Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pancetta - The easiest cured meat of all!

If bacon makes everything better, then pancetta makes everything better still! It's similar to bacon, in that they are both made with pork belly, but that's where the similarities end. Pancetta is normally unsmoked and dry cured and can be made flat or rolled into a pinwheel, whereas bacon is smoked and not left to dry and always sold flat.
Pancetta is really very similar to guanciale, and the spices and herbs used could be used on either one. This particular pork product is probably the easiest and most accessible cured meat that can be made at home. So, why didn't I show this one first on this blog? Because I already had some in my fridge at the time! I still don't really need any, but I had a defrosted piece of Tamworth pork belly that had to be used, so I figured I'd make pancetta. After all, is it really possible to have too much cured pork belly? I think not!

The reason I say that it is the most accessible cured meat is that it can be made without a curing chamber. I've done it. It works. I even did a side by side comparison of 2 pieces of pork belly one cured in my chamber, and one in the fridge, and they were almost identical. So...if you're looking to get into cured meats, dive in with pancetta!

IngredientQuantity(g)% of Meat+Fat
Pork belly
Black Pepper
Brown Sugar
Cure #21.10.26%
Bay Leaves
Dry Thyme
Garlic1 clove

I had a pretty small piece of pork belly, so that's what i used. It's preferable to have it skin on, but if you can only find it without be it.

All the spices, salts, sugar and herbs are mixed together. The small piece of pork didn't require much cure.

The cure is rubbed all over the pork belly and massaged into the meat. The meat is then put into a zip bag and into the fridge to cure. Allowing the salts and herbs to penetrate the meat.

In about 7-10 days the meat will be rinsed, and hung in the curing chamber for as long as one might choose to wait. 2 weeks minimum though.


Andrew said...

I've been enjoying the blog, and have to agree, pancetta is probably my favorite cured pork product, and also the easiest. I go through a lot of it.

Jeff F. said...

I'm going to give this a try. I'll need to age it in the fridge. Would you recommend wrapping the meat in cheesecloth or something while it's aging?

Jasonmolinari said...

When i made it in a regular fridge i just put it on a rack on top of a plate, to allow air to get to all sides, and left it uncovered on the bottom shelf for about 30 days.

Cheesecloth wouldn't hurt though.
I was going to detail this in the next post.

Jasonmolinari said...

Thanks Andrew. I'm glad i can help people make their own cured meats.!

jeff f. said...

Thanks Jason, I appreciate the advice.

Anonymous said...

jason u doing r good job but dont put to much spices otherways u can not taste the pork flavour and it doesn't really need to be put in a bag regards giovanni

Jasonmolinari said...

I agree Giovanni. Normally i don't cover the pancetta with spices and pepper, so i can taste the pork. This one i wanted to try something difference since it's a small piece.

robv said...

Thanks for the great blog! After receiving Ruhlman's Charcuterie from a friend, I've been experimenting with this new-found hobby. Yesterday I made Spanish Chorizo, Poblano Sausage, and Mexican Chorizo Sausage as well as my first Pancetta. I converted an old refrigerator into a curing box and will be working on a fermenting box this week.

Jasonmolinari said...

Thanks Rob, it's always good to hear new people getting into the hobby!

Anonymous said...

Just gave this a shot. Curious as to how much liquid I should expect at the bottom of the container.... the pork slab was about 2#.

Thanks -- Roger

Jasonmolinari said...

Roger, i'm not sure why but sometimes the meat exudes water while salting, other times it doesn't. Seems to me that it depends on whether the meat has been previously frozen..

Anonymous said...

Should I drain the liquid and add some additional salt, or is the liquid no issue (there is probably only a tablespoon or two).

Thanks -- Roger

Jasonmolinari said...

No, dont worry about the liquid..just leave it until you remove the meat from the cure.
Maybe turn the bag every few days.

The Blind Pig said...

Hey jason,

I've been trying to find a soundproof recipe for pancheta for a while. i tried yours out one a few pieces of porkbelly the other day, ill let you know how it turns out.
Check out my blog at

Radka said...

This is exciting! I'm buying some pork belly tomorrow. I've got a question though, what is 'Cure#2' listed in the ingredients?

Jasonmolinari said...

Radka, cure #2 is a mixture of salt, sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite. You can find it at butcher-packer:

It's used to keep the color of the meat, and to safeguard against botulism.

martin said...

Hi Jason, I havent used the cure*2, because didn't know what that's mean, shouold I start everything again??? thanks

Jasonmolinari said...

Martin, it's up to you. Cure #2 is used to keep the nice red color of the meat, and safeguard against botulism.
Theoretically it should be fine, but it's up to you if you wish to take the risk.
sorry i cna't be more specific. I'm risk averse, so personally i would start over...but maybe i'm too cautious.

Dazy said...

It is looking fab! I like pork - we have it almost as much as we have chicken, which is a lot. It should keep me busy in the kitchen.

Anonymous said...

It seems that Cure #2 is very similar to Morton's Tender Quick. Is this the case?

Jasonmolinari said...

Morton's tender quick contains salt, nitrates, nitrites plus sugar. I don't know the % of each item, so personally, i wouldn't use it.

It's similar, but different.

Ellen said...

I just made Pancetta without using Pink salt. I used only Kosher Salt and the other spices and brown sugar. In fridge for a week and then hung for 1 month. It looks good. Washed off little mold with vinegar and now it smells like vinegar a bit. Not pink but brownish and the fat is sort of white. I am worried about botulism since I didn't use pink salt but I didn't want the chemicals. Has anyone else gone without the pink salt sucessfully?

robv said...

Did you roll the pancetta or hang it flat? Its very important, if rolled, to make sure there are no air pockets inside for bugs to inhabit.

If the mold was green or anything not white that would raise a red flag for me.

You may want to pick up some pink salt from Butchers & Packers (Detroit) and try that. Good luck.

Ellen said...

Hi Rob,
Only one of the rolls had a green mold on the outside the size of a small pea. The others had a little white stuff, could have been salt not sure, but I wiped it off with vinegar, now they smell a bit vinegary. They are again hanging to dry from being wiped off. They look and smell good to me except for the vinegar smell I added by wiping them. Meat is liable like strong leather and color is brownish like jerky with whit fat. I could send a picture if you have email....Ellen

robv said...

Ellen - With the disclaimer that I'm not a microbiologist, it should be ok to eat. When I had some exterior green mold on the pancetta I cured, I used salt brine to wipe it off - this might be a way to avoid the vinegar taste. If you want to send me a photo, my email is

Ellen said...

Hi Rob,
I sent you some pictures but they came back as invalid email....Ellen

Gabi Bucataru said...


Just wanted to send you a big THANKS for the posts you wrote on Pancetta. I made this at home after your precious recipe and the result was unbelievable!
This is my first success in curing meats thanks to you!
Anyway - I took pics along the way and I will also write a blog post about it:


Jasonmolinari said...

Gabi, that looks fantastic! Congrats on your first of many successes!!

Gabi Bucataru said...

Thanks, Jason!

I have the salame di brianza still curing in the chamber. Will open that this weekend - more pics to follow...

cheers and thanks again!

Skuras Kostas said...

Hello, my name is Kostas. I've been curing meats for a little while and reading your blog some time now.I haven't cured much though because meat is expensive and I'm just a uni student :)

I'd like to ask you mainly one question, if I use just seasalt(non iodized) should I use more salt?

Oh one more, should I turn the meat in the bag when water comes out?

Thx, Kostas :)

Jasonmolinari said...

Hi Kostas, if you use just sea salt, instead of what? I don't understand the question.
If you have some water come out of the meat during the curing, it won't hurt to turn the meat over or flip the bag.

Skuras Kostas said...

Lol Jason, sorry for being unclear.

If I don't use any curing salt and only seasalt, should I just add the amount of curing salt in plain seasalt(2.4+0.26=2.66%) or should I add more salt in general(for some reason I can't imagine)?

Just a question(maybe a bit stupid) but I'm not very good with meat chemistry! ;)

Jasonmolinari said...

If you don't use curing salts, adding more regular salt is not going to prevent anything that the curing salts are there to prevent (botulism).
So....just the normal amount of salt.

I wouldn't advise not using curing salts though.

Skuras Kostas said...

I wouldn't advise not using curing salts though.

That's what I'd suggest to anyone.
But curing at a low temperature(5-10C) in a fridge, even without curing salt, practically the possibility of something nasty to develope(one that can really harm you) in the cured meat is 0%.

Ofcourse the result would be much less aestheticaly nice, nothing like the nice red color nitrite(or nitrate) would give you in the finished product.

Some pancetta I've made has gone a bit sour and I threw it away. Ok I ate some first, I couldn't throw it all away :) but most of the time my cured meats come out nice!

I don't know much, I guess this is right from my small experience, any other opinion is more than welcome ;)

My experience is not big, something like this:
Mainly I've cured pork belly(dry cured) pancetta style but never used a proper recipe...
When I save some money I cure pork fillet(2 days dry cured in salt and easter like spices, then 2 weeks in wine and then drying).
Sometimes a cheap part of beef(dry cured in salt, then a thick mixture of mainly paprika,fenugreek seeds very finely crushed and water), it's a local thing :)


Jasonmolinari said...

Kostas, you're correct. Since the curing and drying will be done in teh fridge the possibility of contamination and problems is certainly much lower.

tell us more about the local dry beef. Where is local, and how do you make it? Sounds good!@

Kostas said...

Let me knead a bread, cause it's late(10.45) and I'll send you the recipe in a while.

Local is northern Greece(though I'm from west part of greece), but I think it's of eastern origins(maybe turkey). Traditionally(don't know if I'm right) it used camel meat. I think. The paprika, fenugreek paste is amazing.

Kostas said...

Well I just preshaped my 2 loafs and I'm ready to share this recipe.

It's called pasturmas and it's cured beef with a strange paste of spices.

What part of beef? Well I guess a classic part is, well it's part of the silverside but you can cure any similar part of beef. Sorry I'm not so good with english and beef cuts.

You cure it in salt, nothing special. The classic recipe doesn't even have curing salt. While curing in salt you put something heavy on top.

When it's properly cured, rather than letting it dry, you put a paste of spices on the outside and then you leave it to dry.
The paste gives an amazing very characteristic smell because of the fenugreek seeds.

The paste consists mainly of paprika and fenugreek, but it has some garlic too and water(or ice better) for you to make the paste. The very finely crusted fenugreek seeds absorb much water so watch out not to make the paste too dry.
The paste should be a bit thick and covering every inch of the meat. It shouldn't be too thick, because you don't want it to crack while drying. Let me find a picture of the finished product.

I know it's not a proper recipe, but maybe you have heard of a cured meat like this before?

You usually serve it very thinly sliced, with the paste which you eat. It should be soft and tender, not hard and very fragrant.

Thx for your answer, will try your recipe soon,

Jasonmolinari said...

Wow, that sounds amazing!!
I have heard of basturma, and it sounds quite similar to an italian bresaola:

but it sounds like this beef is not put in casing, it is instead covered in the spice mixture to protect it? I will DEFINITELY make this! Thanks so much for sharing. This is part of the reason i do this blog, to share and get new recipes.

Kostas said...

I have heard of basturma, and it sounds quite similar to an italian bresaola

Yeah, similar but quite different in taste.
The spice mixture is overwhelming. Ok, not tooo much, nicely overwhelming I mean! The tenderness
of the meat is amazing.

Sorry but I don't have a proper recipe, the ones that I find in Greek are a bit amateur, adding flour and some even vinegar at the spice mixture which sounds awful to me.

but it sounds like this beef is not put in casing, it is instead covered in the spice mixture to protect it? I will DEFINITELY make this! Thanks so much for sharing. This is part of the reason i do this blog, to share and get new recipes. I think you can make one up ;)

but it sounds like this beef is not put in casing, it is instead covered in the spice mixture to protect it? I will DEFINITELY make this!

Yeah that's why but it gives an amazing taste too the meat also. Careful not to cut a big piece when you first try it. The spice mixture(called "tsimeni" here) is not that "easy" :)
You should definitely try it, here in Greece they sell it like an amazing gourmet snack.

Thanks so much for sharing. This is part of the reason i do this blog, to share and get new recipes.

thumbs up mate,
you have an amazing blog.
thx for sharing ;)

The Anti-Chef Chef said...

I know this post is old but I'm new to the site and had just come across it. I'll look for more on basturma on here that maybe I've overlooked but I've cured several batches in a restaurant setting and would love to talk about whatever recipes you've found. Any commercial basturma here is WAY to harsh but it can be a great product.

Jasonmolinari said...

I have not made Basturma... Yet.

Tony said...

Jason, I have been visiting your site for some time now and finally jumped into my first cure with pancetta. It turned out absolutely fantastic. I used every ingredient to the exact percentage. The only difference was I used Pink salt #1 instead of #2 - I thought I read that #1 is used when you plan to cook the product. Do you think that was acceptable? After the initial cure of 2 weeks, I rinsed it, dried it and then dusted it with ground pepper, garlic powder and ground bay leaf. I hung that for another 2 weeks - it turned out perfect and I mean perfect. Flavor is awesome - makes store bought taste silly! I now have a coppa hanging per your recipe. It has another 45 days depending on conditions. Can't wait to see how it turns out. Thanks for all your help! Tony

jasonmolinari said...

tony, because it's a solid piece of meat, #1 should be ok.

i'm glad you enjoy it!

Anonymous said...

Im new to curing meat but I just want to know if it is OK to let the belly sit in the frige after I cure it? Also Ive seen recipes for pancetta that say to hang the meat is that also OK in a frige? One more thing what can I use (either make or buy) to use as a place to cure?
Thanks Alot really enjoy this blog

Jasonmolinari said...

Brent: yes, you can dry the pancetta in the fridge after you've salt cured it. Leave it uncovered for about 2-3 weeks. Then use it.

look in my equipment section on how to build a curing chamber.

JP said...

Well, my first pancetta was an utter failure. I skinned the pork belly (probably not a very pretty job of it, but it was my first), followed Ruhlmann and Polcyn's recipe for cure and spices, cured in the fridge for seven days, turning every other day, then trussed it and hung it in a cool guest bathroom to dry. Three days later it smelled rotten.

All I can figure is I must not have gotten good enough coverage of the cure mix, or didn't allow it to cure long enough. I probably won't try again until I can afford to build myself a curing box where I can maintain ideal temp and humidity.

Oh well, that's why it's called an the "art" of curing meats, right?

Any tips would be appreciated.

Jasonmolinari said...

JP, hard to say what went wrong. It sounds almost like you forgot the salt!

What was the humidity in the guest bathroom? And the temp? They both might have been too high.

Jasonmolinari said...

JP, hard to say what went wrong. It sounds almost like you forgot the salt!

What was the humidity in the guest bathroom? And the temp? They both might have been too high.

JP said...

Funny, I thought the same thing, maybe in measuring all of the other things, somehow I forgot to add the salt. I did try to go right down the list, but in retrospect, who knows.

I really am not able to say what the temp and humidity was. It's been a pretty humid summer here in middle TN and I tried to keep the bathroom in the 60° to 70° range, and ran a humidifier in the room for a few hours each day. I really need to wait on these dry curing projects until I have the proper equipment. Ruhlman in his book makes it sound like, heck, you can hang a pancetta just about anywhere out of the sunlight because it's easy to cure, so I got carried away and went for it.

I appreciate your suggestions. I guess mostly I was venting, haha.

I have made some apple wood smoked bacon with another belly, and that turned out awesome, since there was no dry curing involved and I have a pretty good smoker.

Looking forward to future blog postings from you.

Jasonmolinari said...

JP, 60 is really the high limit for temperature...70 is definitely too warm.
Put the pancetta in the regular fridge to dry. It'll be done in 3 weeks and perfect.

Ruhlman is very nonchalant with food safety. I don't like that.

Vlobster said...

Jason - Funny, I've generally thought that Ruhlman uses too much salt and errs on the "over safe" side. Anyway, I just put a belly into the fridge this afternoon and will roll it up next week. My basement is about 65 degrees and maybe 60% humidity so I've not had any problems with the pancetta going bad or drying out.
On another note, in April I made two pancetta for a friend who owns a restaurant and when I went to visit him last month, the meat was still hanging in his basement, nearly completely covered with all manner of green mold. Rather than toss it out, I made a strong brine, carefully washed everything off, and the meat was delicious. In fact, he added pasta carbonara to the menu using my cured pancetta and it was a hit. Gotta love salt and high heat.

Dave F. said...

I'm diving into the pancetta without the benefit of a curing chamber (yet), so have a question re: non-curing chamber curing. I see you cured in the fridge (low humidity) on at least one foray, with success. I have a basement which remains at about 55 - 60 degrees and 45 RH. Since the temp is close to what you recommend with a higher humidity than the fridge, but lower than a curing chamber, what do you think? Better just to cure in the fridge?
Thanks for any input you can give!.
Dave F

Jasonmolinari said...

Dave, i think it should work fine.

Valentine said...

Hi there,
This is will be my first time curing meat. I don't have a chamber, so I'll be curing it in the fridge. After the 30 days are up, how do I store the pancetta? I see a lot of people talking about mold and such forming; is this to be expected? Thanks!

Jasonmolinari said...

Store it by wrapping in plastic and putting in zip bag.
Mold probably wont form at refrigerator temperatures, but if it does, just wipe it with some vinegar/water solution.

Valentine said...

Thanks! Last thing, do I rinse the meat of the cure mixture before I use it?

Jasonmolinari said...

Rinse it after the salting/curing phase. Pat it dry and put it in the fridge.

No need to rinse after it's dried.

Susan said...

just tasted my 1st attempt at pancetta. didn't roll it up, just let it air dry in the fridge for 2 more weeks-although it doesn't taste like my Kroger's pancetta, it is very good, was lots of fun to make, and I will be making more.

Anonymous said...


Just getting into curing meats. Done a few rounds of bacon which turned out great. Making my first go at Pancetta. I'm getting to the end of the salt curing phase and getting ready to roll and hang. My pork belly has the skin on. I may sound like a rookie, but do I leave the skin on when I roll it up and tie it and hang it? If so, when its ready is the skin edible?

Thanks. Chris

Jasonmolinari said...

Chris, rolling is a pain to do properly to make sure there are no air pockets.
Having said that, if you do roll, you have to remove the skin from the area of the belly which would end up on the inside of the roll.

It is edible, but it'll be very very tough.

Hanover said...

I have a lamb hanging in a walkin cooler. I will be butchering on Thursday. I wonder if doing lamb belly will be any different than your method for doing pork belly? Can pancetta become lambcetta?

Jasonmolinari said...

I would approach it the same exact way..i'm sure it'll be great.

Vlobster said...

Yesterday was "Pig Day" here in Rochester NY. After returning from my butcher with a trunk load of hog parts, I proceeded to make pancetta, bacon, Spanish Chorizo, Sant'Olcese, Brianza, and I still have eight nice jowls ready to be cured into Guanciale. A Merry Porky Christmas it will be.

Jasonmolinari said...

Sounds like you'll be busy Vlobster!

Jayne Treese said...

I have a question about Pancetta.. could I make this using beef side?

Jasonmolinari said...

Jayne, it's worth a try. Curing beef fat is a little trickier and can go rancid more easily, but it might be worth trying.

Anonymous said...

My pancetta has been hanging for about 1 week in +/- 63 degrees and 52% humidity.

Today I noticed a liquid "oozing" from the bottom. I'm worried there may be an air pocket in there somewhere.

Has anyone else experience this?

Vlobster said...

Probably nothing to be concerned about. I've got one in the basement for three weeks at 65F/65% humidity and it dropped some liquid in the first week. If there is an air pocket (I've had them before) dry it out to a point where you're comfortable to consume the meat, and just cut around whatever mold is inside. I have a story about two pancetta hanging in a fried's restaurant basement for five months covered in green fuzz. We just cleaned it thoroughly in brine and put it on the menu in Pasta Carbonara.

Anonymous said...

I had some liquid drop on the first day and I'm not concerned about that. There was more liquid around day 7 that seems to be coming from inside the pancetta that worries me.

Marcus said...

Jason, i tried making pancetta. Left it a week in the salt (but without pink salt) mixture. And then rinsed the cure off with water, patted dry and left it 5 days uncovered on a plate in the fridge. It smelled 'sourish'.Why is that? After i cooked it, it tasted ok, but does not taste like pancetta. Do i need to leave it in the fridge longer?

Jasonmolinari said...

5 days isn't veyr long for drying in the fridge.
I don't know about the sour smell though.

Ulf Engborg said...

Hi Jason,
Hope this blog is still alive.

I am trying your pancetta recipe and at the beginning you write "In about 7-10 days the meat will be rinsed, and hung in the curing chamber...", but in article about pancetta it looks like you didn't rinse it before hanging.

Does it matter and what difference does it make?

Jasonmolinari said...

It really doesn't matter. I've rinsed and I've not rinsed and I don't think it makes any difference.

Cavaleiros said...

Help. My cured chorizo has lost almost 50% of it' weight in just 2 weeks. I'm using a small curing chamber at 14ÂșC and 60% RH. Maybe the small USB fan inside the chamber is too strong and the air flow is drying out the meat? I'm using Ruhlman's chorizo recipe. Because it's so dry already, would it be safe to eat in spite of the short curing time? Any advice would be helpful. Thanks!

Jasonmolinari said...

yes, eat it. The continuous fan is probably part of the problem, and your humidity is a bit low. Try to get it to about 70%.