For pizza lovers, pepperoni is a common choice of topping. Most pizzerias feature a glistening pepperoni pie studded with bright red slices of spicy meat. But what kinds of meat get used to make pepperoni?
Are the whispers true about secret ingredients and new additions to pepperoni, like goat meat?
Read on to find out more about this and other pepperoni myths and facts, including where it comes from, how it’s made, and what it typically contains.
Is Pepperoni Made From Goat?
Pepperoni is not made from goat in almost all cases. Pepperoni is a spicy, cured meat sausage cut into slices. Technically, that meat could be of any type, as the name pepperoni refers to the category or process, rather than the content of the sausage. However, the traditional and most commonly used meats are pork and beef. While turkey is also common, it requires a special poultry label. Goat meat is not a typical ingredient in pepperoni.
Pepperoni: An Italian American Creation
America’s favorite pizza topping famously first appeared in 1919. This Italian American dried meat sausage had no old world counterpart, though it resembles the spicy salamis of Southern Italy.
However, those salsiccia and soppressata are spicier. In taste, pepperoni is more like the mild sausage of Milan.
Like those Italian salamis, pepperoni is a soft, meat sausage pressed into casings. The sausage dries and cures thanks to nitrates and nitrites added to preserve the meat and prevent botulism.
These curing agents contribute to pepperoni’s redness by reacting with the heme in fatty proteins. The vivid scarlet also comes from the addition of traditional sausage spices like wine, cayenne, and paprika.
The name is a misnomer. Pepperoni is neither a bell pepper (peperone) nor a hot and spicy little pepper (peperoncino). In fact, it’s not a vegetable at all. The name probably arose from a desire to signal that the sausage contained hot spices like dried chile peppers.
Any confusion or warning implied by the name pepperoni hasn’t deterred its audience. Today, Americans consume about 250 million pounds of pepperoni annually. That’s about 46 slices per person each year, or enough to fill 100 acres a day. But pepperoni doesn’t grow in fields. In fact, it’s a long process.
How the Sausage Gets Made
Like the spicy salamis it was based on, pepperoni is traditionally made from inexpensive cuts of pork and beef. The meat is ground, mixed with spicy seasonings, and stuffed into casings.
As it is mixed and stuffed with traditional sausage spices, especially paprika, pepperoni takes on its characteristically deep red color. Then the sausage is hung up to dry for six weeks, with the help of added curing agents.
Among those additions are potassium nitrate, or saltpeter, a natural curing agent commonly used in foods that will be cooked before eating. Like other curing salts, saltpeter draws out the moisture in the meat cells, making it harder for harmful bacteria to form.
Ascorbic acid is also added to speed up the curing process. These curing agents, also sometimes called “pink salts,” react with the heme in the hemoglobin of meat proteins to create an additional reddish hue.
The Meat of the Matter
Traditional pepperoni is made from pork and beef, as these meats provided Italian American butchers with a use for inexpensive cuts that could easily be cured and dried.
As Americans have moved away from red meat, an alternative that has arisen is poultry–especially turkey–as a common substitute for the traditional meats in pepperoni.
However, turkey and other poultry meat do not dry and cure as easily as pork and beef. In addition, poultry carries different bacterial diseases.
Because of this, a special label must be added to products that contain poultry meat, like turkey. Pepperoni that is made from turkey meat will carry this label.
Like all sausage, pepperoni can include a combination of meats in different proportions depending on the manufacturer. Most reputable pizza companies post their ingredients on their websites. For example, the popular pizza restaurant and delivery service, Papa John’s, lists the ingredients in their pepperoni online.
Conclusion On Is Pepperoni Made From Goat
While traditional pepperoni is not made from goat, and none of the popular pizzerias list it as an ingredient on their websites, goat meat is not an uncommon ingredient in the US.
Though typically more expensive than pork, beef, and chicken in the US, goat meat is a healthy meat that is widely available in other parts of the world.
Goat meat is officially labeled “chevon” by the US Department of Agriculture (a combination of the French “chevre” and English “mutton.” Commonly called “cabrito” in Spanish and Portugese communities, goat meat consumption is on the rise in the US.
Although it is a red meat, goat is leaner and contains less cholesterol and fat than beef. However, while some American consumers enjoy goat’s gamey flavor, others find it noticeable and off-putting.
Could goat be the secret ingredient in the pepperoni of a prominent American pizza chain? It’s unlikely given the cost and the flavor.
But perhaps chevon and cabrito will become part of the mix that began with Italian American butchers and continues to blend cultures in a way that makes our country great.
Frequently Asked Questions About Is Pepperoni Made from Goat?
What is Pepperoni Casing Made Of?
According to the US Department of Agriculture, the traditional, natural casing for sausage is animal intestine. Some thicker, human-made, edible casings are also fashioned from animal collagen. Artificial casings are made from cellulose, and typically accompanied by a label that says, “remove casing before eating.”
Can I Make Pepperoni At Home?
You can easily make your own pepperoni with a mixture of pork butt and beef chuck (or goat, if you prefer). Be sure to select the right pink salt curing agent and to cook thoroughly before eating, as nitrates and nitrites can be toxic if used improperly.
Why Does Pepperoni Curl Up When It’s Cooked?
The heat from the oven causes the casing to contract and curl up at the edge of pepperoni slices. Some manufacturers make pepperoni thicker in order to intentionally achieve this effect.