Discover the Untold Origins of Pepperoni!

Anyone who has ever enjoyed a slice of pizza in the United States is probably familiar with pepperoni. Whether you love it or prefer your pizza without it, you’ve definitely seen it, and you’ve probably tried it. But what, exactly, is it? Read on to learn more about America’s favorite pizza topping.

What Is Pepperoni and What Is It Made Of?

Pepperoni is a general category for dried, spiced, and cured sausage, typically made from beef and pork. Pepperoni is an American adaptation of the Italian salami, another broad category of dried and cured sausage. 

Pepperoni is bright red, typically from the inclusion of paprika in the meat mixture before the product is dried and cured. If you’ve ever noticed a slick of bright red fat on your plate after eating a slice of pepperoni pizza, that is in part because of the paprika used in the dish.

Pepperoni is generally made by blending together ground beef and pork (although beef-only versions exist). Pepperoni has a soft texture in comparison to other types of cured sausage, which comes from the ratio of fat — generally around 30 percent fat and 70 percent lean — as well as the texture of the grind, which is somewhere in the middle of the range for sausage.

What Does Pepperoni Taste Like?

There are many types of pepperoni available in grocery stores across the country, but in general, pepperoni tastes porky and spiced – though generally not spicy. It is deeply savory and salty, with a nice chew to it from the ratio of fat to lean. Once cooked, like on top of a pizza, the edge often get crispy, while the center stay a bit softer.

Pepperoni vs. Salami

Pepperoni is an Italian-American adaption of hard salamis made in Southern Italy. Salami itself is a broad category of dried sausage, most often made with pork. The main distinction is that salami is typically made in Italy, while pepperoni is most often made in the United States.

Pepperoni tends to taste more spiced and peppery, whereas salami is often more herbaceous, though there are many spicy salamis made in Italy. Another big difference is that while pepperoni is usually sold pre-sliced, salami is typically sold in whole sausage form.

Ways to Use Pepperoni

While pizza is the most obvious and common use for pepperoni, it has lots of other applications across the country. It is often served on charcuterie boards, and used in casseroles and breads. There are a lot of regional dishes in the US that include it, like West Virginia’s pepperoni roll.

What Makes Pepperoni Curl?

In recent years, pepperoni pizza with ‘roni cups’ has become popular and prized. This is a style of pepperoni that curls up around the edges while baking, forming small cups that hold a little rendered fat. This effect is achieved by using slightly thicker cut rounds of pepperoni.

How to Store Pepperoni

Sliced pepperoni will last about two months unopened, but will dry out after about two weeks if the container is unsealed. Leftover sliced pepperoni should be stored tightly sealed to prevent drying. Whole pepperoni sticks don’t need to be refrigerated, and can be stored in a pantry or cupboard for as long as six weeks.