When it comes to cured pork products, two kinds probably come to mind — bacon and pancetta. Both look similar and are cut from the pork belly, however, there are key differences between the two. The main one is that bacon is smoked while pancetta typically is not. Pancetta is also dry-aged for several weeks at a time, while bacon only undergoes maturation for five to seven days. As a result, bacon and pancetta taste different.
Despite these differences, you can effectively use bacon in recipes that call for pancetta since they have the same texture. Many people choose to do this because bacon is cheaper and easier to find at most grocery stores. The only problem with using bacon instead of pancetta is that you'll be introducing a smoky flavor to your dish. If your recipe calls for pancetta affumicata, a variety of pancetta that is actually smoked, bacon is a viable alternative, but otherwise, you may want to get rid of some of that taste. The best way to do this is to blanch the bacon in boiling water for about two or three minutes.
Making Bacon Taste More Like Pancetta
While blanching it in boiling water may be effective at removing a good amount of the smokiness of bacon, it still won't taste exactly like pancetta. Of course, it will still work perfectly fine in your dish. However, if you want a flavor that more closely resembles pancetta there's something else you can do.
When pancetta is cured, it isn't just salt that it sits in. The salt is also accompanied by a spice mix that includes black pepper, thyme, juniper berries, and garlic. To make bacon taste more like pancetta, you can infuse it with these flavors. Pancetta is also cured with sugar, so to give your bacon a more subtly sweet note, it'll help to add some. You won't be able to replicate the distinct taste that comes from the aging process, but by adding flavors associated with pancetta, you can transform bacon into a more seamless substitution.
Best Type Of Bacon To Substitute For Pancetta
Applewood, hickory, thin-cut, mesquite — there are many bacon varieties out there and some are better substitutes for pancetta than others. It might be obvious that turkey bacon won't work well in place of pancetta, but what about other types? Start by looking for the thickest bacon on the shelf because the texture and the balance of fat and meat will be most like pancetta.
You can further narrow down the options by checking the ingredients list on the package. Go for the bacon with the least amount of flavorings or additives, as pancetta has a more pure, meaty taste. Even though unsmoked bacon exists, it isn't easy to find, so opt for "hardwood smoked" or "naturally smoked." They will still be smoky, but the flavor comes from real wood smoke rather than liquid smoke injections. This makes the smokiness easier to eliminate through blanching, ultimately making it a closer pancetta substitute.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.