Difference between Pancetta and Bacon

Updated on June 15, 2017

The rise of the foodies and the expansion of the food culture has brought on discussions about how one ingredient can change a dish completely. You might not expect grown men and women to talk passionately about whether pancetta can replace bacon in a recipe, but this is a real concern for many. And we can only assume that it is for you too since you are reading this article. Let’s proceed with defining and separating the two.

Definitions

Pancetta
Sliced pancetta

Pancetta is an Italian meat, salt cured and spiced. The meat used to make pancetta is from the side of a pig’s belly. It is supposed to be very flavorful. The traditional shape of pancetta is that of a log since the meat, once prepared, is rolled and packed tight. You can find it in special stores sold whole, packed in cubes, or in thin slices.

Although cured, this meat is still raw, therefore you should cook it. The handiest solution is to wrap thin slices of pancetta around vegetables and cook them in the oven.

Bacon
A fried bacon strip

Bacon is cured and smoked pork belly. Either salt or brine can be used for curing. The meat can be left to dry anywhere between a few weeks and a few months, and it can be smoked or boiled. You find it in stores either in the shape of a slab or already sliced.

Although it is smoked, the process used for preparing bacon is called cold-smoking. This means that the final product is still raw. Therefore, cooking is necessary before consumption.

Fried bacon is a regular in American breakfasts, but you can easily find it all over the world. Its origins are not known, although we find it mentioned in old English, French, and German recipes.

Pancetta vs Bacon

So what is the difference between pancetta and bacon?

Pancetta is an Italian meat, whereas bacon is a meat predominantly eaten in English-speaking countries and in countries where several gastronomic traditions have been imported. Therefore, being a product with a wide international appeal, bacon can be easily found in stores all over the world. Pancetta, on the other hand, can be a bit trickier to find if you are looking for the real deal. Also, bacon is sold in whole slabs of meat or in thin slices. You can find Pancetta in the form of a log-like roll, sliced thin, or in cubes.

Pancetta is cured pork belly. Bacon is cured and cold-smoked pork belly. They are both raw and need to be cooked before eating. In terms of flavor, bacon is smoked and a bit saltier due to this process, whereas pancetta retains more of that pork flavor.

Comparison Chart

PancettaBacon
Is an Italian meatIs a West European type of meat
Can sometimes be difficult to find outside Italy or specialty storesHas an international distribution
Comes in rolls, thin sliced, or in cubesComes in a slab or in thin slices
Is only curedIs cured and smoked
Has more flavorIs saltier and more influenced by the smoking process