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Many people consider pepperoni to be their favorite pizza topping since it is crunchy and tasty. This may lead one to believe that pepperoni alone can be delicious. In fact, you might be surprised to know that pepperoni does not necessarily need to be cooked for it to taste good. You can eat it raw and it is actually safe to consume it like that.
The reason why you can eat raw pepperoni is because of the way pepperoni is made. It goes through a fermentation process and curing which kills off all the bacteria inside the meat.
It is widely known that eating raw meat is quite harmful. So, in order to address your question on how and why you can eat pepperoni uncooked, I’m going to include all kinds of essential information in this article. So, stick around till the end!
What Makes Raw Pepperoni Safe?
Pepperoni is a type of raw sausage that does not undergo any heating processes, hence it cannot be described as cooked. So, yes, pepperoni is raw and despite being eaw it is safe to eat it as I have already mentioned because of the way pepperoni is made. To give you an idea about the general process, I have defined what fermentation and curing mean below.
Fermentation is a metabolic procedure. With the help of proteins acting as biological catalysts and enzymes, chemical changes take place within the substance. This fermentation process is essential so that the carbs inside the meat change into alcohol and acid, thereby eliminating the growth of bacteria.
You can also say that through fermentation, energy is extracted from carbohydrates due to no oxygen being present. As a result, through the breakdown of sugar, savory molecules are created which lead to the delicious taste and smell of pepperoni.
Curing refers to the preservation of color, flavor, and aroma. This is done by adding meat to a combination of nitrite, nitrate, and salt. The ingredients needed for curing can be dissolved in brine or water. They can also be mixed into dry foods or rubbed with the meat. This part is known as “dry curing.”
How Is Pepperoni Made?
Now you have a clear idea about the significant processes of making pepperoni, that is, fermentation and curing. So, it’s time you learned in a bit more detail how the whole pepperoni-making procedure works. This should give you a decent idea of why it’s okay to eat pepperoni right from the package. Here are the steps involving pepperoni production.
Combining The Ingredients
Preparation of pepperoni starts with combining thoroughly ground beef and pork with 30% of fat and 70% of low-fat meat. After that, the necessary spices and herbs are added to the mix. Examples can be paprika, salt, pepper, anise, etc. These two must be finely ground.
You can also add sugar to the mixture to add more flavor. This will also act as a fermentation agent. As the meat itself has low acid consistency, the sugar provides further acidity which is needed for the fermentation process to take place.
Fermentation Of The Contents
For the fermentation process, lactic acid must also be added to the meat. This will reduce the pH level of the meat, enabling it to be preserved to a greater degree. This lactic acid is produced from the general fermentation process up till the curing process. Here, the meat is dried and cured. As a result, the remaining bacteria are killed.
Curing The Mix
When it comes to curing, as you know, this kills off any remaining bacteria and removes additional water. For pepperoni, different agents are applicable such as salt or sodium nitrate. Unless you want your pepperoni to look bland and gray, it is crucial you include nitrate so that it takes on a red or pink color.
Refrigeration And Encasing
The meat is then to be left in the refrigerator for approximately three days. The temperature within must not be too low, otherwise, the fermentation will be slower. Afterward, the meat is positioned into castings. The castings can be from the intestines of pigs or cows. This is necessary for the formation of the sausage’s shape.
After this is done, the meat is again transferred to the fridge for one more day. In a room with low temperatures, the pepperoni is then left to hang and dry. This is to be continued for many weeks.
Smoking The Pepperoni
For the pepperoni to have a smoky flavor, after the fermentation is complete, it is smoked within a smoke chamber. The general time for this is from 10 hours to even 3 weeks. This depends on the preferred smoky flavor and the meat’s amount.
Things To Consider Before Eating Raw Pepperoni
Even though it is safe to eat raw pepperoni, it never hurts to be sure. After all, not everyone is used to eating raw meat. So, to ensure that the pepperoni is safe to consume, there are some factors below that can ease your worries.
Check The packaging
On the packaging, you will see an Eat-by or a Best-by date. This is included by the manufacturers to help you eat. This date implies how long the meat will stay free of bacteria or grow bad. When you see that the date has passed, do not consume the pepperoni as it will make you sick. Even cooking it and then eating it is not a safe bet.
Check If Its Fresh
The freshness of the meat depends on how it has been stored. After opening the packaging, wrapping it with aluminum foil or keeping it sealed within an air-tight bag will keep the pepperoni fresh.
As for unopened pepperoni, the fridge is the easy option. So, if you realize that your pepperoni has not been stored in these conditions, you should not eat it.
Check The Dryness
The dryness of meat also depends on how it has been stored. Ideal conditions include the same ones that I mentioned for the freshness of the meat. Yet, dry pepperoni is still salvageable. You can simply cut off the parts that have gone dry and consume the remaining parts. If the whole meat has taken on a dry texture that is when you throw it out.
To further help you out, let me mention that unopened pepperoni lasts almost 10 months in the fridge and up to one month at room temperature. Opened pepperoni lasts approximately 3 weeks at room temperature and 3 months in the fridge.
When Can Raw Pepperoni Make You Sick?
Raw pepperoni can only make you sick when it has gone bad. To help you understand when your pepperoni has expired, below I have mentioned the most common signs.
Bad smell: One of the main signs of your pepperoni going bad is the smell of it. You can easily distinguish through this as the smell will be unlike that of fresh meat and will be extremely horrid. So, when the pepperoni starts smelling bad, throw it away.
Sticky texture: Another indication of pepperoni going bad is the texture itself. If the meat is sticky or slimy in any way, the pepperoni is no longer safe to consume.
Spotty or ashy: Normally, pepperoni is red or pink with white dots. If you see that your pepperoni is gray, brownish, or a darker color in general, this implies that your pepperoni is expired.
Consequences Of Eating Bad Pepperoni
To make you more alert about not consuming bad pepperoni, I have mentioned below some common symptoms that one can exhibit after having spoiled pepperoni. They are:
- Stomach pain