The Key To Buying Pancetta, According To Ina Garten

Pancetta is a salt-cured pork belly that has a delicious smoky flavor. The cured meat originated in Italy and is served on charcuterie boards, in pasta, atop salads, and rendered over other meats such as chicken (via Volpi Foods). Pancetta is cured pork that tastes similar to bacon and prosciutto. However, each type of pork is cured differently. According to Master Class, pancetta takes three weeks to cure, bacon takes about 10 days, and prosciutto requires a year or more.

Nutrition Advance says pancetta is rich in protein, B vitamins, phosphorus, and selenium. Despite these nutritional benefits, pancetta also has its downfall as being high in fat, sodium, and nitrates, all of which can raise blood pressure and increase cancer risk. Men's Health recommends limiting your risk by opting for fresh meats or those without preservatives.

Pancetta is used to add depth to many foods, but slicing and dicing the Italian bacon to your desired thickness can be tricky. Here, we share Ina Garten's key to buying pancetta that makes slicing easier.

Skip the butcher

Garten doesn't compromise on quality when it comes to pancetta. In a Food Network YouTube video, she explains that she doesn't ask the butcher to slice pancetta because they slice it too thin. To ensure she controls the thickness, the "Barefoot Contessa" slices and dices her own block of pancetta. Then, she cooks half a pound of the Italian bacon in a sauté pan for about eight minutes until it is crispy and brown.

The Food Network says that pancetta can be sliced and eaten raw or cooked. It can also be diced, and the fat rendered for recipes. Merchant Circle says it is easy to learn to slice pancetta. The site recommends using a sharp knife to cut the Italian bacon. Remove the skin first, then slice it as thick or thin as you desire. Stack the slices on top of each other and cut them into strips, or roll three stacked pieces up and slice the roll into pieces. Separate the strips and dice the shredded pancetta to the size of your liking — heat in a skillet and cook until brown.

Slicing and dicing pancetta is easy, so follow Garten's advice and skip the butcher shop on your next grocery store visit.