Why Pepperoni Thickness Matters For Perfect Pizza Slices

Pepperoni is the perfect pizza topping. Amid the gooey cheese and mildly sweet, acidic tomato sauce, the spice and salt of pepperoni stands out as the ideal complement. Despite tough competition and the endless desire to innovate in food, the spicy sausage still consistently ranks as the number one pizza topping in America. But as pepperoni lovers know, not every slice of the salami is created equal. Get the wrong style and it can be limp and flavorless or it can go too far in overpowering the rest of the pizza. That's why you need to pay attention to the thickness of pepperoni when you make pizza. A medium cut of pepperoni gives the perfect ratio of flavor and texture.

The ideal pizza is always up for debate, but with pepperoni what most people want is the cup. At the best pizza spots, slices of pepperoni will cup up around the edges as they cook, creating a bowl-like shape with pools of delicious fat rendered from the meat. Those cups have a chewier, more toothsome bite that offers a better contrast to the rest of the pizza compared to a thinner, flat slice. The edges of those cups also crisp up more as they are exposed to the hot air of the oven, which adds a slight crunch and extra flavor from the browning. To get that effect you need pepperoni that's not so thin it melts into the cheese, but not so thick that it's too heavy to curl.

A medium-thick pepperoni slice gives the best texture

So is there an ideal thickness for pepperoni on pizza? The answer is kind of. According to J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, who tested various thicknesses of pepperoni on pizza for Serious Eats, between 2.5 to 6 millimeters (a little over an eighth of an inch) resulted in the best cupping. That's actually a pretty big range when viewed in pepperoni terms, but a good comparison is two stacked quarters. This medium — not too thick and not too thin — range avoided staying flat and formed that crucial cup shape.

A medium-thick pepperoni slice also benefits from another factor in the curling process: the heat. Part of the reason pepperoni curls is because the top cooks and contracts faster than the bottom. With too thin a slice the meat will cook more evenly, resulting in no cup and a limper bite.

The best way to get pepperoni of the ideal thickness for your pizza is buy whole pepperoni sticks, which you can find in most grocery store deli sections. These sticks allow you to cut the pepperoni to a perfect thickness, and they are small enough around to be bite-sized, unlike most sliced pepperoni from the deli. Choose one in natural or collagen casing, as this also helps its cupping ability. Pre-sliced containers of pepperoni are also usually too thin. So dedicate yourself to the best pepperoni, cut it yourself, and be rewarded with the perfect slice.