Is Pepperoni Cooked or Uncooked – Let’s Solve the Mystery

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Why order a plain pizza when pepperoni is present? Pepperoni is indeed one of the preferred pizza toppings and sandwich fillers. Even the name is enough to bring a big smile and water to your mouth.

However, have you ever noticed we often cook and eat them straight out of the pack? Why is that?

Now it raises the question, is pepperoni cooked?

No, pepperoni is a type of processed meat, and not one of the series of processing requires any heat. So, technically, it can not be called cooked meat.

The following piece also includes:

  • Can you eat raw pepperoni?
  • Are pepperoni and sausage the same?
  • What’s the difference between cured and uncured pepperoni?
  • How do you know if pepperoni has gone bad?

So let’s go through the article and learn more about pepperoni. 

Is Pepperoni Cooked?

is pepperoni cooked

No, not quite. We often use pepperoni in pizza and sandwiches. The meat used in pepperoni doesn’t undergo any heating or cooking process, so technically, this isn’t cooked. 

If so, then what exactly is pepperoni? A question might pop into your head.

Well, pepperoni is just a raw sausage preserved through curing, fermentation, and drying. And as it doesn’t go through any heating process, it can not be called cooked meat. You can call them processed meat.

Can You Eat Raw Pepperoni?

Can You Eat Raw Pepperoni

Yes, you can if you want to. Pepperoni may not be cooked, but it goes through a curing and fermentation process that helps kill the bacteria found in raw meat. And many people don’t consider cured meat raw.

Pepperoni is a blend of beef and pork with 70% lean meat and 30% fat. Even though undercook beef is okay to consume, undercooked pork, on the other hand, can cause some health issues upon consumption.

Undercooked pork contains bacteria and parasites that can be severely harmful to health. So, that might raise a question about eating raw pepperoni. Is it safe? Can it be harmful to your health?

Well, we already mentioned that pepperoni goes through curing, fermenting, and drying while processing. The meat is kept in a cool, dry place during processing, and water from the meat is eliminated in three different steps.

We all know that a hot, humid environment is a wonderland for bacteria and parasites. So, when these factors are eliminated, harmful bacteria can’t find a place to grow and die within a short time.

And that’s why it’s totally safe to consume raw pepperoni. But that doesn’t mean you should eat one after another just because it’s safe.

On the other hand, overeating pepperoni can cause health problems as they contain a lot of salt because of the curing process.

Are Pepperoni and Sausage the Same?

Are Pepperoni and Sausage the Same

No, they most certainly are not. Even though pepperoni is like raw sausage, they are totally different; their production process and recipe are entirely different. 

Let’s see the difference between pepperoni and sausage in the following table:

Comparison ParameterPepperoni Sausage
Food TypeSpicy Italian American sausage, type of salamiGround meat or meat substitute made with seasoning, packed in a cylindrical casing, is a type of Latin food
Type of Meat UsedA blend of cured pork and beefGround meat such as pork, beef, chicken
FlavorSmokey and peppery flavorMild Italian seasoning
ColorDark redPink or orangey-brown
ShapeSliced in the form of thin circular sheetsCylindrical Shape
ConsumptionCured meat and can be eaten rawNeed to be cooked

To start, pepperoni is basically an Italian American treat, which is much like a salami.

But sausage, on the other hand, is a cylindrical food made of ground meat and seasoning. The origin of sausage comes from a Latin root and is known by different names in different countries.

Pepperoni is prepared with a combination of cured pork and beef. Whereas sausage is made of ground meat of a particular kind like pork, beef, and chicken. 

While processing pepperoni, it goes through a prolonged smoking procedure, and it contains lots of spices; that’s why pepperoni has a smokey and peppery flavor. But sausage doesn’t go through any smoking process; it just has a taste of mild Italian seasoning.

Pepperoni comes in dark red color because of the curing procedure. The nitrate or nitrites used in the curing process cause the red hue in pepperoni. Otherwise, it would look like a raw sausage that is pink. The pink color is just a resemblance to raw ground meat. 

Pepperoni and sausage are both made in cylindrical shapes. But pepperoni is sliced horizontally and gets the shape of a thin circular sheet. Meanwhile, sausage stays in the same shape it comes in. 

Pepperoni is cured meat and is completely okay to consume raw. But sausage needs to be cooked before you consume it.

What’s the Difference Between Cured and Uncured Pepperoni?

What’s the Difference Between Cured and Uncured Pepperoni

There are two types of pepperoni in the market, cured and uncured. And from the name, we can clearly understand that the difference lies in the curing process of the two types. 

Now let’s take a look at the following table to know the difference between cured and uncured pepperoni:

Comparison parameterCured Pepperoni Uncured Pepperoni
Curing elementsSodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, and lactic acidSea salt, celery powder, celery juice, and beet extracts
ColorDark redPale red
FlavorSmoky, and a strong, peppery flavorSoft, salty, with a mild spiciness
UsagePizza, sandwiches, pasta, saladspizza, sandwiches, pasta, salads
Salt levelLow High 
Instantly usableYes Yes 
Shelf lifeLonger Shorter 

The primary distinction between cured and uncured pepperoni is in the additives used in them.

In the modern curing process, chemical additives are used in curing to ensure longer shelf life. So, chemical additives like sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, and lactic acid are used in cured pepperoni.

On the other hand, natural additives are used in uncured pepperoni. Sea salt, celery powder, celery juice, and beet extracts are used in the curing process. Because of natural additives, uncured pepperoni has a shorter shelf life.

Because of the sodium nitrates and nitrites used in cured pepperoni, they come in dark red color. But the uncured ones come in pale red colors due to natural additives.

Cured pepperoni has a robust peppery savor with a hint of smoke. On the other hand, uncured pepperoni is smooth, salty in flavor, and comes with a lingering yet mild spicy flavor.

Uncured pepperoni has a high salt level, but cured pepperoni has a lower salt level. Both pepperonis can be used right away after making and also can be used in pizza, sandwiches, pasta, salads, etc. 

How Do You Know If Pepperoni Has Gone Bad?

How Do You Know If Pepperoni Has Gone Bad

Pepperoni has a shelf life like any other food in your kitchen. You will see the expiry date written on the pack of pepperoni, and you should check it out before you buy them. But the date written on the pack is a caution date, and you can still use them a few days after the expiration.

But even before the date, your pepperoni can go bad. And how to know that? Let’s see what signs pepperoni shows when they go bad.

  • Change in Appearance 

If you see your pepperoni is turning gray, then it’s high time you threw them out and bought a new pack for yourself. If a red pepperoni starts to turn gray, it’s nothing but a rotten piece of food.

  • Unusual Smell

If you get a rancid smell from your pepperoni, do not think twice; just throw out the pack. A rotten smell coming out of a food item is the most common sign that the food has gone bad.

  • Slimy or Sticky Texture

When you see your pepperoni texture becoming like slime or seems a bit sticky, you can throw your pepperoni without any second thought.

  • Change in Taste

A rotten food will obviously taste bad, and we all know that. If you notice a bitter taste coming upon eating your pepperoni, then your pepperoni has gone bad, real bad; just toss it in your garbage bag. 


  • How long can you keep pepperoni in the fridge?

If your pack of pepperoni is unopened, you can store them in your fridge indefinitely. But once you open them, you have to use them within 3 weeks. Some vendors recommend using them in one week. It’s wise to use them like the back of the packet instructs you. 

  • Does pepperoni oxidize?

Yes, they sure do. When a rancid smell comes out of your pepperoni, it is oxidized and rotten to its core and incapable of consumption. So, throw them out as soon as a rotten smell comes out of your pack of pepperoni. It won’t be good for your health.

  • Is uncured pepperoni better?

No. It is may seem surprising, but uncured pepperoni isn’t better than cured, even though it doesn’t use any chemical additives. Consuming uncured meat can increase the risk of heart disease because natural nitrates don’t make processed meat healthier.

  • Is salami similar to pepperoni?

Salami is a seasoned, spicy sausage that is air-dried and cured. And you can eat them cold. Pepperoni is close to this but a bit different because of its seasons. You can call pepperoni a type of salami, but not vice versa. 


Pepperoni is one favorite topping or filler for most. However, this food you often take out of the package to cook or eat. It definitely raises one puzzling question: is pepperoni cooked? Are you eating raw meat or cooking cooked meat?

Now that we have cleared your confusion about your query, you can consume your food without any hesitation.

Just make sure to check out the expiration date on the pepperoni pack and you will be good.

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