Mention pizza to anybody, you can guarantee pepperoni is the first thing that comes to mind.
Pepperoni is a staple in pizza toppings in the USA, but do you ever stop to consider what pepperoni is? Yes, it’s those slightly spicy, tasty, meaty little discs floating on top of the mozzarella cheese, but there is way more to know about your favorite topping.
Let us guide you through any questions and discover what you need to know about beef pepperoni and how they make it.
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The Origin of Beef Pepperoni
To start, pepperoni is the spicy American variety of Italian meat known as salami, and the seasoning is paprika or other chili pepper spices.
This variety of salami is an Italian-American delicacy made of cured dry sausage, similar to those spicy salamis produced initially in Southern Italy, for example, soppressata and salsiccia. One of the most significant differences is that the American pepperoni is not as spicy and has a far finer grain. The texture of the meat is softer and is typically produced using artificial casings.
The origins of the word pepperoni in Italian reveal that “pepperoni” is borrowed from peperoni, the plural of peperone, the Italian word for bell pepper. Secondly, peperoncino refers to hot and spicy peppers in Italian.
So back in 1919, the sausage was described by the term “pepperoni,” and the rest is history, as they say.
What is in Your Pepperoni
The meat composition of a pepperoni sausage will vary from brand to brand and the intended style of pepperoni sausage. As mentioned above, pepperoni consists of cured pork and cured beef. Sometimes turkey meat is used as a substitute in manufacturing. Any poultry meat used in pepperoni has to have the appropriate labels to be sold in the United States.
No Pork Option
Not everyone eats pork products, whether for religious dietary reasons or personal taste preferences. Still, regardless of the meat type used in production, the basic pepperoni recipe should remain the same.
How to Make Beef Pepperoni
Beef pepperoni is beef meat that is cured with either nitrates or nitrites. These curing salts are used to prevent botulism and any other form of microbiological decay that can potentially cause severe sickness and even fatality, as in the case of botulism.
These curing salts also contribute to the pepperoni’s reddish color which is caused by a reaction with the myoglobin, the meat muscle pigment, to produce the red or pink cured color and distinct taste we associate with cured hams and meats.
The Meat is Cut
Pepperoni sausage making, like all sausage production, requires the correct cuts of beef to achieve the ideal meat-to-fat ratio. This is to prevent making pepperoni that is too dry or too fatty.
The Meat is Ground
For pepperoni sausage, the correct ratio is about 70 percent lean muscle meat to about 30 percent fat. In addition, getting the right texture is important, as the sausage must not be too coarse or too fine. The meat and fat are ground using a 1/8″ meat grinding plate.
The Meat Mixes with the Seasonings
The ground beef meat mixes with seasonings. These include salt, garlic powder, sugar, and paprika. The ground meat mixture is then further inoculated with a culture of lactobacillus bacteria, which produces lactic acid lowering the pH of the meat mix.
This lactic acid is an important ingredient for curing the sausage and it gives the pepperoni its characteristic spicy flavor. The Lactobacillus bacteria can also be found in yogurt and cheese products.
Stuffing the Meat
Next up is the stuffing of the sausage mixture into artificial sausage casings. The now-filled sausages will be hung in the production facility smokehouse. The smokehouse will have around 77℉ warm and humid air, which starts the fermentation process.
The Meat Ferments
The lactobacillus bacteria in the mix then consume the sugars in the seasoning, after which it will start producing lactic acid. The resulting lactic acid prevents harmful bacteria from growing which could cause food poisoning. In addition, the process is important in imparting the unique salami flavor.
If this all sounds very much like the chemical industry, don’t panic, the Italians have apparently been curing and preserving meats and making the first salami-type products way back as far as the Roman times.
Final Smoke and Dry
So, after the fermentation process, the up-and-coming pepperoni is then smoked. To smoke pepperoni, maple, and hickory wood chips are normally used. At this point, the beef pepperoni sausages are moved to a drying room to dry where they are kept for several days.
If the end product is pizza toppings, the sausages are sliced and then packaged for shipment to your favorite pizza joint. The combined fermentation and smoking process can take as many as five days.
Time to Serve
What you need to know about beef pepperoni when it comes to serving is that it is commonly sold in two sizes: an inch in diameter for use as sliced pizza toppings and up to three inches in diameter for slicing and sandwiches. To simplify our lives, we can buy it whole, chopped, or pre-sliced at your local deli or corporate supermarket deli counter.
Your humble beef pepperoni can also sell as a snack in everything from Lunchables or even small packs in convenience stores.
Beef pepperoni can take the place of normal pepperoni slices to be used on pizzas, or added to cheese or antipasto platters. Beef pepperoni is also a great addition to quesadillas or a grilled cheese sandwich. Whole pepperoni sausage can be minced or finely chopped and used as a topping on baked potatoes, as well as a tasty addition to pasta salads or as a garnish in Italian soups.
A Bright Future For Beef Pepperoni
It’s not just pizza eaters and snackers in the USA that consume pepperoni to the tune of 340 tonnes every day. The global pepperoni food market may reach a staggering USD 2.71 billion in revenue by the end of 2026.
And finally, the 20th of September every year is National Pepperoni Day so be sure to have your share of pepperoni on the day.