How to Make Pancetta at Home

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This homemade pancetta recipe is so easy you’ll be wondering why you ever spent so much money buying it!

They say that you learn something from every relationship, and I would definitely agree with that.

Early on I learned from my ex how to make pancetta, in just 60 seconds.

He even made this video below for me so that I could do it on my own. 

The relationship lasted four years and I learned a lot from being with a chef as well as opening and running a restaurant.

I also learned an incredible amount about curing meat, something I had always wanted to do but was so intimidated. 

I was touring Prince Edward Island restaurants and visited the restaurant he just opened, Terre Rouge.

I was blown away by the charcuterie board that I couldn’t say no to his invitation to see the curing chambers in the back.

While in his kitchen I confessed my secret desire to make my own charcuterie.

He told me it was much easier than I thought and I would come to learn the secret was pink curing salt.

He first started in his fridge and then bought an ordinary bar fridge and started curing meat there. 

After watching the video I was able to make pancetta on my own – with some help from him.

The relationship is over but that skill I’ll take with me and share it with you.

But I must share this disclaimer that I am far from an expert and am only sharing what I have personally learned.

Pancetta is one of my favourite cures because it’s so easy anyone can do it.
 
 

 
Cured pork belly or pancetta recipe with black pepper

What is Pancetta?

Often called Italian bacon, pancetta is cured pork belly. While it is the same cut of pork, it is salt cured with spices then air dried.

What is the Difference Between Pancetta and Bacon?

Although pancetta is often called Italian bacon they are made differently. Pancetta is dry cured with salt. However, bacon is wet cured by brining or injecting and must be cooked.

Some people say that the difference between pancetta and bacon is that pancetta is never smoked but that’s not really true.

American-style bacon is difficult to find in Italy and so often an English translated menu will say bacon when it really means pancetta.

Pancetta vs Prosciutto

Pancetta and prosciutto are both dry cured pork. Pancetta uses pork belly dry cured for weeks, while prosciutto uses pork leg cured for months or years.

Can You Eat Pancetta Raw?

Yes. It is common for Italians to eat pancetta raw on its own, something we never do in North America. It has been cured or preserved and can be eaten.

 

Can I Substitute Bacon for Pancetta?

Yes. They are both cured pork belly. However, as they are cured differently bacon tends to be greasier. But if it’s cooked crispy it gives great depth like pancetta.

Recipes with Pancetta

 

Difference Between “Whole Muscle Cures” and Salamis

Salamis are ground meat where as whole muscle cures, are just that – whole muscle.

Think hams, spallas, pancetta, filetto, duck bresaola, culatello and of course the king – prosciutto.

Whole muscles are a great way to start curing meat because they are less dangerous.

Salamis have lots of little crevices for bacteria to get trapped.

While charcuterie seems cool, remember bacteria can be deadly so you need to be careful when preserving meat.

This is also why making pancetta is a great place to start – it’s cooked after it is cured.
 
 

 
How to Make Pancetta at Home. This is an easy recipe for how to make pancetta with a quick video from a chef.

Why Do We Use Salt to Cure Meat?

Virtually every food group can be salted to preserve them.

Most fish (avoid shellfish) and almost every kind of meat can be preserved through dry curing.

This is due to the chemical response of their proteins mixing with salt causing an exchange of moisture.

Water leaves the muscle, is replaced with salt, which dehydrates it.

Salt makes aging meat safer because it reduces the water content of the meat and creates an inhospitable for bacteria to cause rot.

Nitrites vs Nitrates

Sodium nitrate and nitrite are two common food preservatives. When used in food production they can control bacteria growth.

But when consumed they can be dangerous to our bodies.

Both are normally occurring chemicals that our bodies rely on. Spinach and celery are loaded with them and both are now being used as additives in curing.

Our bodies convert nitrates into nitrites inside our stomachs everyday to control bacteria. The same process is happening within a salami.

Lactobacillus bacteria feeds on the sugars in the sausage and produce acid and nitrites work to keep harmful microbes from growing most importantly controlling botulism.

Nitrites also work to make food taste better. As well as control growth of bacteria, specifically botulism.

They also help to preserve the colour of the meat (salami, beef brisket).

There has been a lot of research on nitrites obviously the concern was carcinogenic and cancer.

But it has been found that the levels found in food are not extremely harmful if consumed in moderation.

 

Prague Powder / DQ Curing Salts /Insta Cure/ Pink Salt 1 and 2

All of these salts are interchangeable. Many prefer pink salt but others use Prague Powder 1 and 2.

  • Prague powder is 6% nitrite, 94% table salt.
  • Pink salt is dyed pink to avoid mishandling or confused with kosher salt
  • Also, pink salt 1 contains 6.25% nitrite
  • Pink salt 2 contains 5.67% nitrite and 3.63% nitrates – only used for sausages with a long cure time, this is because it contains both nitrates and nitrites. The added nitrates work slowly over time converting to nitrates for added protection against botulism.

In Europe they still use potassium nitrate in the form of salt peter.

Most muscles don’t require pink salt to prevent botulism, as they are dry cured and surface has been exposed to salt for extended periods of time.
 
 

 
Pancetta hanging while curing, a final step in making pancetta
Pancetta hanging in a dry space for 7-10 days.

Curing Pork Belly Pancetta

Pancetta is a brine that starts as a dry cure.

Over the cure time as it pulls moisture from the belly it becomes a wet cure that can be re-distributed over the belly to help it cure.

On average the belly will stay in cure for 3 days per 500gr of pork.

After this the pancetta can be rinsed of cure and rolled up and tied and hung to air dry out of direct sunlight.

It can be hung flat and not tied but with a hook or string through its corner. I prefer flat over rolled pancetta.

WANT MORE CHARCUTERIE RECIPES?
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Traditional the pancetta recipes are crusted in cracked pepper.

This historically deterred bugs from eating the meat while it cured. Bugs hate the pungency of black pepper.

The original recipe for pancetta is made to be cooked and eaten. But the flat ones can be dried 4-6 months and can make an excellent accompaniment to a charcuterie board.

 

How Much Salt Do I Need?

Whole muscles should be cured by weight and the salt should be measured also by weight.

For example for a 5lb pork belly requires a quarter cup of salt -2oz – plus flavouring and nitrates.

1 tbsp salt weighs 1/2 oz – 4 tbsp. ¼ cup  or 100gr salt for every 2kg salt is a ratio used often.

How Long Do I Need to Cure Pancetta

A general rule is 3 days for every 500 gr of pork belly.
 
 

 

Tying a butcher knot on a roll of pancetta

Note: I prefer my pancetta flat, instead of rolled, it’s also easier for air to circulate around the meat. 

stack of pancetta

Classic Pancetta Recipe

Yield: 10-12 serviings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Additional Time: 10 days
Total Time: 10 days 5 minutes

Learn how to make pancetta, it's so easy you'll never buy it again.

Ingredients

  • 1 pork belly, split
  • Thyme
  • Juniper
  • Pink salt
  • Kosher salt
  • Brown sugar
  • Garlic
  • Fennel seed
  • Black pepper
  • bay leaf

Instructions

  1. Mix ingredients and place on pork belly in clean pan and cover with plastic wrap.
  2. Cover with 20lbs weight. A sheet pan with weights balanced on top works.
  3. Refrigerate for 7-10 days.
  4. Flip the belly each day and return weight to the top of it.
  5. After 7-10 days tie with a butchers knot and hang to dry. I hung mine from a kitchen cupboard handle that was over my sink (less dirty) you want to make sure air circulates entirely around so it cannot sit up against anything.
  6. After a week, it’s ready to slice and cut.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1 Amount Per Serving: Calories: 9Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 99mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 1g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment below or tag @Ayngelina on Instagram.

 

 

Pin it for Later

Additional images: hanging pancetta (c) Lesleyk, woven pancetta by Donald Giannatti , rolled pancetta @ Dietrich Ayala

 

Join the Conversation

  1. Reminds me so much of my family’s butcher shop back home watching my dad and grandfather turn meat into the dishes we love so much.

  2. Ron | Active Planet Travels says:

    This looks delicious! I think I may try it out once I settle down a bit in Colorado. Btw, I’m also a BIG fan of prosciutto. When I arrived at the airport in Belgium in route to New York I purchase a big package of it, a roll of cheese & some wine….all of which I gobbled down on the flight over! haha

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You know when I came back from Finland I brought some organic cured meat and I had to leave it at customs. I was crushed. I should have eaten it on the plane.

      1. Ron | Active Planet Travels says:

        You should have just put up your finger, said “one moment please” and scarfed it all down! lol

  3. I am also a meat eater and I devoured all meat foods. I just can’t get enough of pancetta, ham and bacon. Sigh. Facepalm. That’s why don’t ask me why I have this sexy body. LOL. How I wish.

  4. Les voies de l'atlas says:

    Seems to be good !

  5. Rob | Kenya One Day Safari says:

    That is the fastest preparation ever. Makes wanna eat bacon right now. It looks very delicious and its not like something you can just make at home.

  6. Martine @ Chompchomp says:

    I better not let my vegetarian husband see me drool over this! 😉

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I’ll look to make some veggie dishes soon!

  7. Oh my lord! How is this possible? I guess when air drying it should be in a dry place though? I live in a tropical country with a humid climate… might not work so well for me!

    1. I suggest to hang it in refrigerator.

  8. Do you have to hang this in a particular environment, or is just anywhere OK?

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You want an area that has lots of circulation. The first one I made I hung off a cupboard handle that was over my sink and next to a window. I left the window open just a bit so there was a breeze but not so much that it was cold.

      Ideally you want about 15C and 60-70% humidity.

  9. Any chance you could share the measurements of each ingredient for the pancetta dry rub?

  10. I used your recipe on porkbelly and on a pive of the back. Both turned out pefect.
    And the taste was GREAT !
    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I’m so thrilled to hear this! Thanks for taking the time to let me know.

  11. PABLO EMILIO ROJAS hOLGUIN says:

    Ya empece a curarlo en la sal, Cuando termine el proceso les informare como me quedo

  12. PABLO EMILIO ROJAS hOLGUIN says:

    hoy lo empece a curar en la sal, cuando termine el proceso les informare de nuevo como me quedo.

  13. Hi, I like the idea of making my own. I see you hang it from the cupboard, does temperature and humidity matter? I am very interested in making sausage and cured meats. Thank you for your pancetta recipe directions. This is the first time I’ve commented on someones time line.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Yes it does matter, which is why the recipe can vary a bit depending on how humid or dry your place is. This was in Toronto, Canada. Making cured sausages is a bit more complicated as all of those crevices mean that there are lots of places for bacteria that can harm or even kill you so you need to use more preservatives and know what you’re doing. But starting out with a whole muscle cure like pancetta is a great place to start.

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