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What is Old World Pepperoni?

What we plan on doing right here is to look at something called Old World Pepperoni and if you have no idea what that is, then don’t worry.

In just a few minutes you will have a whole new understanding of pepperoni and might even view yourself as something of an expert in it.

It’s fair to say that pepperoni constantly ranks high in the list of most popular pizza toppings. But how much do you really know about it?

You see, we take those little slices for granted without often giving too much thought to what it is, or even understanding why we like it. But that’s about to change.

But you may not have even known that there was such a thing as old-world pepperoni.

It all looks the same on the surface, but the surprising thing is that this is not actually the case.

It turns out that this old-world pepperoni has more differences to it than you would imagine.

So, let’s get on with checking out those differences.

old world pepperoni

So, What is Old World Pepperoni?

Let’s get right down to basics. Old world pepperoni refers to that bright red American salami actually created from a blend of both pork and cured beef.

But that’s not all.

It also includes special seasoning with paprika and chili acting as favorites. The seasoning helps give it both the red color you expect, and also that smoked flavor that tends to accompany it.

However, as you will see over the course of the next few minutes, that’s not all you need to know about old world pepperoni. Actually, there’s a bit more to it than you would expect, and it all starts with its origins.

Where Did it Come From?

People believe that pepperoni came from the United States way back in the earl 1900s. The name also comes from the Italian word ‘peperoni’ but this translates as ‘bell pepper’ which doesn’t seem to really go with the American salami.

However, a type of pepper exists that’s known by the name ‘pepperoncini’ and this was something that they would pickle and put on a pizza. So, many believe it stems from adopting this name since the idea of the pepperoni we know was simply to have something spicy to go on pizza.

Also, we want to clear up one thing. Even though we refer to this as old world pepperoni, don’t think it comes from Italy. They just do not use pepperoni on pizza in Italy. Instead, this remains something that has been entirely invented in America. 

Sure it was invented by Italians opening up pizzerias in the States, but they adapted something to suit the taste of their customers. So, the ‘old world’ part refers more to the people who first created this form of pepperoni rather than anything else. They just did not bring it with them from Italy as it didn’t exist.

Is There a Difference Between Salami and Pepperoni?

So far we have described pepperoni as an American salami, but is there a real difference between the two? Well, it all comes down to two things, the reason for it existing, and the spices.

In general, pepperoni has only been created in order for it to act as a topping for pizza. That is not the same for salami. Also, pepperoni actually contains more spice in it than salami, and that’s also because of seeing it as only a pizza topping.

In addition, salami has a greater number of uses since it can appear on sandwiches and all sorts of dishes. You never hear of anybody putting pepperoni on a sandwich.

All of that means it’s slightly misleading and confusing when pepperoni ends up referred to as American salami. Perhaps look at the two options as cousins only related in a certain way rather than direct siblings in the meat product world.

regular pepperoni pizza

What’s the Difference with Regular Pepperoni?

OK, so you may have noticed our description of old-world pepperoni sounds extremely similar to regular pepperoni. But the two options are not actually the same.

The regular version tends to come in thinner slices than old-world pepperoni. Also, it’s tougher than the regular version both in the eating, and also the slicing of it.

Regular pepperoni did also end up using meat that was more finely ground than the old-world version. That did lead to something of a smoother slice of pepperoni than you would get with the old-world version. So, the texture did change with the old world really having more of a rustic feel to it.

But you have another way to tell the difference between the regular version and this old-world pepperoni, the curl.

With the old world version, the edges curl up whereas the regular version does not do that.

That curling led to the development of what we now see as regular pepperoni. People just didn’t really like the fact it curled up when the pizza was put in the oven.

So, they developed a different type of pepperoni that just didn’t curl up in the same way.

This Curl is Important

The curl aspect actually has greater importance than you would expect. It also shows yet another difference in how both old-world pepperoni and the regular version are made.

One reason why it curls up is due to the casing used when making the salami.

The old world version uses natural casing, which is what they would use when making salami in Italy.

The regular version uses an artificial casing, and that does mean it reacts in a different way.

Also, we said how regular pepperoni is cut more thinly than old-world pepperoni, and that also plays a role in the curling.

It means that more of the natural casing will then shrink while cooking.

That leads to the edge of the pepperoni slice being pulled as the casing shrinks, and this has to then lead to a curl.

But it then does something else to the way in which old-world pepperoni is then cooked.

Thanks to the edges curling, it also means they cook faster than the middle of the pepperoni slice.

That results in the crispy edge that some people really do love.

Actually, if this is the way you prefer your pepperoni, then we strongly suggest you get old-world pepperoni.

Spices and Bacteria

The spice level is another difference between old-world pepperoni and the regular version.

In general, the old-world version is spicier than the regular, and that’s often something of a surprise to people.

But here’s another thing that catches people out, and it’s to do with bacteria cultures. 

Old world pepperoni uses bacteria cultures to help with the fermentation process during the manufacturing stage.

This does then provide it with something of a bolder and stronger flavor.

Regular pepperoni has a more straightforward and almost clinical method of manufacturing, and that does then lead to a more muted flavor.

old world pepperoni pizza

Which is Better?

Finally, out of these two options, which actually tastes better?

Clearly, it comes down to personal taste but thinks about these few things.

Old-world pepperoni has a stronger taste to it. This version comes with more spices, but it’s also thicker.

Some people also feel put off by the idea of a natural casing rather than an artificial one, and that could help them make up their minds.

So it all depends on how spicy or full of flavor you like your pizza toppings to be.

If you want something subtle, then we would recommend the regular version. It just sometimes hints at another flavor on your pizza rather than coming across as one of the main features.

Those are the couple of things you need to think about and weigh up when deciding.

Or, decide to go authentic Italian and don’t have pepperoni at all on your pizza.

That would certainly solve the argument rather easily.

Overall Conclusion

Old world pepperoni has some differences from what we see as regular pepperoni.

It uses a natural casing for the salami as opposed to an artificial casing. It has a firmer feel to it, and it also curls up at the edges when cooking.

You just also get this feeling that you have something more authentic when it comes to a traditional pepperoni pizza.

That’s the way it sort of should react and be with a pepperoni pizza. 

However, the tough part is finding a pizzeria that uses the old-world version as regular pepperoni has effectively taken over and is often the only party in town.

But if you look hard enough, or go to a more authentic pizzeria, then you will still find it as an option.

You might very well feel glad that you hunted it out when you taste the difference.

But at the end of the day, you should always go for whatever you prefer.

So if old-world pepperoni is not your thing, then as long as you enjoy your pizza, then all is good.