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Pancetta at home - a how to and final thoughts

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  • barelfly
    Club Member
    • Dec 2017
    • 824
    • New Mexico

    Pancetta at home - a how to and final thoughts

    Pancetta Experiment – final results

    I dig the pig. And who doesn’t. So, why not find one more way to make pig into yummy goodness at home. That was my goal – I’ve enjoyed making bacon at home, so why not make bacon’s cousin, Pancetta, to cook up in some of my favorite recipes and accompany the 15lbs of charcuterie a friend and I recently made.

    Bacon and pancetta both come from pork belly. Bacon goes through a curing process and then is smoked to give it that great smokey flavor. Pancetta, like bacon, also goes through a curing process, but it’s a much longer dry cure process. And for the home cook, if you don’t have the proper cellar or humid environment, what are you to do?

    With the dry aging phenomenon here on AmazingRibs.com, many members are taking to dry aging whole ribeyes, striploins and even brisket. By taking the Umai Dry Bag process to these great pieces of beef, you get wonderful dry aged beef right in your own refrigerator. So, my thought after doing some research was to replicate this process with the same Umai Dry Bag, but do it with a pork belly.

    This process is not mine, I combined a few processes from the Umai Dry website as well as Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn’s book “Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking & Curing.” Between the two, I have had great results with dry aging beef and curing bacon at home.

    Course: Breakfast, lunch, dinner, appetizer
    Cuisine: Itailian
    Preparation time: 30-60 minutes
    Curing time: 4-10 weeks, or longer depending on end weight loss target. Can use 30-35% weight loss if choose.

    Really, you only need a few things to make pancetta at home during the process that help you along the way:
    Scale – to weigh the pork belly during the dry cure
    Zipper top bag for belly to during initial cure
    Butchers Twine – used to keep the belly rolled tightly
    Umai Dry Bag – Sized to fit the rolled pork belly – I used a 10”x20” Roast sized bag for the 5lb belly

    1 5lb pork belly, skin removed

    Dry Cure:
    4 garlic cloves, minced
    2 teaspons/14grams pink salt (Prague Powder #1)
    ¼ 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
    4-5 springs fresh thyme


    I combined the dry cure ingredients then rubbed on the slab of belly so evenly distributed. Belly was then placed in a 2.5 gallon zipper top bag, closed with as much air out as possible. Belly than cured 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.

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

    Next, rinse the cure from the belly thoroughly under cold water, pat it dry and then sprinkle the other 2 tablespoons of pepper on the meat side of the belly.

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    Then start with the long side of the belly and roll tightly as you would a towel. Then tie tightly with butcher's twine in multiple spots, ensuring there are no air pockets inside the roll. You cannot roll the belly too tight. The tighter you roll this, the better it will stay together when you go to slice once finished. I did run out of twine, so had to improvise with food bands.

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    At this point, I altered Ruhlman & Polcyn's process (drying in an open, humid environment for 2 weeks) and used the Umai Dry Bag. Take the 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. Double seal the top of the bag so that the Umai Dry Bag does what is made to do, allow moisture to escape out of the bag and allow the belly to dry.

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    At this point, you want to get your initial weight of the belly to allow you to track the weight loss.

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    Then place the sealed belly into the fridge on a wire rack to allow proper airflow to all sides of the belly. There are great videos on the interwebs demonstrating how to properly seal Umai Dry Bags - the included instructions from Umai are also very detailed in this process.

    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."

    For final dry time, I let this belly dry for 9 weeks. The Umai site mentions 4-8 weeks or a weight loss of 35-40%. In total, the belly dry cured for 9 weeks, coming in at 15% weight loss. I am not sure how long it would take to achieve 35-40% loss, but I wasn't willing to wait that long. I can't imagine what the flavor and texture would be like though, given what you can achieve with 9 weeks. Who knows, perhaps I'll by another belly and replicate this process again with 5lbs and allow the other 5lb belly to go the full 35% reduction.

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    Once you have your finished pancetta, the ways to use this are endless! I have prepared the pancetta three ways:

    Even though Ruhlman & Polcyn state pancetta is not meant to be eaten raw, I did in fact slice it very thin and serve it on a charcuterie board with the dry cured charcuterie I made during the same time. It was amazing – great texture that melted in your mouth and was flavorful from the ingredients used during the initial cure stage.

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    When pancetta is around, who doesn’t love a good Carbonara pasta! Here, I diced up some pancetta into bite-sized bits, slowly cooked it in a stainless pan to allow for a golden brown exterior along with a delicate interior. I finished the pancetta with a splash of dry sherry to amp up the flavor and give it that perfect crunch. Wow! What a dish! The combination was amazing!

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    Last I used the pancetta in an omelet. If bacon is good for breakfast, why wouldn’t pancetta be good in an omelet! Again, dice up into bite-sized pieces and slowly crisp up for that perfect crunchy exterior. Then add your eggs and any other additions you like in your omelet. I always like green chile, red peppers, a little onion along with some cheese and spinach. If you have some avocado, add that right at the end and you have an omelet with so many textural differences to go with a wonderful flavor profile!

    To go along with the above dishes, I plan on making a classic bolognese sauce using the pancetta to add a deeper flavor than what you can achieve with just beef, pork and veal alone. I can't wait to whip this up soon!

    Hopefully this inspires you to give pancetta at home a try so you too can enjoy the wonderful flavor and texture pancetta can bring to your dishes! The process was so easy and so inexpensive to replicate, you'll have your friends thinking you took an Italian cooking class!
  • ComfortablyNumb
    Club Member
    • May 2017
    • 3041
    • Northeast Washington
    • KBQ C-60
      Thermoworks Smoke
      Thermoworks Thermopop
      Thermoworks Dot

    Just added to my 'to do' list.


    • Troutman
      Club Member
      • Aug 2017
      • 6906
      • Republic of Texallence

        22" Weber Kettle - Red Premium Limited Edition
        6 Burner Weber Summit Gasser
        22" and 18" Weber WSM Smoker
        18” Jumbo Joe
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        Pitts & Spitts Pellet Pro 2436
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        Grill Grates
        SNS for the 22" Weber kettle
        A-MAZE-N Smoker 12" Tube & Tray
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        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
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        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

      This is simply well done my friend, the method, the write up, the results. Now gotta find the time to do it


      • pjlstrat
        Club Member
        • May 2019
        • 258
        • Massachusetts
        • Grills
          Primo XL
          Weber Genesis w/ rotisserie

          ThermaQ 2 Channel
          Party Q

        Thank you for this......I will definitely be trying....


        • barelfly
          Club Member
          • Dec 2017
          • 824
          • New Mexico

          Thanks for the comments everyone. It was a fun process. Have Really enjoyed the pancetta, I know you all will too.


          • Meathead
            BBQ Whisperer, Mythbuster
            • May 2014
            • 1266
            • Chicago area
            • Remember, no rules in the bedroom or kitchen

            Looks fantastic!


            • rickgregory
              Founding Member
              • Aug 2014
              • 432
              • Seattle, WA

              Very nice. A thought on the weight loss - your pork belly is mostly fat and you just aren't going to get 30% weight loss out of that I think. A more bacon-ready belly with more meat would likely let you get down to 20-25% but even that will have a hard time getting to 35+%


              • barelfly
                barelfly commented
                Editing a comment
                I never thought of that, but yes, now that you say that makes perfect sense. The other charcuterie I made during the same time had no issues getting to the 35% mark in 4-5 weeks, but was mostly lean pork or beef.

                Next time, I’ll see if I can find a belly on the meatier side, or as much meat as possible.




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