Guanciale is a precious ingredient in Italian cuisine. A cured meat prepared from pork jowl or cheeks, it’s most famous in central Italian cuisine and is known for its distinctive flavour and fatty texture. This sets it apart from bacon and pancetta and is most widely used in pasta dishes such as Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, and Pasta alla Gricia.

But in order to enjoy the greatness of guanciale, it’s important to know how to cut and prepare it properly. So, whether you’re a seasoned cook or an adventurous beginner in the kitchen, our step-by-step guide will help you to understand the nuances of guanciale and its preparation to take your flavour levels up another notch.
How to cut guanciale: Step-by-step

  1. Begin with a whole piece of guanciale, ideally chilled.
  2. Using a sharp knife, slice the guanciale thinly, around half a centimetre thick. Thin slices ensure even cooking and the development of crispy, flavourful spots. It is important to slice into long strips before chopping into smaller pieces, this is so that your smaller pieces will have both fat and meat on them.  
  3. Guanciale often comes with a rind. Usually the top of the guanciale is seasoned but the bottom will not be as seasoned as heavily. This means it is best to trim the unseasoned rind. If trimming, use a knife to carefully remove the tough outer layer. The rind is great for adding to soups and stews.
  4. Depending on your recipe, you may need to cut the slices further into smaller pieces, such as cubes or strips. Ensure uniformity for even cooking.
How to cook guanciale

There are three main ways to cook guanciale – baking, sautéing, or pan-frying. Here are some tips and tricks for the different methods. 

Baking guanciale

Baking your guanciale is a quick and easy way to make the most out of the cured meat. You can then add it to any dish to add a smoky and punchy flavourful addition.

  1. Preheat your oven 200°C. 
  2. Slice guanciale into thin strips.
  3. Place the guanciale pieces on an oven-safe tray or baking sheet lined with parchment paper. No additional oil is needed as guanciale is naturally fatty. 
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until the guanciale turns crispy and golden brown. 
  5. Remove from the oven and let it cool slightly before using it in your favourite dishes.

Sautéing guanciale

A lot of Italian dishes will pair greens and vegetables with sauteed guanciale, but you can also pair it with omelettes and frittatas, or even your favourite potato dishes.

  1. In a pan, heat a dash of olive oil over medium heat. 
  2. Add the sliced guanciale and sauté until it becomes crispy and lightly browned.
  3. Remove the guanciale from the pan, leaving the flavourful fat behind.
  4. This is when you can add your other ingredients, whether that’s the eggs for your omelette, your favourite green vegetable, or some crispy potatoes, and let them cook in the fat. 
  5. Then add your crispy and golden guanciale back in. 

Pan-frying guanciale

Pan-frying is the best way to create the perfect Italian pasta dish.

  1. Slice the guanciale into thin strips. 
  2. Heat a skillet or frying pan over medium-high heat. There's no need for extra oil as guanciale will release its own fat when heated. 
  3. Add the sliced guanciale to the hot pan and cook until it turns crispy and golden brown, stirring occasionally. This should take about 6-8 minutes. Once the guanciale is crispy, remove it from the pan, leaving the rendered fat in the skillet.
  4. Use the guanciale fat to coat cooked pasta and combine it with other ingredients to create classic Italian pasta dishes like spaghetti alla Carbonara, bucatini all’Amatriciana, or pasta alla Gricia.
Try our favourite guanciale recipes

Pasta alla Gricia
Indulge in the rustic charm of Pasta alla Gricia, a Roman classic. This dish combines guanciale, Pecorino Romano cheese, and black pepper to create a creamy and decadent pasta sauce. It's a comforting and satisfying meal that celebrates the essence of Italian simplicity.

Bucatini all’Amatriciana
Bucatini all’Amatriciana is a beloved pasta dish hailing from the town of Amatrice. It features guanciale, tomatoes, Pecorino Romano cheese, and chilli flakes for a spicy kick.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Make the classic Spaghetti alla Carbonara, where guanciale, eggs, Pecorino Romano cheese, and black pepper come together to create a luxurious pasta dish. It's a Roman classic that showcases the magic of guanciale at its best.

Now that you've unlocked the secrets to preparing guanciale, why not have a go at cooking with it in the comfort of your own home? The Deli society offers great deals on Tuscan Guanciale and an array of Italian wines to pair with your creations.

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