Pepperoni is characteristically soft, slightly smoky, and bright red in color. Thinly sliced pepperoni is a popular pizza topping in American-style pizzerias and is used as filling in the West Virginia pepperoni roll. It is also used to make some varieties of submarine sandwiches.
Pepperoni is a cured dry sausage similar to the spicy salamis of southern Italy, such as salsiccia Napoletana piccante, a spicy dry sausage from Naples, or the soppressata from Calabria. The main differences are that pepperoni has a finer grain (akin to salami of Milan, a spiceless regional variant of salami), is usually softer, and is produced with the use of an artificial casing (instead Italian salami are produced using natural gut for casing). Pepperoni is mass-produced to meet the demand for the sausage.
Pepperoni is usually made from a mixture of pork and beef. Turkey is also commonly used as a substitute, but the use of poultry in pepperoni must be appropriately labeled in the United States. In the Caribbean Islands and other parts of the world, donkey and horse meat are common ingredients. Sodium nitrite (or sometimes saltpeter), usually a part of modern curing agents, protects against botulism and other forms of microbiological decay. Sodium nitrite is white, but reacts with the heme in the myoglobin of the lean to give pepperoni its reddish color. The use of paprika and cayenne also contribute to its reddish color.
Pepperoni sausages are commonly sold in two sizes: an inch or so in diameter for pizza and two to three inches in diameter for sandwiches. Pepperoni is sold whole, chopped, or in slices, and is commonly found in American deli counters.
Ingredients such as peppers, garlic, fennel, or mustard seeds can be included in the production of
|Pepperoni atop a pizza|
Pepperoni has a tendency to curl up from the edges in the heat of a pizza oven. Some pepperoni is produced in thicker slices, so that the edges curl intentionally.
According to Convenience Store Decisions, Americans annually consume 251.7 million pounds of pepperoni on 36% of all pizzas produced nationally.
Pepperoni can also be found accompanying different types of cheeses, such as Cheddar or Monterey jack, as a cheap snack food in Canadian and some American convenience stores or gas stations. The portions of pepperoni and cheese are typically at equal lengths for ease of consumption, although it is not unusual to find packages containing small, bite sized pieces of pepperoni and cheese in many super markets across either country. They may be served with a honey mustard sauce for dipping.