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of recipes. Here are my favorites:
Detroit pizza is kind of a cross between Chicago and New York pizza,
It’s got a wonderfully thick crust, and it’s rectangular-shaped. But instead of the usual base sauce, cheese layers, it has sauce layered on top of the cheese.
Add plenty of pepperoni slices, and it’s ready to go. This is ideal for parties, and I guarantee you won’t have any leftovers.
Quesadillas are a lot like pizzas when you think about it. There’s a bread-like base with lots of gooey cheese.
And this version has a ton of meaty pepperoni in the middle!
It doesn’t get much better than that!
Smoky pepperoni + juicy chicken + gooey cheese = dinner heaven.
You wrap chicken in ham and bacon, so why not pepperoni, right?
It’s just as tasty – if not more so! And the crispy edges are insanely good.
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