Is Pancetta Similar to Bacon or Not?
Bacon and pancetta – both pork products – are famous to meat lovers as these kinds of food are commonly part of their daily meals. As the source of protein, these meats are the go-to meals that can be found mostly in groceries and marketplaces.
Bacon is also often compared to salt pork, but salt pork is not the same as either bacon or pancetta.
Is Pancetta Bacon
No, they are different – pancetta is cured with salt and dried, whereas bacon is often flavored with smoke or other additives.
Some might not be able to differentiate one from the other. If there is any confusion between the two, it is better to learn about their differences and similarities.
What is Bacon?
Bacon has already existed for centuries as this was the result of a process of preserving meat, especially during the winter season.[see the history of bacon] This piece of meat came from a pork belly with high-fat content and was cut into thin slices about 1/16 of an inch. Before it becomes bacon, it must undergo a curing process which has a traditional and modern way.
The traditional way of curing bacon is dry curing; wherein there is no liquid used in the process. Using salt, seasoning, and sugar, these will be rubbed against raw bacon and will be set aside for 1-2 weeks.
The bacon will then be rinsed off after curing, and it will be smoked in low heat for more flavoring. It is best to use certain types of wood for smoking, such as applewood or hickory, since these will give off a smoky flavor and aroma to the bacon.
But nowadays due to the faster pace of food production, bacon has a commercialized way of curing, and somethings lots of pepper (black pepper) is added instead of smoking, but in my opinion, it does not give a strong smoky taste.
American bacon is often thicker than paper-thin slices of Italian bacon.
Of course, there are many types of bacon giving a rich flavor.
What is Pancetta?
Pancetta also comes from a pork belly. It is usually sliced into cubes or sliced thinly for pasta and soups. Pancetta is soaked in a brine solution with salt, spices, nitrate, and ascorbic for almost 14 days in just a low-level temperature but high humidity setting. It will then be cured to preserve it for as long as 12 months. During the curing process, nitrates and another set of salt and spices will be used to eliminate moisture in the meat and limit the growth of organisms that will cause spoilage and growth of bacteria. It will then be rolled and placed in a casing and will be hung dry for 2-3 weeks to complete the curing process.
One of the big questions is, can you swap bacon for pancetta and in a pinch, while there are differences between bacon and pancetta – yes, you can substitute one for the other in most recipes.
Comparison between Pancetta vs. Bacon vs. Prosciutto
- Sources and Curing
Pancetta comes from a pork belly similar to bacon. They are just cut differently such as pancetta can be cut into cubes while bacon is sliced thinly. Prosciutto still comes from a pig but from a different part which is from its hind legs. These meats are cured differently. Pancetta is cured from a brine solution and not smoked, while bacon is dry cured and got its flavoring and aroma from the process of smoking. Prosciutto is also cured but takes longer than the other meats. It is cured with a simple mixture of salts and spices and will be dry-cured for several months and may take longer than a year depending on the level of preferred taste.
- Taste, Recipes, and Usage
Pancetta can be eaten cooked or uncooked. It has retained the almost pure taste of pork. It is mostly used in carbonara, pasta, and risotto. Bacon is famous in American breakfast recipes for its smokiness. It is commonly paired with eggs and hash browns. It needs to be cooked as it cannot be eaten raw, hence, it can be either fried, baked, or sautéed. It can also be topped with pasta, salads, and pizzas. Prosciutto has more fat than pancetta and bacon. It has a softer and more buttery texture and is sold in very thin slices. It can be used as an appetizer such as on charcuterie boards.
Pancetta and Bacon Differences
Pancetta originated from Italy, while bacon was made in North America and other parts of Europe. In terms of taste, bacon has more flavor and smokiness due to its curing and smoking process, but pancetta has a saltier and less fatty texture.
Their nutritional values vary as well since bacon has higher sodium among the two. It also has more fat content even though pancetta has an extra portion of fat in its serving.
Although both are high in protein, their calorie content also differs whereas bacon has around 550 calories vs the 350 calories of pancetta per 100-gram serving.
Pancetta and Bacon Similarities
Both types of meat came from a pork belly. Hence they are high in protein and also have the same minerals such as iron and vitamin B. In the kitchen, they can be prepared similarly.
They can be used as wraps for other meats, and vegetables. They can also be served as toppings to pizza, salads, and pasta. They are both delicious, popularly enjoyed in different cuisines, and can be substituted for each other. Bacon is also often used in conjunction with pepperoni, especially in pizzaas.
The Key Things to Look for When Buying Pancetta
The pancetta cured meat is often served on charcuterie boards. But is equally at home in pasta or topping salads.
1. Look for information on the label on how long it was curred. Good quality pancetta will have been cured for three weeks. In comparison, bacon only takes 8-10 days.
Did you know that the Italian cousin – prosciutto can take one year to cold cure?
2. Look for pancetta that has low or no nitrates.
3. Tell your butcher how thick you want it sliced, if you do not give instructions many times they are likely to slice it too thin
Are Grey Edges on Pancetta Ok when Buying It
If you have grey on pancetta it is not a good sign. Do not buy it.