Pepperoni is one of the most popular American-style pizza topping. It is actually a spicy Italian dry sausage in solid sticks. It is usually made from cured meat of beef and pork. Sometimes, poultry can be added for less expensive versions. Pepperoni meant for pizza topping can be one inch in diameter while those typically used in Italian submarine sandwiches is usually twice the size. There re some pizza shops the use pepperoni in larger size to reduce chances of burning when in extremely hot pizza oven.
There are three steps involved in making pepperoni including mixing and grinding, casing and cooking and aging.
In the first process, the chunks of beef and pork and mixed with seasoning and a curing agent based on sodium nitrate. A little amount of sugar is mixed to add flavor and color into the mixture while it also acts as fermentation agent as well as equalizer into the rising levels of acid. The meat selected for the mixture is low in acid, the acidity will rise while the pepperoni cures. The ingredients are compounded in the mixture, starting with the beef and then ending with sodium nitrate base.
When the mixing is done, the mixture will next be stuffed into casings made typically with the intestinal tract from a cow or pig. The casings will form the mixture of the pepperoni into links and keep the mixture together in the phase of cooking. Since pepperoni is considered dry sausage it is recommended to use more fibrous casing in making the pepperoni. Mechanical stuffer is usually used to stuff the pepperoni mix to the casings. Once the stuffing is done, the link of the casing filled with pepperoni is sectioned of with a piece of rope or string.
Prepared pepperoni is usually cooked in ovens at low temperatures to dry slowly and age the links of pepperoni. The process of heating and then drying the pepperoni could take several days. The cooking phase is slow so it won’t get over-dried. The casing of pepperoni is often porous allowing it to absorb heat and smoke so it can be cooked thoroughly.