How to Make Italian Guanciale: A Step-by-Step Guide

Italian cuisine is famous for its cured meats, and Guanciale is one of the most popular and versatile of them all. Guanciale is a type of Italian cured meat made from pork jowl or cheeks, and it’s a key ingredient in many traditional Italian dishes, including carbonara, amatriciana, and gricia. It’s a fatty meat with a distinct flavor that comes from the curing process, which can take up to several weeks.

Making Guanciale at home might seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually quite simple. The process involves rubbing the pork jowl with a mixture of salt, sugar, and spices, and then letting it cure for several weeks until it’s firm and flavorful. Once the Guanciale is cured, it can be sliced thin and used in a variety of dishes, adding a rich, savory flavor to everything from pasta to pizza.

Key Takeaways

  • Guanciale is a type of Italian cured meat made from pork jowl or cheeks that’s a key ingredient in many traditional Italian dishes.
  • Making Guanciale at home involves rubbing the pork jowl with a mixture of salt, sugar, and spices, and then letting it cure for several weeks until it’s firm and flavorful.
  • Once the Guanciale is cured, it can be sliced thin and used in a variety of dishes, adding a rich, savory flavor to everything from pasta to pizza.

Piero’s Recipe from the video:

  • Ingredients Part 1:
  • 1 Pigs Cheek
  • Course Sea Salt
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • Chilli Flakes (Optional- if you want it spicy)
  • Ingredients Part 2:
  • Can of beer to wash it off after a week
  • Black Pepper ground and cracked
  • Chilli Flakes (optional)
  • 2 Teaspoons Brown Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
  • 1 and a half teaspoon Paprika
  • 1 and a half bay leaves
  • 2 Juniper berries


Step one
Get your whole pork cheek and put it into a tray. Rub and cover the cheek with the salt, bay leaves and chilli flakes(optional).
Then leave it in the fridge for 7-10 days.

Step Two
After the 7-10 days are up take the cheek out the fridge and brush all the salt off with a knife until the majority of the salt is off.

Step three
Then once the salt is brush off, you can then wash the remaining salt and spices off with a can of beer. Once it’s washed, with a tea towel dry the cheek off.

Step four
Place the Guanciale on a plate and with a knife and poke a hole through it and tie some string around it so it can be hung easily.
Then mix your chilli flakes(optional), brown sugar, garlic Powder, ground nutmeg, paprika, bay leaves and juniper berries into a bowl. Once mixed nicely rub the mix all over the cheek evenly. Then add the cracked black peppers and grounded black pepper over the meat side of the cheek.

Step five
Then hang the Guanciale at room temperature for 24-48 hours.

Step six
Moved the Guanciale into to the fridge for 8-10 weeks

Step seven
Once 8-10 weeks have passed, you can now try your Guanciale by slicing into it and removing the skin. Enjoy

Understanding Guanciale

Guanciale is a type of cured meat that is made from the pork jowl or cheek. It is a popular ingredient in many Italian dishes, particularly in the region of Lazio. The meat is cured with salt, pepper, and other spices for several weeks to develop its unique flavor.

The pork jowl is a fatty cut of meat, which gives guanciale its distinct taste and texture. It is important to use high-quality pork jowl when making guanciale, as the flavor of the meat will greatly affect the final product.

Guanciale is a local specialty in Italy and is often considered a charcuterie delicacy. The curing process is an art, and many local producers take great pride in their craft. The quality of the meat and the curing process can greatly affect the flavor and texture of the final product.

When purchasing guanciale, it is important to look for a product that has been properly cured and aged. The meat should be firm to the touch and have a distinct aroma. It is also important to store guanciale properly, as it can spoil quickly if not kept in the right conditions.

Overall, guanciale is a unique and flavorful ingredient that is a staple in many Italian dishes. Its distinct taste and texture make it a popular choice for those looking to add depth and complexity to their cooking.

Guanciale

Ingredients and Preparation

Choosing the Right Pork Jowl

Guanciale is traditionally made from pork jowl, which is the cheek of the pig. It is important to choose a jowl that is fresh, with a good amount of fat and meat. Look for a jowl that is well-marbled but not too fatty. It should be around 2-3 pounds in weight.

Salting and Curing

Salt is a crucial ingredient in making guanciale. It helps to preserve the meat and adds flavor. A mixture of sea salt and kosher salt is recommended for best results. The pork jowl should be generously coated with the salt mixture, along with any additional herbs and spices, such as sage, pepper, garlic, rosemary, and thyme.

After salting, the jowl should be placed in a container and left to cure for about a week. During this time, the salt will draw out moisture from the jowl, which will help to preserve it. It is important to maintain a consistent temperature and humidity level during curing, which can be achieved by storing the jowl in a cool, humid place, such as a basement or fridge.

Adding Flavor with Herbs and Spices

In addition to salt, herbs and spices can be used to add flavor to guanciale. Garlic powder and instacure no. 2, which contains nitrites and nitrates for added safety, can be added to the salt mixture for additional flavor and preservation. Rosemary and thyme are also popular choices for adding flavor to guanciale.

Temperature and Humidity Control

Temperature and humidity are important factors in the curing process of guanciale. The ideal temperature for curing is between 50-60°F, with a humidity level of around 60-70%. It is important to monitor the temperature and humidity level regularly during the curing process to ensure that the jowl is properly preserved and does not spoil.

In conclusion, making guanciale requires careful attention to detail and the right combination of ingredients. By choosing the right pork jowl, salting and curing with a mixture of salt and herbs, and maintaining the proper temperature and humidity level, anyone can make delicious, homemade guanciale.

The Curing Process

To make Italian guanciale, the curing process is crucial. It involves applying a mixture of salt, sugar, and curing agents to the pork jowl and letting it hang for several weeks until it is dry and firm. Here are some important aspects of the curing process to keep in mind:

Weight Loss and Curing Time

During the curing process, the pork jowl will lose a significant amount of weight. This is due to the moisture evaporating from the meat as it hangs. The weight loss can range from 20-30% depending on the size of the jowl and the curing conditions.

The curing time can also vary depending on the size of the jowl and the desired level of firmness. Generally, guanciale is cured for 3-4 weeks, but some recipes call for up to 6 weeks. It is important to check the jowl regularly and adjust the curing time as needed to achieve the desired texture.

Identifying Quality Cured Meat

When the guanciale is finished curing, it should be firm to the touch and have a slightly sweet, salty, and smoky aroma. The meat should be evenly cured throughout and have a uniform texture. If there are any soft spots or areas that feel slimy, it may indicate that the meat has not been cured properly.

Another important factor to consider is the presence of lymph nodes. These small, white nodes can be found in the jowl and should be removed before curing. If they are left in, they can create a bitter flavor and a gritty texture in the finished product.

Overall, the curing process is a delicate balance of time, temperature, and seasoning. With the right technique and attention to detail, anyone can make delicious Italian guanciale at home.

Cooking with Guanciale

Guanciale is a popular cured meat used in many Italian dishes, including pasta carbonara, amatriciana, and gricia. It is made from pork cheek and has a rich, savory flavor that adds depth to any dish. Here are some ways to incorporate guanciale into your cooking.

Incorporating Guanciale in Pasta

Guanciale is a popular ingredient in many pasta dishes, especially carbonara and amatriciana. To make spaghetti alla carbonara, cook spaghetti in salted water until al dente. In a separate pan, cook diced guanciale until crispy. In a bowl, whisk together egg yolks, grated pecorino romano cheese, and black pepper. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the guanciale. Remove from heat and add the egg mixture, stirring quickly to coat the pasta. The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs and create a creamy sauce.

For a twist on the classic dish, try using guanciale in bucatini all’amatriciana. Cook bucatini in salted water until al dente. In a separate pan, cook diced guanciale until crispy. Add diced onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes and cook until the onion is translucent. Add canned San Marzano tomatoes and cook until the sauce has thickened. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the sauce. Toss to coat and serve with grated pecorino romano cheese.

Using Guanciale in Meat Dishes

Guanciale can also be used in meat dishes, adding a rich umami flavor. Try using it in a braised pork dish, such as pork belly or shoulder. Brown the pork in a pan with diced guanciale, then transfer to a Dutch oven. Add diced onion, garlic, and carrots and cook until the onion is translucent. Add chicken or beef broth, wine, and herbs and simmer until the pork is tender.

Creating Flavorful Sauces with Guanciale

Guanciale can also be used to create flavorful sauces. Try making a guanciale tomato sauce by cooking diced guanciale in a pan until crispy. Add canned San Marzano tomatoes and cook until the sauce has thickened. Serve over pasta or use as a base for pizza.

Another option is to make a guanciale cream sauce. Cook diced guanciale in a pan until crispy. Add heavy cream and simmer until the sauce has thickened. Serve over pasta or use as a base for pizza.

In conclusion, guanciale is a versatile ingredient that can be used in many Italian dishes. Incorporating it into pasta dishes, meat dishes, and sauces can add depth and richness to your cooking.

Comparing Guanciale with Other Cured Meats

Guanciale vs Pancetta

Guanciale and pancetta are both Italian cured meats that come from pork belly. However, guanciale comes from the jowl or cheek of the pig, while pancetta comes from the belly. Guanciale is typically seasoned with salt, pepper, and sometimes garlic, while pancetta is usually seasoned with salt, pepper, and other spices like fennel, nutmeg, or coriander.

The texture of guanciale is slightly softer than that of pancetta, and it has a more pronounced pork flavor. Guanciale is also richer in fat than pancetta, which makes it ideal for cooking, as the fat renders out and adds flavor to the dish. Pancetta, on the other hand, is a bit leaner and has a milder flavor, which makes it a good choice for salads or sandwiches.

Guanciale vs Bacon

Guanciale and bacon are both made from pork, but they come from different parts of the pig. Guanciale comes from the jowl or cheek, while bacon comes from the belly. Bacon is typically smoked, while guanciale is not.

The texture of guanciale is softer than that of bacon, and it has a more pronounced pork flavor. Guanciale is also richer in fat than bacon, which makes it ideal for cooking, as the fat renders out and adds flavor to the dish. Bacon, on the other hand, is a bit leaner and has a smoky flavor that makes it a popular choice for breakfast dishes.

Guanciale vs Prosciutto

Guanciale and prosciutto are both Italian cured meats, but they come from different parts of the pig. Guanciale comes from the jowl or cheek, while prosciutto comes from the leg. Prosciutto is typically dry-cured and aged for several months, while guanciale is usually cured for a shorter period of time.

The texture of guanciale is softer than that of prosciutto, and it has a more pronounced pork flavor. Guanciale is also richer in fat than prosciutto, which makes it ideal for cooking, as the fat renders out and adds flavor to the dish. Prosciutto, on the other hand, is leaner and has a nutty, salty flavor that makes it a popular choice for antipasti or as a topping for pizza.

In summary, guanciale is a flavorful and rich Italian cured meat that is ideal for cooking, while pancetta is a milder and leaner alternative that is good for salads and sandwiches. Bacon is a smoky and lean option that is popular for breakfast dishes, and prosciutto is a nutty and salty cured meat that is great for antipasti or as a pizza topping.

Where to Buy Quality Guanciale

When it comes to making Italian Guanciale, the quality of the meat is crucial. The pork jowl must be of high quality, and the curing process must be done correctly to achieve the desired taste and texture. Here are some options for where to buy quality Guanciale.

Butcher Shops

Local butcher shops are an excellent place to start when looking for quality Guanciale. They often source their meat from local farmers, ensuring that the meat is fresh and of high quality. Butchers can also offer advice on the best cuts of meat to use and how to prepare them.

Specialty Food Stores

Specialty food stores that focus on Italian cuisine are also a great option for finding quality Guanciale. These stores often have a wide range of cured meats, including Guanciale, and can provide advice on how to use them in traditional Italian dishes.

Online Retailers

Online retailers offer a convenient option for purchasing quality Guanciale. They often have a wider selection of brands and can ship directly to your doorstep. However, it’s essential to do your research and read reviews to ensure that you are buying from a reputable seller.

Farmers Markets

Farmers markets are an excellent place to find locally sourced Guanciale. The farmers can provide information on how the meat was raised and cured, ensuring that you are getting a high-quality product. Plus, buying from local farmers supports the local economy and promotes sustainable agriculture.

In conclusion, there are several options for where to buy quality Guanciale. Local butcher shops, specialty food stores, online retailers, and farmers markets are all great options for finding the perfect cut of meat for your Italian Guanciale recipe.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the traditional recipe for making guanciale?

The traditional recipe for making guanciale involves rubbing pork jowl with a mixture of salt, sugar, and spices, then hanging it to dry for several weeks. Some recipes also call for the addition of curing salt, which contains sodium nitrate. The exact recipe can vary depending on the region of Italy and the personal preferences of the cook.

How do I make crispy guanciale?

To make crispy guanciale, it is important to slice it thinly and cook it slowly over low heat until it is browned and crispy. Some recipes call for cooking the guanciale in a dry pan, while others suggest adding a small amount of oil to help it crisp up. It is important to watch the guanciale closely while cooking to prevent it from burning.

What are some of the best guanciale recipes?

Guanciale is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes, from pasta carbonara to pizza and sandwiches. Some popular guanciale recipes include spaghetti alla carbonara, bucatini all’amatriciana, and pizza alla romana. Many cooks also enjoy using guanciale in soups and stews for added flavor.

Where can I find guanciale near me?

Guanciale can be difficult to find in some areas, but it is often available at specialty food stores and Italian markets. Some butchers may also carry guanciale, or be able to order it for you. If you are unable to find guanciale locally, it can also be purchased online from a variety of retailers.

What are some uses for guanciale?

Guanciale is a flavorful ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. It is often used in pasta sauces, pizza toppings, and sandwiches. Some cooks also enjoy using guanciale in soups and stews for added depth of flavor.

Is guanciale typically smoked in the curing process?

No, guanciale is not typically smoked in the curing process. Instead, it is simply rubbed with salt and spices and hung to dry for several weeks. This results in a rich, flavorful meat that is perfect for use in a variety of dishes.

Do you have other Charcuterie Videos?

Yes! we do, here is a list:
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Cooking With An Italian

Ciao I am Piero coming all the way from Puglia Italy. I created this site to bring my love of food to all, hope you enjoy.