pancetta vs bacon

Pancetta vs Bacon – What Are The Differences?

If you see pancetta and bacon, you may not be able to tell the differences between the two at first glance. However, these foods are not the same, and you may want to find out how they differ.

Check out what makes one better than the other for the next time you are cooking or getting groceries.  

You can find out every detail about pancetta and bacon, so you can make a choice easily next time! 

What Is Pancetta?

pancetta substitute

Pancetta is made from pork belly meat that is cured, either with only salt, or spices and aromatics as well. This cut of meat is sold as thin strips or cubed. Pancetta is an Italian invention, but it is prepared across the world now. 

The flavor of pancetta is that of pork and whatever seasoning is used too. Pancetta has a very silky and soft texture, and you can eat it cooked or uncooked since it has already been through the curing process. For the most part, pancetta is cured for about three weeks, but sometimes longer. 

You can use pancetta as is, or cook it in different ways, including stews, soups, salads, pasta, sandwiches, and more. 

Because pancetta is not smoked, it is often considered safer than other deli meats. This cut of pork is also a bit pricier than bacon because of the curing process it undergoes. 

Nutrition Facts

A 100 g serving of pancetta has the following nutritional content (*)

  • 357 calories
  • 14.29 g protein
  • 32.14 g fat
  • 1.79 g carbohydrate
  • 0 g fiber 
  • 839 mg sodium 
  • 36 mg calcium
  • 1.29 mg iron
  • 4.3 mg vitamin C
  • 45 mg cholesterol 

Is Pancetta Good For You?

As with other cured meats, pancetta contains a high amount of sodium, which can be detrimental to someone’s health. 

Pork products like this one can also be naturally high in fat, especially because of the cut of pork. However, if consumed in moderation pancetta is not bad for you. 

Some brands of cured meats will add nitrites to prevent spoilage, which are compounds known to be cancerous. Still, because it comes from pork, pancetta does have a good amount of protein, which can be good for you. Adding this food to a salad, soup, or sandwich will make it more filling and nutrient-dense. 

When it comes to the sodium content, one 100 g serving of pancetta can have between 839 mg and 1643 mg of sodium. This amount is about 70% of the daily recommended value of 2.3 g a person should consume. If you think about it, consuming too much pancetta will exceed the sodium amount you need. 

As with other cured meat, pancetta also has saturated fats and cholesterol. In moderation, this should not pose a threat, but it is dangerous for those that have high cholesterol levels or heart disease. Combined with high sodium, pancetta can raise blood pressure and create future health problems. 

If you are preparing an Italian risotto or a good sandwich, then using a bit of pancetta here and there will not be a problem. You are better off choosing the unseasoned and non-smoked kind, as it is lower in salt and nitrites. As with most things, practice moderation to keep things more nutritious.

See more: Substitute for Pancetta

What Is Bacon?

freeze bacon

Bacon is a pork belly that undergoes curing, but sometimes the cut of meat can come from the side of the pig, which is a fatty area. In other countries, like the UK or Canada, bacon comes from the loin in the middle part of the back of the pig. Regardless of the cut, bacon is always cured in salt, nitrites, and sometimes sugar. 

After undergoing the curing process, bacon undergoes smoking as well. The smoking process is cold, which means that bacon retains the texture, and no more cooking occurs. This type of smoking can be done with various types of wood, like apple or maple, giving the meat a unique flavor. 

Bacon is considered a staple of American cuisine, and it is often part of breakfast, fast food, and salads. 

Even though bacon is cured, it should not be consumed raw, and you can cook it by frying, baking, or sauteing. Bacon is also often sliced very thin and sold in packages of many strips. 

Nutrition Facts

A 100 g serving of regular bacon has the following nutritional content (*)

  • 556 calories
  • 33.33 g protein
  • 50 g fat
  • 0 g carbohydrates
  • 0 g fiber
  • 1833 mg sodium
  • 0 mg calcium
  • 12.4 mg iron 
  • 83 mg cholesterol  

Is Bacon Good For You?

Like pancetta, bacon undergoes curing using salt, so it contains a large amount of sodium. Bacon can also contain added sugar, flavorings, and nitrites. Overall, consuming bacon can cause health problems long-term, especially when in excess. 

Bacon also contains protein, which can be healthy when it comes to making a meal more nutritious. You can add bacon to a salad, sandwich, or soup to make it a little more satisfying and fulfilling. Using bacon in moderation can be a good way to keep up your protein intake. 

On the other hand, bacon contains more nutrients, including B vitamins, selenium, and zinc, all of which are great for giving your body substrate for metabolic processes. However, bacon also contains nitrites, as pancetta does, so it can last longer. These compounds can be extremely detrimental to your health and have been known to be cancerous. 

As with pancetta, bacon is very high in sodium and contains saturated fats. If you suffer from high blood pressure or heart disease, you may want to stay away from this food altogether. Otherwise, consuming bacon sparingly can be a good way to stay healthy. 

Finally, since bacon is very salty and contains fat, there are now many alternatives. You could try going with bacon substitutes like turkey bacon, chicken bacon, or vegetarian bacon. While the texture varies, the flavor remains similar for the most part. 

See more: Bacon shelf life


What Are The Key Differences Between Pancetta and Bacon?

One of the most distinct differences between pancetta and bacon is the preparation method. While they are both cured, pancetta does not contain any flavorings and is not smoked, while bacon is. Because of this, you will be able to tell them apart when reading about the preparation methods. 

You can also differentiate pancetta from bacon when it comes to flavor. Pancetta is a subtle pork product that only contains salt and sometimes a touch of sugar. Bacon, on the other hand, is smoked and may come with more flavoring. 

In terms of nutrient content, these two are very similar, but also differ. Pancetta contains somewhere between 839 mg and 1643 mg of sodium per 100 grams. Bacon contains between 1600 mg and 1850 mg of sodium per 100 grams. 

Pancetta is of Italian origin, and it is there that this food became a staple in many dishes, particularly risotto and pasta. 

Bacon dates back centuries to old Chinese traditions, as well as French, German, and English cuisines. These days, you can find both foods anywhere, but bacon is highly considered an American food. 

One final difference is how it is commercially available. Pancetta can come thinly sliced, in thick and long pieces, cubed, or wrapped around vegetables or cheese. Bacon is usually available in thin slices, pre-cooked, cubed, or in bits. 

Main DifferencesPancettaBacon
Origin ItalyChina, Europe, and North America
ShapeThicker long cuts, thin slices, and cubesThin long slices, cubes, orbits
ColorPink, brown, and whitePink, darker brown, and white
Cuisines Italian and some European cuisinesBritish, German, French, and North American 
Taste Salty and subtle pork flavor  Depending on flavoring used, but salty and strong smoky flavor.
How To CookSome may consume it as is, others bake, saute, fry, or steam it.  It is almost always cooked by frying, microwaving, or sauteing.  
Cooking Time5 minutes8 to 12 minutes
Calories per 100 gram serving357 calories556 calories

Is Pancetta or Bacon Healthier?

Despite both pancetta and bacon having a high amount of sodium, there is less salt in pancetta, which could make it the healthier choice. As mentioned above, pancetta contains around 850 mg and 1643 mg of sodium per 100 grams, while bacon contains about 1850 mg of sodium per 100 grams. 

When it comes to nutrients, they are both relatively high in protein and contain a small amount of iron, B vitamins, and minerals. For the most part, bacon tends to have more protein than pancetta, but it also contains more saturated fat and cholesterol. If you want a lower fat option, pancetta may be the safest bet. 

Some people stay away from smoked products because they tend to contain nitrates and chemicals that may not be healthy. Because of this, pancetta would be the best choice since it is not smoked, and it undergoes only curing. Bacon tends to have flavoring and sugar added as well. 

If you want to remain healthy, consume pancetta, but do so in moderation, as it is still very salty and contains saturated fats. You can still consume bacon every once in a while, but do so knowing that it has more sodium and may raise your blood pressure more. 


Conclusion

You are now an expert when it comes to pancetta and bacon, which means you can order safely and calmly next time you go to a restaurant. Be sure to try either before you make your decision, as some people find the flavor to be different. Enjoy your favorite Italian risotto or a good piece of bacon on your burger!

*image by AndreySt&Tagwaran/depositphotos

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