The biggest difference between pancetta and bacon is that bacon is smoked and pancetta is salt-cured and dried. In terms of cooking, this means that bacon is still raw and should be cooked while pancetta can be eaten both cooked or uncooked.
Pancetta is very popular in Italian cooking and recipes while bacon is a more popular food item in American and English cuisine. The two vary in terms of appearance too. Bacon is thinly sliced into strips, while pancetta is curled into a roll and is then wrapped in a casing so that it maintains this shape. It is usually thinly sliced and then enjoyed. Pancetta may also be consumed raw after it has been cured.
As such, the basic difference between the two is the process of preparation, i.e. bacon is smoked and pancetta is not. This also changes their flavors greatly. Pancetta is considered to possess pure, rich flavors in comparison to bacon. A bacon sandwich and a sandwich with pancetta instead of bacon will not taste the same if it is the smoked flavor you are looking for. However, they are still substituted for each other, depending greatly on whether the smoked flavor is required in the recipe or not. If the smoked flavor can be forgone, you can easily use either in a recipe if one is unavailable. More often than not, both these meats are used in various preparations primarily for their flavor. This is why, before preparing a recipe, try to find out what the outcome is like, and whether or not it is okay to substitute pancetta for bacon and vice versa. Experts suggest that if you wish to use bacon instead of pancetta in a recipe, then it should be blanched in order to reduce the smoked flavor it possesses. This will make it more appropriate for the recipe.
Bacon is easily accessible but it is the pancetta that requires some looking around if you wish to enjoy it or add it to a recipe. Usually, you may look for it at Italian restaurants or delis who will sell it to you only if you purchase a minimum quantity. Some people recommend purchasing pancetta online. However, its quality may or may not be assured and it is always ideal to purchase such food items personally rather than ordering them from somewhere.
Can I substitute bacon for pancetta?
The short answer is yes, you can substitute bacon for pancetta as long as you understand what that change is going to do to your dish. Both pancetta and bacon are cured pork made from the same cut — the pork belly