How To Buy And Slice Pepperoni For Perfect Crispy Cups

Each month, approximately 93% of Americans have at least a single slice of pizza, and throughout the year Americans each consume around 23 pounds of pizza. With pepperoni listed as the favorite topping by far (with over 251 million pounds consumed annually in the United States just via pizza), it's fair to assume that at least some Americans may be a little picky about finding — or making — the perfect pepperoni pizza.

Of course, there are a lot of elements that go into building the best slice, from creating the ideal level of crispiness in the crust and using just the right spices in the sauce to developing the perfect crust-to-sauce-to-cheese ratio. But more recently, the focus has shifted for some to finding the cute, curled pepperoni cups nestled on top of their cheesy pies. But not just any pepperoni will form that way — it requires the right casing and medium-thick slicing to turn into the simultaneously crispy and (pleasantly) greasy morsel of goodness perched on top of your pizza.

Whether you call this style of pepperoni 'roni cups, cup-and-char pepperoni, or cupping pepperoni, it's important to note that these are not just aesthetically appealing. Many would argue that they are also far superior to their counterpart — the lay-flat pepperoni — in terms of taste and texture. Fortunately, chef J. Kenji López-Alt put in the scientific research to determine exactly how to achieve the perfect pepperoni cups and reported his findings on Serious Eats.

How to buy and slice pepperoni for pepperoni cups

J. Kenji López-Alt conducted a litany of trials — from testing the thickness of the pepperoni and trying different directions for the heat source to examining how casing affects pepperoni reactions under heat. And after all was said and done, he uncovered the parameters that are necessary to achieve the perfect pepperoni cup.

First, choosing pepperoni with a natural or collagen casing (instead of a fibrous casing) is key if you want cupping pepperoni. Not only does it contribute to the shrinkage of the pepperoni, but the way that the meat is stuffed into those styles of casing is also conducive to pepperoni curling.

The thickness of the pepperoni matters, too. Pepperonis curl and crisp because of the difference in the way the top and bottom of the pepperoni react to heat. The thicker the slice of pepperoni, the greater the difference will be between the top and the bottom. However, the stiffness of overly thick pepperoni will prevent it from curling. So, slicing pepperoni to a thickness within the range of .1 inch (2.5 millimeters) to .225 inch (5.6 millimeters) should result in consummate cupping.

Why did pepperoni cups become so popular?

Despite the fact that Detroit and New Haven have been bestowed the title of pizza capital of the U.S., there's no denying that New York City sets a standard for pizza as well. So, it comes as no surprise that the backstory of the pepperoni cup's renewed popularity originates there.

Some say the trend began in 2012 when New York pizza shop Prince Street Pizza began serving their slices piled high with cupping pepperonis. Others point to 2016 as the breakthrough year for the 'roni cup, pointing to the introduction of Ezzo Sausage Co.'s cupping pepperonis into the New York market, at which point a multitude of popular pizza places began offering them. Regardless of the exact timing, one thing most industry insiders and observers agree on is that social media is responsible for the proliferation of cupping pepperoni.

Underscoring that point is the Instagram page of self-proclaimed little pepperoni enthusiast @little.peps, who has garnered over 47,000 followers on their page devoted exclusively to photos of pizzas topped with the tiny pepperonis. Similarly, IG user @ronicups shares pics of pizzas with the cup-and-char style pepperoni to their nearly 23,000 followers. A simple search of "cupping pepperonis" on Instagram yields a seemingly endless number of results that could keep you scrolling for the foreseeable future.

Of course, TikTok also has its own share of curled pepperoni reels, with one by @mubereats that features an appetizer of 'roni cups and ranch. It would seem that these trendy pepperonis aren't just for pizza anymore.