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Pancetta - an experiment new to me

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  • barelfly
    Club Member
    • Dec 2017
    • 875
    • New Mexico

    Pancetta - an experiment new to me

    As with most of us, experimenting and trying new things in the culinary world is what attracts us to this hobby or even profession for some. I am one of those, and have taken to enjoying the process of turning something into more than just a meal. I've experimented with the Umai Dry Bags in the past, but only with whole rib roasts. I've enjoyed the steaks and roasts each time I've gone through the process and as I've read more about the Umai Dry Bag process, have come across the Charcuterie side of Umai Dry.

    About a year ago, a friend bought me the book Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking & Curing by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn. I loved it, ear marked many recipes I wanted to try. But the issue with the arid desert climate of New Mexico is lack of humidity as well as temperature control. I don't have a basement and really no way of truly age-drying a cured meat.

    So, with a little research, the Umai site has some information about taking a recipe similar to Ruhlman & Polcyn's recipe for pancetta. Umai's process is not as clear as I think it could be, but I believe I understand the process of how it needs to go, so on March 15, I began my first take on pancetta using the combination of Ruhlman & Polcyn's Pancetta recipe that I will accompany with one of the small Umai Dry Bags i received in the sample pack I purchased last year. There has also been a great following on the various projects some have done with Umai (ribeye, strip loin, brisket) that I thought I would share the process here as well for those interested in following.

    To start - I took the exact pancetta recipe Ruhlman & Polcyn describe, which is really the same process as curing pork belly for bacon. I've done this process a few times and the bacon after being cured then smoked is outstanding! Recipe is as follows from the Ruhlman and & Polcyn's Charcuterie:

    1 5lb pork belly, skin removed

    Dry Cure:
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    2 teaspoons/14 grams pink salt (Prague Powder #1)
    1/4 cup kosher salt
    2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
    4 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper - reserve half for when rolling slab into roll of pancetta
    2 tablespoons juniper berries, crushed
    4 bay leaves, crumbled
    1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
    4 or 5 sprigs freshly thyme

    I combined the dry cure ingredients then rubbed on the slab of belly so evenly distributed. Belly was then placed in a 2.5gallon zipper top bag, closed with as much air out as possible. I will let this cure for 7 days, with every day involving a rub and flip of the slab of belly (without taking the belly out of the bag) so that the contents remain evenly distributed.

    After 7 days, it is recommended to ensure that the belly is firm at the thickest point. if not, letting it go a day or two longer. In my experience with this process, 7-8 days usually does the trick.

    I will then rinse the cure thoroughly under cold water, pat it dry and then sprinkle the other 2 tablespoons of pepper on the meat side of the belly. Then I will start with the long side of the belly and roll tightly as you would towel. Then tie tightly with butcher's twine, ensuring there are no air pockets inside the roll.

    From this step on will be where I alter the process and use the Umai Dry Bag. I will use a 10"x20" roast size Umai Dry Bag, place the rolled belly inside, and go through the normal Umai Dry Bag sealing process of sealing one corner twice, then inserting a vac mouse and vacuuming the air out with assistance and ensuring there is good adhesion to the belly itself. I will double seal and then place the bag inside panty hose to ensure the bag adheres to the belly. Once complete, into the fridge on a wire rack to allow proper airflow to all sides of the belly.

    At this point, begins the waiting game. According to Ruhlman & Polcyn, "because pancetta isn't meant to be eaten raw, the drying isn't' as critical a stage as it is for items such as prosciutto or dry-cured sausages. But drying pancetta enhances it's texture, intensifies it's flavor, and helps it to last longer."

    So I will go off what Umai suggests, and let this belly dry for 4-8 weeks. The Umai site mentions a weight loss of 35-40%, but I don't know how that will work considering the temperature will be lower than what you normally dry belly for pancetta. The Umai recipe also contradicts itself in two areas, so that is why I'm using what is stated in Ruhlman & Polcyn's Charcuterie.

    I've attached a photo, although not the greatest, of the beginning of the curing stage. This photo also includes a 5lb slab of belly I'm curing to use for bacon. Pancetta slab is on the left and bacon slab is on the right. This Friday night I plan on checking for firmness and if all is well, will begin the drying process. I'll update the post with additional photos of the slab as is, washed, rolled and then in the Umay Dry Bag.

    Hopefully everyone will enjoy following the process and learn a little with me as I go along.
    Attached Files
  • klflowers
    Club Member
    • Sep 2015
    • 2916
    • Tennessee

    Lets go! Looking forward to this.


    • Backroadmeats
      Club Member
      • Dec 2018
      • 474
      • Central mn

      Ya got me too.. watching intently!!


      • Troutman
        Club Member
        • Aug 2017
        • 7055
        • Republic of Texallence

          22" Weber Kettle - Red Premium Limited Edition
          6 Burner Weber Summit Gasser
          22" and 18" Weber WSM Smoker
          18” Jumbo Joe
          36" double door Lyfe Tyme offset stick burner (SOLD !)
          Pitts & Spitts Pellet Pro 2436
          Classic Thermopen
          Thermoworks SMOKE
          Fireboard Pro with Pit Viper fan
          Grill Grates
          SNS for the 22" Weber kettle
          A-MAZE-N Smoker 12" Tube & Tray
          Weber stainless veggie basket
          Weber stainless fish basket
          Weber stainless rib rack
          Phat Mat cooking mats
          Barbestar BBQ Cooking Gloves
          For Beef (brisket, beef ribs, large clods/roasts) = 100% mesquite, oak or hickory
          For Chicken & other fowl = competition blend, cherry/oak/hickory
          For Turkey = 100% hickory or competition blend
          For Pork Shoulder = mesquite, oak or hickory
          For Pork Chops or Ribs = 100% applewood
          SOUS VIDE
          Anova Immersion Circulator 900 watt & 12 & 18 quart Rubbermaid containers with hinged sous vide lids
          Generic Calphalon non-stick cookware set of pots and pans
          12" & 14" All-Clad Stainless skillets
          Cast Iron 12" skillet by Victoria
          La Creuset Cast Iron 7 quart Dutch Oven - Yellow Round
          La Creuset Cast Iron 7 quart Dutch Oven - Cherry Oval
          Old Revere Wear Copper & Stainless Pots (handed down)

          JA Henckels 15 piece Stainless Knife Set
          Victorinox 12" Fibrox Pro Slicing Knive
          Victorinox 6" Curved Boning Knife
          Set of Dalstrong Japanese Steak Knives

        I’m watching this one with great interest.


        • RonB
          Club Member
          • Apr 2016
          • 12097
          • Near Richmond VA
          • Weber Performer Deluxe
            Pizza insert
            Smokenator 1000
            Cookshack Smokette Elite
            2 Thermapens
            lots of probes.

          Keep us posted.


          • ddmcwhirter
            Charter Member
            • Nov 2014
            • 125
            • Leon Springs northwest of San Antonio, Texas

            I'll have to finally collect some juniper berries from what we call our "cedar" trees. I have the book but so far have not tried any.


            • NapMaster
              Club Member
              • Jan 2019
              • 589
              • Denham Springs, LA
              • WebberSummitGold6burnerLP, ShotGunSmoker

                Avid Armor Vacuum Sealer

              This is the way to learn! Keep on posting about your adventure and many thanks for sharing!!


              • klflowers
                Club Member
                • Sep 2015
                • 2916
                • Tennessee

                My wife said I need to buy my own pantyhose.


                • barelfly
                  barelfly commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Haha! I’ll need to make a purchase on Friday! Gotta put that on my calendar so I don’t forget!

                • ComfortablyNumb
                  ComfortablyNumb commented
                  Editing a comment
                  What, she doesn't let you keep hers after you've stretched them out? ;-)

                • klflowers
                  klflowers commented
                  Editing a comment
                  ComfortablyNumb, I look too good in them
              • grantgallagher
                Club Member
                • Feb 2018
                • 949
                • NJ

                This sounds very cool. Def following this one.


                • Thunder77
                  Founding Member
                  • Jul 2014
                  • 2735
                  • Halethorpe, MD
                  • Weber 26.75" Kettle with SnS. Broil King Baron 5 burner. Akorn Kamado, and Akorn Jr kamado. Primo Oval Junior. Love grilling steaks, ribs, and chicken. Need to master smoked salmon Favorite cool weather beer: Sam Adams Octoberfest Favorite warm weather beer: Yuengling Traditional Lager All-time favorite drink: Single Malt Scotch



                  • barelfly
                    Club Member
                    • Dec 2017
                    • 875
                    • New Mexico

                    first update!

                    7 days in to the curing stage so I went ahead into the dry aging portion. As I somewhat detailed above, tonight was to get this belly ready to go and in the Umai Dry age bag.

                    First - removed the belly from the zip top bag and rinsed in cold water to get the dry cure removed. Photos below are pre and post rinse. Really had good cure adhesion to the belly.

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                    Next - I patted down the belly to get the left over rinse off and then take the remaining two tablespoons of the pepper listed in the recipe and sprinkle this on the meat side of the belly.

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                    Once I had the pepper on, I had to roll the belly from one of the long sides, trying to get as tight as possible and then using twine to keep it tight. This is where I learned to check I have everything I need prior to starting a project. I didn't have enough twine, so you may see some colorful bands in the photos to help keep the belly rolled up tightly.

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                    After rolling and tying, I placed the belly into the smaller roast sized Umai Bag, ruffled up the open end to help with sealing and sealed one corner at an angle as instructed by Umai. Added the vac mouse and then double sealed and added a double sealed safety seal. I was able to get really good adhesion from the vac and seal, as you can see in the photo below.

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                    I then got a weight on the belly, so I could watch the weight loss over the time I allow it to age. Came in at 4lbs 11.75oz. Time suggested is 4-8 weeks, but I have also read the recommendation of a 35% weight loss. I will continue to research on this to see which way I go, as I figure I have some time.

                    Click image for larger version

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                    After that, this is where I asked my wife if she had any panty hose I could cut up for a food project - she didn't even ask why! hahaha. So I cut one of the legs and placed the sealed Umai Dry bag of belly into the stocking to assist with keeping the bag adhered to the belly. I've read this helps, although I have not had an issue with this. I was worried a bit that because the bag was slight bigger and had a little extra space, it may help.

                    Click image for larger version

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                    Finally - into the fridge to hang out with the 20lb sub-primal ribeye......pretty cool to see a few things going on in the fridge here!

                    Click image for larger version

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                    So that's the update for the week - I plan on weighing every week just to see how quickly the weight loss occurs. I don't know if it will go very fast, as I've read some have waited a long time for the pancetta to be ready when going by weight.

                    Anyhow - hope you all enjoyed the update for the week!
                    Last edited by barelfly; March 29th, 2019, 05:45 PM.


                    • Backroadmeats
                      Backroadmeats commented
                      Editing a comment
                      This looks fabulous.. I just ordered some umai bags and am going to try this also.. my belly will be cured mid week so will be about a week be hind ya.. we should be able to make some interesting comparisons in the process as I am in Minnesota..
                  • barelfly
                    Club Member
                    • Dec 2017
                    • 875
                    • New Mexico

                    Alright!!! first update for the pancetta experiment!

                    It has been 1 week since I began the dry aging. So, thought I would get a weight and a few pictures.

                    1. weight - original weight was 4lbs. 11.75oz. Today, weight came in at 4lbs 8.96 oz, providing a 4% weight reduction. When I first sealed the Umai Bag, I used panty hose to help with adhesion. I have now removed that and will no longer use this for the duration of the dry age. I used a different scale - hopefully my calculations are correct! dang math class is failing me after all these years

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                    2. firmness - the pancetta has definitely firmed up and I can tell it is starting to take it's shape as pancetta would. I'm hoping over time, the roll will seal together fairly well so that when I untie it's just an enclosed roll. If I left air in there, which I may have, I don't know what that will do. We shall see.

                    3. color - I love the color change that has began. The fat side seems to be a tad different, but the comparing the end from the original day, you can see that the pink/red color of the meat has darkened slightly.

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                    top photo is current - March 29, bottom photo is day 1 dry age

                    So that's the update for the pancetta for the week. I'll update again next friday - and feel free to ask any questions I may have not answered from this update.

                    Jeremy -
                    Last edited by barelfly; March 29th, 2019, 05:46 PM.


                    • barelfly
                      barelfly commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Troutman on another board I follow for my particular smoker, a few have said they use stockings to help with bag adhesion. I used a slightly bigger bag than I wanted, although it is the smallest I had - so I was worried due to excess bag, that maybe it wouldn't stay on the pancetta. So, I did some rigging when I vacuumed to ensure that as much bag as possible was against the meat and then folded the excess and placed in the stocking.

                      I think all is good though -

                    • EdF
                      EdF commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Troutman , most of the action with the Umai bags is where the bag and meat make contact. However, it still works as long as you have about 80% contact.

                    • Troutman
                      Troutman commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Still doesn’t explain the stocking, I know how Umai bags work
                  • HouseHomey
                    Club Member
                    • May 2016
                    • 4890
                    • Huntington Beach, Ca. Surf City USA.
                    • Equipment
                      Primo Oval xl

                      Slow n Sear (two)
                      Drip n Griddle
                      22" Weber Kettle
                      26" Weber Kettle one touch
                      Blackstone 36” Pro Series
                      Sous vide machine
                      Kitchen Aid
                      Meat grinder
                      sausage stuffer
                      5 Crock Pots
                      Two chimneys (was 3 but rivets finally popped, down to 1)
                      cast iron pans,
                      Dutch ovens
                      Signals 4 probe, thermapens, chef alarms, Dots, thermapop and maverick T-732, RTC-600, pro needle and various pocket instareads.
                      The help and preferences
                      1 extra fridge and a deep chest freezer in the garage
                      A 9 year old princess foster child
                      Patience and old patio furniture
                      "Baby Girl" The cat

                      Erik S.

                    Pretty awesome. Did you roll and tie that by yourself? That’s a real pain. Did this in culinary school and you are blowing all of us away.

                    this is going to be fantastic. I can’t wait!! Looking real fine my friend.


                    • barelfly
                      barelfly commented
                      Editing a comment
                      yes, rolled myself and had to youtube how to tie the butchers knot - it had been a while. and, you can see my failure in not having enough twine! that won't happen again!

                      thanks for the comments HH!

                    • Troutman
                      Troutman commented
                      Editing a comment
                      So what your telling us HouseHomey is that after all this time you still haven't figured out how to roll your own ??
                  • barelfly
                    Club Member
                    • Dec 2017
                    • 875
                    • New Mexico

                    WEEK #2 UPDATE

                    Wanted to see if there was any additional weight loss on the pancetta since I was weighing the other charcuterie in the fridge as well.

                    1. weight - original weight was 4lbs. 11.75oz (or 75.75oz). Today, weight came in at 4lbs 7.8oz, providing a 6% weight reduction. So, less of a reduction compared to the first week, but according to Ruhlman, it's not weight loss you are after here, more so the time. I'll go with that! Because at this point, I'd be here forever waiting for a decent weight loss.

                    Click image for larger version

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                    2. firmness - the pancetta has definitely firmed up even compared to last week, which I'm really happy about! I believe it' has taken it's shape and if I were to untie it, I think it would hold in this rolled shape. So, glad to see that.

                    3. color - I think the color darkened slighty, maybe not - as it's really hard to differentiate from the photos. But it looks great!

                    Click image for larger version

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                    That's it for the week 2 update. I can't wait to get into this! Carbonara is one of my favorite dishes, and this will go great with it! I know guanciale is really used in carbonara, but.....This will do just fine


                    • klflowers
                      klflowers commented
                      Editing a comment
                      Carbonara is excellent. This should be next level with home made pancetta!
                  • EdF
                    Club Member
                    • Jul 2016
                    • 3185
                    • Atlantic Highlands, NJ
                    • Uuni Pro (new kid in town)
                      Karubeque C-60
                      Large BGE since 2002 + plate setter + pizza stone + upper grid + stainless paella pan for drippings (the best!)
                      TEC Cherokee FR since 2014 (portable infrared grill - does a mighty sear)
                      Polyscience Sous Vide Pro since 2012 (wasn't much else available in those days)
                      Thermapen Air
                      ThermaQ (or its predecessor)
                      Thermoworks Hi temp IR
                      BBQ Dragon & Chimney of Insanity
                      Various other stuff

                    Just so happens we started curing a pork belly using the Ruhlman recipe on Wednesday. And I have some spare Umai bags around. Thanks!




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