Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Feb 13, 2009 05:49 AM

Ever make your own pancetta or guanciale? It's so easy.

A few months ago after buying the book Charcuterie, we started making our own pancetta and guanciale. If you use these wonderful cured meats in your cooking (and you should), it's so darn easy to make, generally better than you can buy and less than half the cost to make. The pancetta is cured with salt and herbs for about a week then dried for 2 weeks and the guanciale is cured for a week in salt and herbs and dried for about 3 weeks. The stuff is really coming out awesome. You should give it try.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Is that the book by Ruhlman?

    1 Reply
    1. I just made my first attempt at pancetta. Turned out awesome, the best I've ever had. I was worried about a few things. Notably the curing conditions. The books and online sources say 50-60 degrees curing temp, 60% humidity. I was probably at 70 degrees, no idea what the humidity was, but it all worked great. Mind you, if I was curing salami or something that is eaten in its 'raw' state, I'd be a bit less bold.

      Really am looking forward to trying guanciale, too. But pig cheeks are tough to source.

      10 Replies
      1. re: grandgourmand

        Where do you live? Any good butcher that handles pork products s/b able to get you the jowls. Just talk to them.

        1. re: Den

          Toronto. Big city, suprisingly few butchers carry the stuff. And the ones that do, you have to order ahead. Anyhow, at least I know I can get it.

          1. re: grandgourmand

            Have you tried the Healthy Butcher GG? They love pig product there and I've bought proper lard there too. Also Cumbrae's has always got stuff for me if they don't have it on hand. What about Witeeven's [sp?] in the St Lawrence market?

            I too have toyed w getting a pig's jowl to make guanciale. (M Batali has a recipe in one of his books.) The thing that stopped me is that it had to hang a long time in the fridge. Anyway, you've emboldened me to try pancetta at least!

            Edit: oops - apologies to Gio for repeating what you've posted.

            1. re: cinnamon girl

              Haven't tried Healthy butcher. You're right on Cumbrae's, you can get it by ordering it advance. I just wish some places could go out back and carve it off a pig head. No biggie, though. the process takes several weeks, so a few extra days doesn't matter much.

              By the way, there's a thread on the Toronto board by someone asking about where to find pork belly. A few locations are named, most of which can obtain jowl, I imagine, with several days notice. One poster, Lyndak, mentioned Medium Rara in Etobicoke. As it turns out, they can sell you Berkshire pork bellies for $4 a lb. That's an absolute steal.

              1. re: grandgourmand

                $4 a lb for Berkshire belly?!!!! Wow - that is a steal. Thanks - I'll go that thread.

                I know what you mean about going out back and getting what you want. I've been complaining a lot lately abt many of these places seeming more like meat boutiques than real butchers. Cumbrae's in particular seems to cater to yuppie tastes and if you want anything that's not on their food fashion radar yet, you have to order. (But wait 5-10 yrs and it will be!) Last winter I wanted a couple of duck legs. They had confit and smoked legs but . . . cutting me off a couple of duck legs in the back was referred to as "doing it special for you" . . . groan . . . it's a butcher for crying out loud. But the people there are so nice I can only smile at them.

                1. re: cinnamon girl

                  YOu might want to give them a call to make sure. I did and that's what they said. I just find it hard to believe that you can get Berkshire belly at that price. I'm skeptical by nature.

                  You and I are on the exact same page when it comes to butcher shops. It's a major pet peeve of mine. One on the Danforth just close, Blackstone. I'm actually glad, because it was one of these "we've got 10 kinds of pre-marinated chicken breast, why do you need pork shoulder?" places.

                  1. re: grandgourmand

                    LOL . . . but wait - did you mean to type 10 kinds of "skinless" pre-marinated chicken breast . . . " ??

                    Best we enjoy our pork shoulder before the yuppies decide they do too! They've now driven up the price of pork belly. I meant to mention earlier that I actually saw a chunk for sale in Metro on Front St this winter. Haven't seen it since tho' . . . and it would hardly be Berkshire

            2. re: grandgourmand

              If you are in TO - Hamilton is not far - Jowls seem to be always available at Highland Country Market.- awsome place - worth the drive

              1. re: nufnuf

                Thanks...they're associated with Highland Packers, so I guess they supply their own meats. Looks very interesting. I'll check it out. We pass through Hamilton pretty frequently on our way to and from Simcoe.

                I've got a jowl hanging right now and a few bellies ready for processing. I'd make bacon, but they're on the fatty side, so seem better for pancetta.

          2. re: grandgourmand

            Try the larger asian markets if there are any where you live. There's a chain of 5 or 6 stores here in San Francisco called Manilla Mart, and they pretty much always have jowls at $1 a pound.

          3. Mario Batali has a really simple recipefor guanciale here:

            I would dearly love to try making it myself, but I have no idea where I would/could hang it for the required 3 weeks.

            28 Replies
            1. re: Gio

              Know anyone with a basement?

              1. re: Den

                Yup. Me. But the basement? eeeeuuuuu.....My house is 110 years old. The wrath of God lives down there....'Course I do have a pantry room but I doubt the temp in there is 50-60 degrees. I'll have to test that. .

                1. re: Gio

                  Just thought of a question:
                  When the meat hangs for those 3 weeks does it drip?

                  1. re: Gio

                    We hang pancetta in our eeeeeuuuuuuu old garage (loosely tented with cheesecloth to keep off gunk that falls from the ceiling - it's pretty bad. I wouldn't worry about your basement). Very minimal drippage. Maybe needs a few sheets of newspaper on the floor.

                    1. re: Junie D

                      Oh many thanks for that!! I now feel encouraged more than ever to try making my own. Thanx!

                      1. re: Gio

                        The Mario guanciale recipe I have talks abt hanging it in the fridge for 3 weeks. No basement or pantry so the fridge part of it attracted me - the 3 weeks, not so much!

              2. re: Gio

                do you think batali in his restaurant actually use salt peter in his guanciale?
                and is it possible if i hang the cured guanciale in my normal samsung refrigerator in home?

                1. re: hae young

                  I hung, (hanged), 2 jowls in my fridge a little longer, (3-4 weeks), and it came out wonderful

                  1. re: csweeny

                    hey and then did you use some salt peter? it seems mario batali do not use salt peter in his guanciale according to hs recipe but i am not sure whether he really did without it.

                    1. re: hae young

                      You can make bacon or guanciale either way and if Batali says he uses only plain salt, I see no reason to doubt him. The hanging time for bacon or guanciale is so short, the risk of food poisoning is minimal. The only reason I use a little nitrite is I like the subtle taste it adds.

                      Almost nobody uses saltpeter (potassium nitrate) these days. Sodium nitrite is preferred.

                      Here is Batali's recipe for guanciale. Use skinless pork belly and you have pancetta. I like to add a few crushed juniper berries.


                      And here is one using sodium nitrite (aka Cure #2):


                      1. re: Zeldog

                        thaks for info!
                        i ll try making guanciale in my home. in my region, i cannot find any importer who sell this at both oline and offline. maybe due to some national restriction policy about products especially foreign meats.


                        1. re: Zeldog

                          and how do you know whether the guanciale you hanged on in fridge for certain amount of time is either paritially or fully poisoned or not? are there your own methods to distinguish one from the other such as using the the sense of sight or of smell or both?

                          1. re: hae young

                            You will get an "off" smell and most likely you will see mold growing on the meat if it has gone bad. I have had pieces go bad and it's obvious. It generally happens if the temperature is too high.

                            1. re: Den

                              do you think it is bad idea in home kitchen refrigerater to hang? mario says in his cook book to hang the jowls at least 3 weeks in fridge. if i do in winter season do you think could it be a lttle easier in controlling unexpected temps?

                              1. re: hae young

                                No, not at all. Once cured, you really shouldn't have any spoiling problems with the jowls in a kitchen refrigerator. However, the temperature and humidity are likely to retard the drying process. I use the formulas and advice in the book Charcuterie and basically follow the guanciale curing recipe with less sugar (I think the meat is sweet as it is) and do the cure for about 5-7 days in the fridge. I then wash the jowls off and follow the drying instructions for pancetta which is to hang it in my basement at around 55 degrees and about 60 percent humidity and dry it for about 1-2 weeks. You want it firm but not hard. If you hang it in a fridge at a lower temperature the likely outcome will be that it will take longer to dry as opposed to going bad. In my curing escapades fluctuation in temperature as long as it's below 60 degrees results in no problems. When you have spikes above 60 is when you have problems. By my original post in February and looking back at my notes, I've done virtually all my curing from late fall to early spring and I should have stuck to that as I had a recent disaster. I cured a full belly in September and hung it in the basement and the temp was 63 or 64 degrees and the darn thing turned on me in about 4 days, all was lost.

                                By the way, if you're ever in NYC you should stop by Italian Wine Merchants on 16th in Union Square where Batali has a curing operation going on.


                                1. re: Den

                                  hey! mario recommend at first storing pig's jowls 5 or 7days with each of 1/2 of sugar and salt in non-reactive casserole. what is the non-reactive casserole? i have good stainless still pot which can fill little bit more than 5 quarts of amount of liquid. is the stainless-still pot ok?
                                  and before storing the jowls inside the pot which will be in refrigerater soon, how should i coat the salt and surgar and herb around it? i think those brining ingredients probably and eventually will come off as soon as i leave them alone in refrigerater for 5 or 7 days.
                                  but my much bigger concern is that after 5 or 7 days of storing in the pot in the refrigerater, there probably will be very excess moisture or liquid comes out of the jowls. doesnt that liquid that comes out of the meat or jowls, contaminate this process of salt and sugar curing?
                                  and in my region, i cannot find any online and off line seller who sells kosher salt. so if i substitute regular sea salt instead of that kosher salt, how much more or less salt should i use in this curing?
                                  please people let me know. i will swear to make guanciale in this fall and winter season.

                                  1. re: hae young

                                    don't use the stainless. don't use anything metal. use glass or plastic. wood boxes/barrels with no metal nails/hardware are also traditional curing containers.

                                    the sugar and salt cure is sterile and it will be discarded, so you don't have to worry about any moisture leaching into it. you want the meat to dehydrate a little, that's what the cure is for.

                                    if you use sea salt use the same amount by weight, if possible, or 1/2-3/4 by volume.

                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                      when coating the salt and sugar, how can i prevent those ingredient form sliding off from the jowls? and especially after coating and while storing the jowls in a container fro 5 or 7days?
                                      and sth make me more perplexing is that should i rub those salt and sugar by my bare hand to coat?

                                      1. re: hae young

                                        i don't have batali's recipe in front of me, so forgive me if i deviate from that specific recipe. you make the sugar and salt mixture (called the cure), then you rub and pat this mixture all over the meat (yes with your bare hands). the salt and sugar will stick to the meat. put a little layer of the cure down in the bottom of your container, then place the meat on top of that, and refrigerate. each day drain off any liquid that's accumulated in the container, rub the meat with fresh cure, flip it over and return it to the fridge. or, leave the liquid in the container-- whatever your recipe calls for. after a week or so of this (depending on the weight of the meat), the texture of the meat will have changed so that it feels stiff like bacon, not squishy like raw meat. at this point you can hang it in a cool dry place, 50-60 degrees F according to your recipe. usually you will rinse and pat dry the meat before hanging it. does this sound similar to the batali recipe?

                                        1. re: soupkitten

                                          thanks for good infos. batali's recipe of guanciale seems a little too simple.
                                          your detail info is really big help.

                                2. re: hae young

                                  It depends on the local weather, but it might be better to hang it in your kitchen or another room, away from direct sunlight or heat from the oven. The best conditions are cool temperature and moderate humidity (60 to 70 percent, which is lower than most refrigerators). In most places Fall and Winter are the best times to cure meats. The guanciale will cure faster in a room or cellar compared with in the refrigerator.

                                  White molds that look like a thin layer of dust or ash are not bad. In my experience they almost always appear after a week or two. If you don't like them, wash the meat with some white vinegar. Black or green molds that grow in circles are more likely to be toxic or bad tasting. They can be cut away if they are few and small, but if they spread you should throw away the meat.

                            2. re: Zeldog

                              Doesn't the saltpeter improve the colour also? Or is this more a case of salami?

                              You've so inspired me . . . after 6 or 7 years of waffling on it!

                              1. re: cinnamon girl

                                Saltpeter improves the colour.

                                If you've got a spare bathroom, you can hang your pancetta or guanciale there. It's a pretty forgiving meat to cure, compared to other stuff. Plus, if you're worried about's a product that gets cooked through, so less of a concern there. Obviously, I wouldn't go gung ho with stuff that has the black or green molds Zeldog is talking about.

                                The stuff you make at home is miles better than anythign you find at the store in those little sealed packages. You'll make some of the best pasta carbonara ever.

                                1. re: grandgourmand

                                  Thank you. I'm actually not so concerned that meat I'm going to cook anyway is going to poison anyone. I was just thinking of the time needed to develop the flavour. Thanks for all your good suggestions. Carbonara is EXACTLY what I've fantasized making w my guanciale!

                                2. re: cinnamon girl

                                  Saltpeter is a nitrAte, and Cure #2 is a nitrite. You can research the chemistry if you like, but in general, nitrites are used in cured cuts of meat, while nitrates are used in aged sausages. For aged sausages I use Cure #1 which is sodium nitrate plus a smaller amount of sodium nitrite.

                                  Somebody correct me if I screw this up, but:

                                  Nitrites are the active ingredient you want for color and antibacterial properties.

                                  Nitrates degrade to nitrites over time, but nitrites degrade to inactive compounds, so

                                  For quick cures (guanciale) you don't need nitrates, so you use nitrite only (Cure #2), but

                                  For long cures (salami) you want a time-release of nitrites, so you use a cure that has nitrate to get the time-release plus a bit of nitrite for a jump start (that's Cure #1)

                                  Saltpeter is pure nitrate, so it doesn't fit either of these bills very well.

                              2. re: hae young

                                No saltpeter, pink salt or any type nitrate/nitrite used. I do use it when making bacon but not with the cured jowl.
                                Interesting side note, my wife called from a Salumeria (sp), and asked if I wanted some from there, to which I replied why not..They must have used Batali's recipe just like I had, couldn't tell them apart, taste, texture & color.

                                1. re: csweeny

                                  I've got a guanciale hanging. One more week to go before slicing in. I can't wait. I've got an order of pork bellies coming in ten days from a local farmer. Need to get going on pancetta. I foolishly let me reserves run empty. You don't realize what you're missing until it's gone. Applies to pancetta as much as relationships. Who knew?

                                  1. re: grandgourmand

                                    Very funny Grandgourmand. Did you get the Berkshire bellies from the Etobicoke source? Will you be freezing your pancetta? And if so do you slice it first? Did you already mention where you ended up getting the pork jowl for the guanciale? I've made a cursory glance but don't see it . . . just curious since we have similar "issues" - ha ha, with butchers and meat boutiques. So many questions . . .

                        2. That's one of the few welcome things of a coming winter: colder temps to dry meat in the basement!
                          I cure corned beef, lonza, bacon, ham, ocassional Montreal style smoked meat, and lotsa sausage.
                          My basement is where I dry the lonza and about 50% of all suasage I make (freeze the rest). After about 12 days, the sausages take on a shrunken look, are semi-dry, and fantastic!

                          Den, we just got back from NYC a few weeks ago - didn't know about Batali's curing at IWM, I'll have to check it out next time. The web site doesn't seem to highlight this aspect, is it more prominent when visiting?
                          We had a very memorable dinner at Salumeria Rosi
                          tasting lardo, pancetta, prosciutto, guanciale, and more.

                          Plan on visiting Salumeria Biellese nxt time around as well.

                          1. I am just getting started with Charcuterie as well. The book has given some really good results. My first attempt was a cured salmon and it turned out better than I imagined for my first attempt. It is an easy one and gives results in 3 days. I have 2 duck breasts curing now that should be ready tomorrow.

                            12 Replies
                            1. re: Kooper

                              Report on that please. I did some duck breasts and they came out pretty inedible. I've since focused on making cured and smoked duck breasts, also in the book I believe. Great stuff for parties.

                              1. re: grandgourmand

                                It should be ready tonight. I will post tomorrow. The main reason why I started with the duck is that it is small and will cure quickly. My wife is not totally convinced of the merits and doesn't want what she calls "A smelly Silence of the Lambs basement". So far it was has not produced any smell so I hope it means that we can do more.

                                1. re: Kooper

                                  is this from the Michael Ruhlman book Kooper? I've seen and read of versions of cured duck breast done w pastrami type spices (and called duck pastrami) . . . yumm two loves united . . . But that was before the Ruhlman book and, while I've looked at their book (forget the other author), I don't own it - yet. Just wondering if it's a "pastrami-esque" kind of cure/preparation. Am looking forward to hearing of your results.

                                  1. re: cinnamon girl

                                    It is the Ruhlman book. The style I think is a duck proscuitto. It was really easy and tasted pretty good. Not bad for a second try. The book is very accessible and has some very clear explanations and illustrations that help clarify some of the techniques. has a couple of copies.

                                    1. re: Kooper

                                      Congratulations! I'm glad it turned out so well. Yes, now that you mention it I had seen duck prosciutto recipes before too. I hope you'll keep us posted on your future experiments. This thread is inspiring.

                                2. re: grandgourmand

                                  Perhaps you have higher standards than I do since, based on the number of posts, you have a lot more experince than I have but it was pretty good. It was a bit saltier and had a stronger taste of pepper than I had expected but a simple couple of changes, a touch more rinsing after salting and a coarser grind of pepper, it will be quite good.

                                  Why did you find the recipe inedible? I would love to smoke a duck breast but unfortunately I still don't have a smoker.

                                  My next try will be a Breosola or a Pancetta.

                                  1. re: Kooper

                                    It just had a weird taste. Mostly salt and background flavours that I found unpleasant.

                                    anyhow, w.r.t the guanciale, I've started slicing into it. After one week cure and three weeks hanging, it's great. I've used it in a few dishes already. I started at the bottom, which is drier and am leaving it hanging so that the top half can dry out a bit more. It feels a little too spongy, but I don't think it's anything to get worked up about.

                                    and last night, I set about 10lbs of berkshire pork belly in a cure for making pancetta. I cut the piece into three. I've never had luck finding bellies that I could roll, and frankly, I don't want to be bothered worrying about air pockets. So I leave it in small slabs, wrap in cheesecloth and hang. It's always turned out great. These particular bellies look fantastic. They are quite thick, so I might go eight days in the cure. And dry for a longer time too. Drying time depends on the feel, though.

                                    1. re: grandgourmand

                                      That sounds really good. I am jealous. Do you eat the guanciale raw or like pancetta does it need to be cooked?

                                      I am going to start my first Pancetta this weekend with bellies from T&T. I have a Breosola now in the fridge and I am short on space so it has to be one at a time in the fridge. My wife is not terribly happy with my new hobby but is grudgingly accepting given my recent good results. I don't want to push it.

                                      1. re: Kooper

                                        I used the guanciale as I would pancetta, cooked. I know you can eat it "raw" some places, but my curing isn't under ideal conditions, so I'd be wary of eating it uncooked. It's very good. It's from a half pig I bought, which is half Berkshire. A very high fat ratio, which is good for me. I've since obtained two more jowls. But I'll keep those frozen until the pancetta's done. I'll be giving some as gifts (probably late for Xmas). Otherwise, it would take me forever to consume it.

                                        I've used the T&T bellies with good results. this time, the bellies were from the same farmer. Much thicker.

                                  2. re: grandgourmand

                                    Duck prosciutto is also one of the first things I tried from "Charcuterie," but was also the least successful. It tasted just like raw poultry: disgusting. I smoked it though, and then fried it and used it in pasta. It was pretty good.

                                    When Ruhlman did a little stint on this board, I inquired about my results, and he said that my environment was probably too dry (it likely was), so the outside cured, but the inside never dried properly.

                                    I acquired a used "dorm fridge" and when set on the warmest setting, the temp is perfect for curing. I haven't played with the humidity, but will probably use it next time I cure anything. I'll prob. just put a bowl of water in there.

                                    1. re: jeff_in_redmond

                                      Controlling humidity in a fridge is tricky. I find the humidity inside the fridge tends to be higher than ambient, so adding a bowl of water might be exactly the wrong thing to do. If you're going to dry meats fairly often, a humidity monitor would be a good investment. Here's a basic $20 model that I use:


                                      Or just check the weather reports and wait until temperature and humidity are in the right range.

                                      1. re: Zeldog

                                        Give the duck another try. The rich dark gamey taste is amazing with an apple smoked cheddar on fresh baguette.

                                        I have an open cupboard in my basement that I am trying to make work. The plate of water or a wet sponge might help. In the summer and early fall the basement was perfect because my dehumidifier could keep the humidity just perfect. Now I have to work at it.

                                        You can also get a thermometer and moisture meter at Home Depot for 10$.