What Is Pepperoni Made of?

One doesn’t often give much thought to the inner workings of deli meats. Well, a normal person anyway. Lucky for you, we here at Sporked are jussssst this side of normal, and we can do all that pontificating for you. And pontificate we will, today on the subject of pepperoni. Here’s everything you could want to know about this robust pizza-enhancer. 

What is pepperoni? 

Pepperoni, which is derived from the Italian word for bell peppers (peperone), is similar to salami. However, pepperoni’s key difference is that the meat is much more finely ground and mixed with a spicy pepper such as cayenne or paprika, yielding its distinctive deep red color and powerful flavor. It can be found in link form, but most often it is pre-sliced and ready to pop on top of a pizza pie or charcuterie board

What is pepperoni made of? Is pepperoni pork?

In the United States, pepperoni is a dried, cured sausage made of beef and pork, or pork only. If a pepperoni product is made of 100% beef, it must be called “beef pepperoni,” which we can all agree just doesn’t have the same ring to it, right? 

Where does pepperoni come from?

Most people think pepperoni was born in Italy. But, they’re only half right! Although it is hard to say exactly when it was created, pepperoni most likely popped up in the early 1900s when Italian-run butcher shops and pizzerias began to proliferate the streets of America. So, the next time someone goes on to describe something as “American as baseball or apple pie” you can confidently throw in “and pepperoni!” Any stares you attract will be easy to ignore, with the comfort of the knowledge that you’re correct. 

How is pepperoni made?

Pepperoni is essentially an American version of salami, something close to what Italians might call “salame piccante,” a catch-all term that means “spicy salami.” Makers mix finely ground pork and fat with a spice blend that usually includes paprika, garlic, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and cayenne. Then, a pepperoni producer adds lactobacillus bacteria to the mix—this produces lactic acid, which cures the sausage. 

Like other natural sausages, pepperoni is encased in a membrane (classically the animal’s intestine is used, but mass producers use a collagen casing). The pepperoni sausages are hung in a warm, humid smokehouse where they ferment. Then, they’re smoked and dried.

After that, the pepperoni are sliced to your desired thinness and dispersed as evenly onto a pizza as possible. (Don’t you hate getting a slice with only a couple on there?) 

What is uncured pepperoni?

“Uncured” simply means that the meat was not preserved with any unnatural or synthetic forms of nitrates or nitrites. Uncured pepperoni is still preserved, but producers rely on natural salts and flavorings, rather than man-made chemicals. 

Is pepperoni a sausage?

Yes, pepperoni is a type of sausage. However, sausage is not a type of pepperoni. I recommend writing this fact on your hand so you never forget. Permanent marker, please. 

So, the next time you grab a big slice of pepperoni pizza, maybe stop and think for a moment of all the hard work and dedication that goes into each little spice-packed disc. But, don’t ponder too long, you don’t want to get side-tracked and miss your window for a second slice. In fact, forget I said anything about thinking at all, this is pizza warfare, and the rules are out the window!

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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