What's the difference between these two pork products? And are they interchangeable in recipes?
You’re sure to find bacon in the supermarket but not always pancetta. Since they’re both cured pork products, can you just substitute bacon when a recipe calls for pancetta?
Bacon and pancetta are both cut from the belly of the pig, but the products are not identical.
Bacon is cured with salt and then smoked and sliced. It needs to be cooked before you eat it.
Pancetta (sometimes called Italian bacon) is cured with salt, black pepper, and spices and rolled into a cylinder. It is never smoked. Because pancetta is fully aged, you can enjoy it raw, although it is most often cooked.
Replacing pancetta with bacon won’t ruin a dish, but because bacon is overtly smoky, many recipes recommend blanching it before swapping it for pancetta.
TESTING THE SUBSTITUTION
To test this method, we made our recipes for Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew and Pasta with Beans, Chard, and Rosemary, first blanching bacon in boiling water and then proceeding with the recipe, subbing the blanched bacon for pancetta.
As we prepared the recipes, we noticed that blanching had removed a considerable amount of the fat from the bacon. In fact, for the stew recipe, we had to supplement the bacon with a small amount of oil to properly sauté the aromatics.
And when we tasted the finished dishes, we noticed that despite the blanching, subtle hints of smokiness remained. Even so, tasters deemed the substitution perfectly acceptable.
HOW TO SWAP BACON FOR PANCETTA
If you want to eliminate most of its smoky flavor, blanch bacon in boiling water for 2 minutes before swapping it into the recipe. Because blanched bacon is not as fatty as pancetta, you may need to add extra oil to the recipe.