The crisp, tangy pepperoni on a pizza adds a spicy, meaty flavor to a favorite topping combo! We usually eat pepperoni cooked on a pizza, but is it also safe to consume it raw?
It is safe to eat pepperoni raw because it has been processed in a complex manner to preserve the meat and eliminate bacteria. Pepperoni is a cured salami sausage and is safe to eat raw. It may not be safe to eat uncured pepperoni raw, so consult the packaging carefully. The best way to eat pepperoni without cooking it first will surprise you if you’ve only ever eaten it cooked on a pizza.
What Is Pepperoni?
Pepperoni is a popular pizza topping in many countries around the world, but what is pepperoni made of?
To produce the perfect texture, pepperoni needs to be made from 70% lean meat and 30% fat. It is made from a mixture of beef and pork, which are finely ground and mixed with spices.
A generous amount of paprika is normally added for color and flavor in this mixture of ground beef and seasonings.
Ground meat mixtures are stuffed into sausage casings, then cured and smoked to add flavor and preserve the meat.
Whole pepperoni should be a solid, thick sausage with a deep red color. It should be firm to the touch, not crumbly or crumbling when sliced.
Pepperoni sausage is generally available in most supermarkets and delicatessens, either whole or presliced.
There is a strong and intense flavor to pepperoni sausage, which is why it’s usually served in very thin slices. It is also quite chewy, so thinner sections are easier to eat. Pepperoni sausage is not for the faint-hearted.
The thickness of pepperoni affects how it behaves when cooked on a pizza, so pizza connoisseurs are very particular about this!
A thin slice of pepperoni will lay flat on a pizza, and any oil that leaks from the sausage will spread throughout the dish.
When the slice is a bit thicker, the edges will crisp and curl upwards, creating a cup shape that holds the oil from the pepperoni.
The second is the ultimate goal, as the oil gives the sausage topping a soft center without making the rest of the pizza too greasy. This type of pepperoni even has its own name – cup char pepperoni!
How Is Pepperoni Made?
Let’s first learn how pepperoni is made so we can understand if you can eat it without cooking it.
Cured sausages such as pepperoni have been subjected to a process called curing, which preserves their meat for a longer period of time.
Whole cured pepperoni does not need refrigeration, and they are commonly hung from the ceiling in Italian delicatessens.
Curing pepperoni involves several processes that preserve the meat and make it safe for consumption.
To ground meat, sodium nitrate is added, which prevents bacteria from growing. Sugar and lactic acid bacteria are also added.
During fermentation, carbohydrates are converted into alcohol or acids. Fermentation also helps the sausage dry out by driving moisture from it.
It is very effective to keep bacterial growth at bay by combining fermentation with sodium nitrate. However, one last process will prolong the preservation process.
The sausages are smoked in a smoker filled with wood smoke for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, then matured in a drying room.
Is Most Pepperoni Cured Or Uncured?
In most cases, pepperoni you see on sale will be labelled as cured and will have been processed using the above methods.
Some pepperoni may be sold as uncured, so what’s the difference? Pepperoni is highly unlikely to be sold as uncured.
The difference between cured and uncured pepperoni sausage is that cured sausage will have a longer shelf life and a different taste.
Uncured pepperoni sausages are still cured, but not as thoroughly as cured pepperoni sausages.
A food labeled as cured must have undergone specific processes that meet Food Standards Authority requirements.
In the U.S., this means they must have been preserved with artificial additives such as nitrates, although there are pepperoni sausages preserved with sea salt, celery powder, or beet extracts instead.
They have still been cured, but the processes they have gone through do not meet the specific labeling legislation.
Despite the fact that pepperoni sausages have been cured, natural methods of preservation make them appear uncured.
Although this type of pepperoni sausage is less common than those preserved by artificial means, it is becoming increasingly popular with people worried about the impact of artificial ingredients on our health.
Can You Eat Cured Pepperoni Raw?
In the curing process, pepperoni is never cooked using conventional cooking methods! Since we would not normally eat raw meat (hello food poisoning), why are cured sausages different?
In theory, pepperoni is a sausage made from uncooked meat, but the complex curing process makes it safe to consume raw. If you purchase a cured pepperoni sausage, you can eat it raw without any concerns.
Pepperoni is usually cooked because cooking enhances its flavor and texture, particularly when used as a pizza topping.
Cure pepperoni can, however, be consumed raw, and many people like it as part of a charcuterie platter.
It’s perfectly safe to nibble on a slice or two of raw pepperoni, too, even though we’re used to eating cured pepperoni cooked on pizza.
Can You Eat Uncured Pepperoni Raw?
Uncured pepperoni is normally cured using natural curing methods rather than artificial methods, and cannot therefore be labelled or sold as cured if it has not been cured at all.
We can’t know what processes your uncured pepperoni has been subjected to, so it’s difficult to tell if you can eat it raw without inspecting the packaging closely!
Whether pepperoni can be consumed raw or if it needs to be cooked beforehand should be clearly indicated on the packaging.
When in doubt, cook the sausage before eating it, even if it says it has been preserved with celery powder or sea salt.
After we’ve figured out how to eat raw pepperoni, let’s go over some other pepperoni questions!
Can you freeze pepperoni?
For a long time, pepperoni will stay fresh and perfectly edible because it is naturally preserved.
Over time, pepperoni can start to deteriorate, especially if exposed to air, heat, or light. This causes the fat to become rancid, causing the meat to lose its flavor.
When it comes to preserving pepperoni, you can either freeze the entire sausage, chunks of sausage, or slices. Slices of pepperoni straight from the freezer are great for making pizza.
Whenever you have a recipe that calls for grated pepperoni, it’s much easier to do if the pepperoni is tightly sealed in an airtight container or freezer bag.
Does pepperoni need to be kept in the refrigerator?
Hard sausages like pepperoni, which have gone through a lengthy curing process to prevent deterioration, can be stored for up to 6 weeks in a cool pantry.
It is recommended that you consume your pepperoni sausage within three weeks after cutting into it. You can store your pepperoni sausage indefinitely in the refrigerator until it is opened.