Pepperoni is one of the most beloved pizza toppings and a fan favorite of many people. The spices of pepperoni, the grease it releases when it cooks and the complementary flavors and textures it has are all a great addition to the core pizza recipe.
There’s a lot more to pepperoni than meets the eye, however. There’s a lot that needs to be done to make sure the pepperoni you’re eating on your frozen pizza is as delicious as you expect it to be. Let’s take a quick look at what exactly goes into making pepperoni.
Pepperoni—traditional pepperoni, anyway—is made with pork. Most times, a recipe will call for two different types of pork, to create a great flavor profile with the right texture and composition. The types of pork generally used in making pepperoni are fatty, as opposed to lean (although lean pork can be used): pork butt, shoulder, round or shank.
Pepperoni is named after its signature ingredient: peppercorns! Pepperoni doesn’t have to have peppercorns, however. The mixtures of seasonings will vary depending on the recipe, but will usually revolve around essential Italian spices. Some of the ingredients may include cayenne pepper, paprika, anise seed, garlic or onion salt. Some recipes have as few as three spices in them; others can have as many as a dozen or more!
Finally, there are some essentials that every recipe will need. These include salt, pepper, sugar and ascorbic acid. These are all very important not only for flavor, but for the curing process to follow.
The pork ingredients are cubed, to create a chunky texture that will blend well with other ingredients and create small pockets of flavor. The cubed pork is then combined with all of the ingredients for the recipe.
Once everything is mixed together, the entire concoction should be spread out on a baking tray and put into the refrigerator for 24 hours. This begins the curing process. After 24 hours, the meat will be ready for casing. Meat is fed into casings, and then tied off at each link to create those all-too-familiar sausage chains we’ve seen in butcher shops and cartoons.
Once the pepperoni is cased, it needs to cure for 6 to 8 weeks! The proper way to do this is to hang the links in a cool, dark place, doing your best not to disturb them. After the curing period, pepperonis will keep for months, but must be properly cooked before eating.
There’s a reason pepperoni tastes oh so good on frozen pizzas: it’s because it’s made through a labor of love! Great pepperoni can’t be churned out overnight; it takes weeks and weeks to achieve the right consistency and level of deliciousness you expect from it.
The next time you pop in a pepperoni frozen pizza and start drooling over all the perfectly shaped pepperonis, remember all of the work that has to go into them. They’ll taste that much better on your pizza!