Friday, August 15, 2008

Pancetta - Off to the curing chamber

The pancetta has been curing with its spices and salt for about 10 days. It's become pretty firm and the flavors should have permeated the meat fully. Time to move it to the curing chamber.

This is what the pancetta looks like as it comes out of the bag.

The spices get rinsed under cold running water, and then the belly gets patted dry.

Here is the rinsed pancetta. Really pretty uneventful, or uninteresting.
The meat looks darker and definitely feels firmer than it was when raw.

A spice mixtures is made up. For this one I mixed 2 teaspoons of very coarse black pepper, 5 crushed bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper.

Here is the cured pork belly rubbed with the spice mixture. Really press the pepper and spices into the meat. Put a string through it to hang and that's it. Easy.

Now, for people who don't have a curing fridge, the drying is also very easy. Put the pancetta on a cake rack, and then on a plate, and put it in the fridge for about 3-4 weeks. The cake rack on the plate will allow the air to circulate around it reaching all sides of the meat. If you just put it on a plate, the surface touching the plate will stay wet.

If you do have a curing fridge, put it in there. I put mine in, at about 54 deg. F and about 60% humidity.

Humidity for pancetta isn't super critical since it is quite thin and has a lot of surface area, which will allow it to dry pretty evenly even if the ambient is too dry for other cured meats (like in a fridge).


Anonymous said...

I do my pancetta in the fridge on the rack as you describe. I leave it uncovered for about 1-2 weeks until it is quite dry on the outside, then I cover it in several layers greaseproof paper and leave it in the fridge (no rack) until it is to the dryness I like. I do change the paper every week or two if it gets too moist. I have often forgotten a piece and in the end it comes out like a very dry piece of cured ham - quite pleasant even uncooked.

Anonymous said...


I find it funny that I too am curing a pancetta and am a little more than a week behind yours.

This is my first cured meat - I've thought about, talked about and even dreamed about it... thanks in part to your blog, I've finally begun!

I've got two questions for you which I hope you might be inclined to answer:

1) I don't have a curing chamber (yet) so will be drying/aging my pancetta in the fridge. What are your thoughts on rolling it up versus leaving it "flat" in the fridge?

2) This may sound stupid but... how do *you* eat your pancetta when it is done? Do you have recipes you incorporate it into? Do you just fry it and eat it? Eat it "raw"? I grew up in an Italian restaurant but it has been more than 20 years... a lot fades with time...

Thanks so much and keep up the great blog!


Jasonmolinari said...

EZ, i'm glad my blog has helped you get kick started on cured meats. As far as your questions:
1) I don't think rolling it is a good idea for a fridge cure. I think it might dry too fast on the outside surface, and stop the inside from drying properly.

2) I mostly use it in cooking. Anywhere i'd use bacon, i use pancetta. Soups, pasta, vegetables etc. You can eat it raw, sliced thin, with bread and it is good that way too.

Russ said...

thanks for giving me some hope for my left over pork belly (after using most of it for equal parts of maple syrup and garlic/black pepper bacon). I'll try some pancetta in my "beverage" fridge.

i've thoroughly enjoyed your blog over time and am still trying to convince wife that i really do need a third fridge

Jasonmolinari said...

Everyone needs a 3rd fridge!!

Anonymous said...

Another question for you Jason (and whoever else might want to chime in):

My pancetta has been cured and is now almost a week drying in the fridge (I took Jason's advice and did not roll it). The meat is very firm which I take from what I have read is a good sign. But, there has been very little liquid coming off it at all - both while curing in bags and now while drying.

When curing I expected a lot more than came out and now, while drying, there has been nothing dripping off at all.

Is this bad? Good? Maybe doesn't matter?

Thanks again!


Jasonmolinari said...

EZ, i don't think it's either good or bad.I've had pieces of meat that give off a lot of water while they're being salted, and some give off little or none.
I'm not sure what causes it. It seems that if the meat has been frozen it doesn't give off as much water while it is being salted, but i don't know that for sure.

There should be little or no dripping during the drying though.

Geoff Freeman said...

Just found your blog, and wanted to say THANK YOU. I've been curing meat for about 6 months now and to see someone else's experiments is a huge help.

Jasonmolinari said...

Thanks Zart, glad you enjoy it.

Anonymous said...


I am yel from the Philippines who teaches in Texas now but be back in my country very soon. I super love anthing that is european especially cured meats. Maybe because of the spanish blood in me. I just want to THANK YOU for coming up with this blog.

Expect a lot of questions from me. As of now, i just want to enjoy reading your blog. Thanks a lot!

Anonymous said...

this is a fantastic site.
i found it through the massive egullet charcuterie thread. you're a real inspiration.

a couple of questions:

1) if you do have a curing chamber which is already full of salami covered in perfect white mold, would you put the pancetta in there with the salami? it'll get moldy, no?

2) i'm having trouble keeping the humidity down. once the meat is in the curing chamber it's averaging about 90% RH or so. do i need a de-humidifier? any suggestions? is this a problem if the salami is already covered in good mold?

thanks a ton.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the compliments Dan.
To answer your questions:
1) I wouldn't have a problem putting a pancetta in with the salami, if it gets a little moldy you can brush it off with a wet towel, and if you want you can brush it with a towel soaked in some vinegar to kill the mold...but it shouldn't hurt you.
2) If your fridge a frost-free fridge? If so, then it isn't cycling often enough..maybe you have it in a cold garage? That is one reason i put a lightbulb in mine. It allows me to generate some heat in there, so the fridge cycles more often, and dries out the air. You can also use one of those reptile heat bulbs that fit in a bulb socket. They make heat, but no light.

Anonymous said...

wow. thanks for the quick response.

o.k. i'll not worry (much) about moldy pancetta.

yes, cold garage (san francisco summer), so i'll try to find one of those reptile bulbs.
if the current conditions slow down the curing time without creating a hostile environment (green mold)how could this affect flavor? maybe better for it? maybe never finished though?


Unknown said...

Dan, i've found that slowing the curing yields a better product for sure. Of course there is a point where the product won't dry any further, so too high a humidity could be detrimental. I think 90% is a bit too high.

Just make sure that you don't get any ugly green or black or other bizarre mold.

Anonymous said...

ever have a bout of green or black mold WITH the white mold?
i innoculated with the mold culture from butcher & packer so i thought i was safe, but could the bad stuff be hidden in/around/underneath?

also, a house fly got inside my curing chamber. not sure how long it was in there. at least a day. ever have that happen? thought about dumping the batch, not sure . . .
who knows the havoc it could have created?

i don't mean to be taking up your time, if im asking too many questions just say so.


Jasonmolinari said...

I don't mind the questions at all, and they may help other people too.

I've never had a non-white mold problem fact, until i use the butcher packer m-EK-4 i never had any mold at all!

the house fly in the chamber for a day might concern me...that's a little scary...

Anonymous said...

yes, the fly is a concern.
not sure what it could have done.
it was very lethargic and practically unable to move when i opened the fridge.maybe too cold? maybe intoxicated from free-reign over the salami.

well, my RH has dropped considerably to around 75% and the salami has lost 30% of it's weight, so i assume it's working. it's fluctuating dramatically with the moisture in the meat. im going to leave it to reach 40%.

started a pancetta and a savory bacon last night. both with skin on.
when do you remove the skin? after initial refrigerator cure?

i also noticed that you don't divide the salt/spices into two and rub separately during the refrigerator/ziploc process. but you do add spices for the drying process. is that right?


Jasonmolinari said...

Dan, the humidity will climb considerably when you first put the meat in there.

I leave the skin on until i use it. Then i remove it little by little, so at least once side is protected from over-drying..but you could remove it all at once...probably doesn't matter.

My normal method is to rub the meat with salt and spices that have been mixed up. Put it in the fridge...let it cure. Rinse lightly, then optionally add another rubbing of herbs...but no salt for the drying phase.

ssoul said...


My first three attempts at curing have failed.

First, a guanciale had a little green mold outside and was off color inside.

Then a lardo had grayish mold outside. It was ok inside, so I ate some; it was just bland. I used Ruhlman's recipe. I'm going to use yours next.

So I went for the basic one, pancetta, using your recipe. I ended up with green mold outside.

I'm thinking that either my wine cooler isn't of the type that can be adapted as a curing chamber or maybe I didn't sanitize it properly. I'm using a thermostat, that keeps the unit between 56 and 60 deg. Humidity is "random" between 60 and 80 percent. I'm using a tray with lots of salt and some water at the bottom.

What do you think I maybe doing wrong?


Jasonmolinari said...

If they're spoiling it sounds like you haven't allowed enough time for the salt to properly cure the meat. How long is the cure period?

You can also dry it in the fridge. See my post here:

ssoul said...

I did 11 days in the fridge for a 1,310 gr piece. Seeing that you did 10 days for a 420 gr, that's probably the error.

I did see the post about drying in the fridge, but I though if I was ever going to cure other cuts in the wine cooler, I should first be able to cure pancetta.

Jasonmolinari said...

The time in the cure is relative to the thickness rather than overall weight. It certainly can't hurt much to leave it longer in the cure. Try 20-25 days.
Also, make sure you're scaled the salt quantity appropriately to the weight of your piece.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jason,

Beautiful blog!
I would like to try your pancetta. I live in Indonesia and cannot get hold of Cure 2 or sodium nitrate/nitrite. Can I use Potassium nitrate instead?



Jasonmolinari said...

Thanks Jansz. I THINK you can use it, but i have no idea on quantities for potassium nitrate.

Rand said...

I am trying to cure my own pancetta. I just finish up the two week period with the pancetta wrap in cheese cloth. I hung it in a wine cooler at 55 degrees. I pulled it out today and it had started to accumalate white and grren mold. Can I scrap the mold off or is the pancetta ruined? My email is and I could use some help.

Jasonmolinari said...

Green mold scares me. 2 weeks seems short for drying? Was it properly salt cured?.

Sweet Lou said...

can a wine fridge with temp controls be easily converted to a curing chamber? do wine fidges typically have humidity controls?

Jasonmolinari said...

Sweet Lou: no, normally wine fridges dont have a humidity control...converting them for curing is tricky, as the humidity runs too high in them....

Dolores said...

i live in the sw and have swamp cooler, i keep the house fresh during the day, i hung my panchetta in the shower in my guest bathroom and it isn't dripping it is shrinking and turning a darker color. should i take it down and place it in the refrigerator? if so for how long? i have had it hanging for 3 weeks already. also, do i remove the string when it is done?

Jasonmolinari said...

I dont know how to address your question Dolores. I don't know what conditions the pancetta you have has been subjected to, so i can't comment on what to do.
next time put it right from the cure into the fridge uncovered for about 3 weeks.

Orfy said...

Hi Jason, good blog.
I'm just having a stab at my first pancetta. I've looked at a few recipes and blogs so have taken inspiration and direction from yours but have changed a few things for various reasons. I've upped the sugar because I've seen a few recipes with more sugar. (I like a sweeter bacon). I've used a saltpeter mix from my local butcher that he uses from his supplier and he uses 50g/kg meat and 35g sugar.

Am I right in thinking that Curing Salt#2 can be used for meat you can eat uncooked and #1 you have to cook?

Jasonmolinari said...

Thanks Orfy.
Generally your statement about cure #2 and #1 is true-ish.

Cure #2 is used for products which are dry aged for weeks. Cure #1 is used for fresh items in which you want to maintain a good color and cured flavor.

A by product of the "drying for weeks" is that the product can be eaten uncooked generally...that's why i said your statement is "true-ish"