Uncured Pepperoni vs. Cured: Similarities and Differences Explained

Pepperoni is one of the most popular pizza toppings in the United States.

Besides pizzas, it’s used for sandwiches, pasta, and even salads. However, with this diverse usage, it’s no wonder that there are many different types of pepperoni.

The most well-known types of pepperoni are cured and uncured. But what’s the difference? The main difference can be found in the curing process, which affects the appearance and taste of the pepperoni.

 Uncured PepperoniCured Pepperoni
Cured withSea salt, celery powder, celery juice, and beet extractsSodium nitrite and sodium nitrate, and lactic acid
ColorRedA pale reddish color
FlavorSoft, salty, and with a lingering but mild spicinessSmoky, and a strong, peppery flavor
Used forPizza, sandwiches, pasta, saladsPizza, sandwiches, pasta, salads
Salt levelHighLow
It can be used right awayYesYes
Summary Table: Uncured Pepperoni vs. Cured Pepperoni
uncured pepperoni vs cured

What Is Uncured Pepperoni?

Contrary to its name, uncured pepperoni is still cured. However, the curing components aren’t the same as those used in “cured” pepperoni.

Natural preservatives such as sea salt, celery powder, celery juice, and beet extracts are used in uncured meat instead of artificial preservatives.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations require uncured pepperoni to be labeled as “uncured” and “nitrate or nitrite-free” if they contain natural nitrate or nitrite sources, such as seawater or brine.

Since no chemical substances are added to uncured meat, it appears paler than cured meat.

Salt is used as a preservative, but it has a high sodium content resulting in a saltier taste.

What Is Cured Pepperoni?

Cured pepperoni is what you usually find in the grocery store marked “processed meat.”

Salt and artificial preservatives, such as sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate, preserve the meat and prevent bacterial growth in the product.

Curing pepperoni not only preserves it for a more extended period but also enhances its flavor.

Pepperoni’s salty and tangy flavor comes from lactic acid, an essential ingredient in the curing process.

Adding this flavor to the meat also imparts a lovely reddish hue.

What Are the Similarities Between Uncured and Cured Pepperoni?

Both types of pepperoni are usually made with the same type of meat – a mixture of pork and beef.

However, the most significant similarity between the cured and uncured pepperoni is that both are cured.

Even though the names are misleading, both types can be used right away and in the same type of dish.

You can use cured and uncured pepperoni for pizzas, sandwiches, or pasta.

Another similarity is the way it’s stored.

Pepperoni that has not been opened should not be refrigerated unless the package states explicitly otherwise because of the method used to make it.

For example, stick packages that have not yet been opened do not need refrigeration.

If stored at room temperature, unopened pepperoni can be eaten within a month. However, the flavor and texture may not be at their best after that.

However, once a package has been opened, it should be kept in the refrigerator.

Pepperoni can be kept fresher longer if it is refrigerated. It maintains its peak quality for up to 10 months and is still safe to eat.

It’s important to remember though, that refrigerated pepperoni that has come into contact with air will go bad quickly.

Keep your cured and uncured pepperoni stick fresh by keeping it in a sealed container or bag.

What Are the Differences Between Uncured and Cured Pepperoni?

The first difference is that even though both pepperoni types are cured, the curing process is different. This is because different preservatives are used to cure the meat.

Cured pepperoni uses artificial preservatives and is often deemed unhealthy because of that.

On the other hand, uncured pepperoni is seen as healthier because of the natural preservatives.

However, uncured meat has a higher salt level because of its natural preservatives, which can be equally unhealthy.

In addition, the curing process affects the flavor and aroma of the pepperoni. Uncured pepperoni has a soft and salty taste with a lingering but mild spiciness.

Those who try it describe the flavor as more complicated and less predictable than traditional pepperoni.

On the other hand, cured pepperoni is well-known for its taste, with seasoning responsible for 99% of the flavor.

Often with a smoky tinge, pepperoni has a robust and peppery flavor. Natural herbs and spices are the sources of this popular aroma.

Another big difference is the color. While cured pepperoni has a recognizable red color, the uncured variety is reddish but paler than its counterpart.

Which Is Better, Cured or Uncured Pepperoni?

Since both can be used in the same ways, the answer depends on your preferences.

For example, if you’re a lover of the classic pepperoni flavor, you could be disappointed by the milder flavor of the uncured pepperoni.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to remove artificial additives from your diet, uncured pepperoni can be the right choice for you.

When it comes to a healthy diet, things get more complicated.

People who want to eat healthier and avoid processed meats tend to gravitate toward “natural” products.

However, although it is listed as “natural,” that does not rule out the possibility that uncured pepperoni could be harmful to your health.

Nitrates are still present in uncured meats, even if preserved with “natural” materials. In some cases, the uncured version might be even saltier and have more nitrates than the traditional cured variety.

In the end, it all comes down to personal preference. Preservatives are present in both the cured and uncured versions, and you must decide whether you prefer chemical preservatives or natural ones.

If you’re trying to avoid high salt intake, you should probably avoid uncured meat altogether.

In Summary

Any dish can benefit from cured and uncured pepperoni’s distinct flavor and texture, even when used in small quantities. Which one to use all boils down to your preferences.

Just remember that any processed meat should be eaten in moderation.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cured meats have been linked to colon cancer and should be eaten less.

On the other hand, uncured meat, including pepperoni, has high salt levels, which are also detrimental to our health, especially for those who have heart issues.

This doesn’t mean that you should eat pepperoni at all. It’s just a good idea to be aware of its ingredients and keep track of your intake of pepperoni and other processed meats.

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