homemade pepperoni

Back when I was overloaded with pork (still am, but I’ve acclimated), a reader pointed me to a recipe for homemade pepperoni. I haven’t bought commercial pepperoni since.

The texture of the homemade pepperoni is different from the store bought stuff—it’s not as greasy and it doesn’t slice as smoothly (maybe if the meat was ground into a paste?)—but the flavor is fabulous. In fact, my children floored me by announcing they prefer the homemade pepperoni to the store stuff.

It’s not complicated to make. Mix a couple pounds of ground beef (or pork, if, like me, you have a pig and a half sitting in your freezer) with a bunch of spices and then pop the meat in the fridge and forget about it for several days. One morning after breakfast, take the bowl of meat from the fridge and shape the meat into two or three logs. Bake the logs at low-low temps for the whole day, rotating the logs every couple hours or so. Cool the pepperoni, tightly double-wrap in plastic, and stick it in the freezer…until you get hit with a pizza craving. That’s it!

Homemade Pepperoni 
Adapted from Tammy’s Recipes.

The original recipe says you can increase both the fennel and the red pepper flakes to 2 teaspoons. It also calls for 2 “heaping” teaspoons curing salt. I’m not sure what that means exactly, so, for simplicity’s sake, I changed it to an even 3 teaspoons.

The meat is to be baked at 200 degrees, but my first batch of pepperoni cooked too fast and got a little dry. (Maybe my oven runs hot?) So I reduced the heat to about 150 degrees and the next batch turned out much better.

From now on, I’ll always be doubling (quadrupling?) the recipe. If the oven’s going to run that long, it only makes sense to fill it.

2 pounds ground beef or pork
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons mustard seed
1½ teaspoons crushed fennel seed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon smoked (or regular) paprika
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon sugar
3 teaspoons Morton’s Tender Quick curing salt

Dump all the ingredients in a bowl and mash together with your hands. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for 48-72 hours.

Shape the meat into two or three long skinny logs and place on a parchment-lined, sided baking sheet. Bake the pepperoni at 150 degrees for about eight hours, rotating the meat every two hours (as you would hot dogs on a grill). Cool the meat and double-wrap in plastic before transferring to the freezer.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (3.9.15), family weekending, the quotidian (3.10.14), work, adventuring, now, blondies and breakdowns, and we’re back from seeing the wizard.    


  • Carol

    I just read that it is safe to dry it on an Excalibur dehydrator since the 155degree setting is hot enough. I don't know about the dryness factor. If I try It out I will let you know.

  • Anonymous

    Could I make this in my dehydrator? Or would that just dry the meat out rather than cook it? My machine goes to 150 degrees and has a little fan in the back.

    • Jennifer Jo

      I'm not sure. I thought of that myself, but I, too, am afraid it might get too dry. Pepperoni should be juicy, right? Maybe Google it? And if you try it, do report back so we can all benefit from your experiment!

  • Margo

    what?! why am still constantly amazed at the things we can make at home? I will try this. I think I will use a mix of ground beef and pork.

  • Anonymous

    Do you think it would work just as well to use sea salt rather than curing salt? If I'm going to make my own pepperoni, I don't want to include the nitrites/nitrates and other preservatives that are in curing salt. Maybe I could use smoked salt instead of both the curing salt and the liquid smoke, and add a little vinegar and sweetener to compensate for the switch. What do you think?


    • katie

      I think it would totally work. Might give a slightly different texture and, of course, your product might spoil faster. Though that probably won't be too much of an issue! I tried making jerky once with curing salt and at the same dryness (as jerky made with regular, non-iodized salt) the meat was pinker and more pliable. I went right back to using regular salt.

  • katie

    I just had a thought that maybe if you had something to wrap the rolls in while they bake they would be easier to slice. Could you wrap them in parchment or something? Then as the meat expanded/contracted, as it heated and cooked, the wrap might help it kinda cook into itself instead of outwards. …

    • Jennifer Jo

      The meat DOES contract. The problem is that all the fat runs out. How do you keep fat from running out of the meat?

    • katie

      Maybe that is what the wrapper is for? Holds all that goodness inside. The made-to-order package stuff is some sort of waxy, thin papery sort of material that you tie off at the end. But I'm thinking that the real answer is that pepperoni with the fat all inside it is probably not cooked at all, but cured/dried. Perhaps this is the price to pay for getting your prize sooner!

  • katie

    During hunting season our grocery store sells curing kits to make venison salami sort of things. We got one once to try it and after that (with game or beef or whatever) I would cobble together spices and salts and fats to reproduce the same effect. I'm bad about writing things down as recipes to pass on, but this sounds very similar and you did all the tedious work of keeping track of measurements and the like. Thanks! It is hard to beat home-done processed meats.

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