All of these pork products look alike and taste pretty similar. They can get easily confused. Many times they can even be substitutes for one another. But they actually have very distinct characteristics and each can be perfect for different kinds of preparations.
Both bacon and pancetta are typically made from pork belly and are both cured for a certain amount of time. These are both “raw” and need to be cooked before eating. The difference between these two is the curing process.
Pancetta is simply cured, and it can be done easily with salt, but many times spices and other aromatics are added to infuse the pancetta with certain flavors. You can purchase pancetta sliced paper thin or even cubed. When thin, you can use it to wrap around vegetables or meat before cooking. The cubed pancetta is normally used to sauté with ingredients like onions and garlic to make the base of soups or other dishes.
Bacon is cured as well but it is also smoked afterward. Typically it is a cold-smoking process, which means it is still raw. The smoking can be done with different types of wood like apple or maple, which will provide specific flavors to the meat.
Prosciutto is much different than bacon or pancetta. Prosciutto is made from the hind leg of a pig, also known as ham. The quality of prosciutto is in how it is cured. The outside of the ham is normally rubbed with salt and sometimes spices. This process pulls out the moisture and concentrates the flavor while the ham is slowly air-dried. This can take a few months or even a few years depending on the desired result. After it is cured it is thinly sliced and eaten as is. Even though it is uncooked, because the curing process is so long it is not considered “raw”.
Of these three do you have a favorite? At Savory Catering in Dallas, we have recipes that include these ingredients. You can try our Prosciutto & Fennel Bruschetta Canapés, our Prosciutto Wrapped Caesar Salad, our Bacon Wrapped Dates, our Grilled Pancetta Wrapped Radicchio Wedge, and many other delicious recipes.