What Is Pork Roll and What’s It Made of?

What is pork roll made of? Are you sure you want to know? Join me, dear reader, on an educational trip to breakfast in New Jersey. 

Let’s use our imaginations and journey to the legendary locale known as New Jersey, rumored to be right across the river from New York City. If you are not acquainted with this far-off land of pizzerias and Bruce Springsteens, you may have never come across the regional delicacy known as pork roll. So, what is pork roll? What’s in it? What does it taste like? And how does “Taylor Ham” figure into all of this? 

What is pork roll?

The closest comparison point I can find for pork roll is bologna. It’s not exactly like that in terms of flavor or texture, but it is a processed, often pre-sliced pork product that you could put on a sandwich or have with your breakfast. Another comparison point is probably Spam, but more flavorful and sold in a sack instead of a can. Pork roll is a processed, log-shaped meat product particularly associated with New Jersey, and basically only exists in the Garden State and the neighboring area. It’s typically eaten in place of sausage or bacon at breakfast. 

What is pork roll made of?

Are you sure you want to know what is in pork roll? You’ve heard that whole thing about how the sausage gets made, right? Okay, very well. Taylor pork roll contains “pork, salt, sugar, spices, lactic acid starter culture, sodium ascorbate, sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate.” What cut of pork, specifically? They don’t say. It’s usually best not to ask. 

What does pork roll taste like?

Unfortunately, I have never had the pleasure of personally sampling this New Jersey favorite, so I will have to rely on expert testimony from others (which is to say, stuff I found on Wikipedia). According to Larry Olmsted of USA Today, it’s like, “a cross between Canadian bacon and bacon, less hammy and smoky than Canadian, fattier and saltier than bacon, with a unique texture, both crispy and slightly mushy.” If that description doesn’t whet your appetite, I don’t know what will. 

Is it Taylor ham or pork roll?

The original pork roll was created by businessman John Taylor and was called Taylor Ham. However, a court decision in 1906 held that processed meats such as this could not legally be referred to as “ham,” which refers to a specific cut of meat. So, the name was changed to pork roll. However, old names die hard and the term “Taylor Ham” continued to be used by some in New Jersey. For whatever reason, the name split happened along geographic lines, with Northern Jersey favoring the original name and Southern Jersey calling it pork roll. 

Is pork roll already cooked?

Like similar deli meats, pork roll is already cooked, meaning that you could conceivably eat it straight out of the package. However, unlike other deli meats, pork roll is generally not served cold. It’s gotta be heated up to achieve the full flavorful effect. Generally pork roll is cooked in butter in a skillet. To keep the edges from curling up, you score the slices in a few places. Then brown on both sides and serve. 

Is pork roll gluten free? 

For the answer here, let’s quote directly from jerseyporkroll.com. They quote a manufacturer as saying, “Although no gluten is added during the production of our pork roll, we cannot guarantee the feed provided to the animals did not contain gluten.” So there you have it: No added gluten but certainly gluten adjacent.


About the Author

Matt Crowley

Matt Crowley is a comedy writer living in Los Angeles. He likes maple-flavored snacks, loves every kind of cheese, and is slowly learning to accept mushrooms.

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