Can you eat raw pancetta?
May 12, 2007 12:37 PM   Subscribe

Is it OK to eat raw pancetta?

I live in the US. I just bought some Boar's Head pancetta from a local deli. I noticed on the package in the display case it said "ready to eat." But when I took it home and opened it up, it looked just like circular slices of raw bacon. It was also moist like raw bacon. I've eaten many raw things before, though, so I ate it anyway. It tasted good, but it was very, very chewy, so chewy that I ended up having an unchewable lump of fat in my mouth that I had to spit out. Now I was a bit worried. But after googling "can you eat raw pancetta", I found a few sites saying Italians do it all the time without any ill effects.

But I presume Italians eat raw Italian-produced pancetta. From what I read, it seems Americans don't eat raw pancetta. Considering Boar's Head is a US product, do you think their pancetta is not intended to be eaten raw?
posted by pravit to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, I just ate an entire sandwich of it, despite the occasional need to spit out lumps of fat. But now I'm a bit worried, hence the AskMe.
posted by pravit at 12:38 PM on May 12, 2007

It's cured meat, you'd eat it like you would salami: cold. You can heat it up to season dishes since it's mighty tasty but the answer to your question is yes, you can it eat cold.
posted by jessamyn at 12:44 PM on May 12, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for the quick answer, Jessamyn!

But, as far as I know, regular US bacon is cured too. Can you eat that raw without any ill effects?
posted by pravit at 12:47 PM on May 12, 2007

Response by poster: cold*
posted by pravit at 12:47 PM on May 12, 2007

Yes. It's already "cooked". Heating it up is just aesthetics.
posted by Solomon at 12:53 PM on May 12, 2007

Solomon: yes, you can eat raw pancetta or yes you can eat raw bacon. Next time I go out to breakfast with a group I just *have* to order my bacon raw. Is it safe?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:02 PM on May 12, 2007

Raw pork is far from safe, you can get tape worms at the very least.
posted by IronLizard at 1:29 PM on May 12, 2007

Um, as far as I know, bacon = pancetta. I'm pretty sure they're the same thing.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 1:30 PM on May 12, 2007

While there seems to be a consensus that you can eat raw pancetta, but that eating raw bacon is risky, I haven't been able to track down the difference other than one site saying "pancetta undergoes a special curing process that renders it safe to eat

As long as I'm at it, another site claims that only Italian pancetta is safe to eat, and that you should always cook American pancetta. Again, no explanation is given.

There's also kind of a difficulty here, which is that "can you eat this" is often a personal decision. I've eaten steak tartare, filet mignon cooked "blue," caesar salad and ice cream made with raw eggs, and of course sashimi, all of which are made of things that the FDA might suggest you avoid.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 1:31 PM on May 12, 2007

Wikipedia's entry on pancetta (paltry though it is) bears out the = bacon thing. And IronLizard, cured meat will have none (or at least, fewer) of the dangers that "raw pork" would present. The salt kills most of the stuff that would hurt you... plus, I think most cured meat is also smoked. I know very little about the process, but my boss cures his own meats and is always bringing this stuff in for everyone. I would probably be dead by now if eating un-cooked pancetta could hurt you.
posted by synaesthetichaze at 1:34 PM on May 12, 2007

Completely anecdotal, but i eat raw pancetta all the time (UK made, not Italian) and 1. yes, I'm wierd, and 2. never suffered any ill effects

However, the pancetta does say it should be cooked on the packaging.
posted by wayward vagabond at 1:35 PM on May 12, 2007

Response by poster: IronLizard, as other have mentioned, the pork is not raw. It is cured. Apologies that I used the wrong term in my question.
posted by pravit at 1:40 PM on May 12, 2007

The gourmet store where I shop tells me to cook the pancetta. They said that the curing process is not enough to kill listeria, salmonella and the like.

A community dietitian told me not to eat any deli meats after 2 days. She said that the risk of food poisoning is extremely high and that, even within the 2 days, you are much better to heat the meat to 300C. That's why they tell pregnant women and children not to eat deli meat.
posted by acoutu at 1:51 PM on May 12, 2007

I grew up eating "raw" American style cured/smoked bacon (I would have to sneak it out of the fridge before my mom saw).
I still eat it on occasion. I'm pretty sure I'm not dead; just fat.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 2:39 PM on May 12, 2007

Pravit - Bacon is often smoked as well as cured while pancetta is (usually) only cured. That said, people eat pancetta without cooking it all the time overseas. Here in North America it's almost always cooked.

Whether that is because of American paranoia about uncooked foods or because of a difference in the safety of the meat itself is something you'll have to decide for yourself. I would lean towards the former, but I have no basis for that feeling except personal bias.

Acoutu - If your "community dietitian" told you not to eat deli meat after two days or the risk of poisoning is extremely high and that you should heat the meat to 300c even in those two days, I advise you never to listen to anything she says. That's simply scaremongering. For what its worth, 300C is almost 600F. Does your oven even go that high?
posted by Justinian at 3:06 PM on May 12, 2007

Pancetta from a deli counter is going to be salted and cured for months, and the salt and time should take care of the interior bacteria. Eating it raw should be OK if consumed fresh and cold.

American bacon is usually only salted and smoked and not cured, and even then the salt concentration is lower. It's probably OK to eat raw, but since it's produced on an industrial scale in this country, the risk that there are bad stomach critters in there are higher.

A community dietitian told me not to eat any deli meats after 2 days. She said that the risk of food poisoning is extremely high and that, even within the 2 days, you are much better to heat the meat to 300C.

She's nuts. 300C? The critters in question are dead at 160F in pork, and at that point it's already shoe leather. 300C it's beyond blackened.

They tell pregnant women not to eat deli meat because listeria can cause spontaneous miscarriages. Most deli meat is perfectly fine if it's been stored correctly and consumed in a reasonable time. I won't eat deli meat beyond a week old, but two days in the fridge won't turn pastrami into a WMD.
posted by dw at 3:11 PM on May 12, 2007

Oops, sorry. I meant 300F -- I'm so used to using celcius that I forgot to put F. I think she just meant to bring the temperature up to that, not maintain it there, but a lot of sources just say "steaming hot". The Canadian government generally says 2 - 3 days for deli meats. Example: Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety. However, to be clear, this is with regard to deli meat that's been packaged for you, not something that is vacuum sealed.
posted by acoutu at 4:36 PM on May 12, 2007

IronLizard, as other have mentioned, the pork is not raw.

I was actually referring to Slarty Bartfast's question, sorry if I didn't make that clear.
posted by IronLizard at 4:40 PM on May 12, 2007

Pancetta from a deli counter is going to be salted and cured for months, and the salt and time should take care of the interior bacteria.

The dangers of listeria and salmonella (and Hep A, extremely rarely, if the meat cutter's a carrier) may not because of interior bacteria but because of exterior bacteria. Cold cuts can be contaminated during packaging, unpackaging, or cutting, or even in the home.
posted by watsondog at 6:17 PM on May 12, 2007

FWIW, the question has been explored elsewhere.
posted by namret at 6:52 PM on May 12, 2007

Are you OK? I once ate raw pancetta convinced that it would be alright and 12hrs later came down with food poisoning so bad I thought I was going to barf up a lung - I was off work for 4 days. If it does happen, rehydrate as much as you can between bouts.
posted by forallmankind at 9:39 PM on May 12, 2007

The absolute definite answer can be found very easily:

Call Boar's Head and ask them: 888-884-2627

Besides, if the packaging says "ready to eat," then I think you already know the answer.

(FWIW, as a chef, I've eaten plenty of "raw" pancetta and had no ill effects. As stated previously, it does NOT equal bacon and it IS technically cooked. They are basically the same cut off the hog, but are prepared differently.)
posted by BradNelson at 11:11 PM on May 12, 2007

I think if the label says 'ready to eat', it's safe to eat. Boar's Head probably already cooked it before it came to you.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:47 AM on May 13, 2007

Must disagree (um, and agree. what fun!) with bradnelson. Pancetta is a slightly different preparation (rolled vs. flat) but it's the italian word for bacon. Which is cured. Here in america, lots of "bacon" is just not really "bacon." It is actually fresh (or semi-salty/semi- whatever) fat-back and not good for eating raw, Maybe my last preview weirdly posted ( we shall see!) but the point is...pancetta must be stored cool and dry and properly aged. okay, forallmankind i'm so sorry you ate something improperly stored, but have to wonder if it was something else you ate. Pancetta making you sick really seems like you'd have to know it (ie, this tastes/smells bad!) Proscuitto is also raw. Salted meat. It rock's my world, but i've seen it moistly stored and run screaming.

Mmmmm..salted pork. Prety hard to get sick, pretty hard to go wrong.
posted by metasav at 12:56 AM on May 13, 2007

Response by poster: It's been about 24 hours and I feel fine, so I guess it's OK, although I did learn yesterday that pancetta is also very delicious when cooked! Thanks AskMe!
posted by pravit at 10:31 AM on May 13, 2007

Late to the party data point form Italy:

After Googling the brand you mentioned, yes you can eat the rolled pancetta 'raw'. All types of pancetta begin with a thourough salting.

The rolled type then undergoes further curing as I understand it, along the lines of proscuitto/bresaola/speck. So it's not quite as 'raw' as it looks or feels.

The more everyday pancetta that I use for cooking is not cured as much as the rolled type and comes in a slab or pre-cubed, either dolce or affumicata ('sweet'/smoked). If I get the slab kind from the deli, I trim off the cured skin before use. This type of pancetta I wouldn't eat raw. And I am unaware of any recipes that call for this kind of pancetta raw.
posted by romakimmy at 5:31 AM on May 14, 2007

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