Follow these 8 tips making an incredible Philly cheesesteak at home. The recipe is incredibly simple, but the technique will take yours over the top!
Mr. BB and I have been living in Philadelphia now for a year and a half. It doesn’t quite feel like home yet. It probably never truly will. Kansas will always have that comforting coming home feeling for us.
But Philly is starting to grow on us more and more. Some of its assets include the fascinating history that fills the streets, it is incredibly compact and walkable (the main part of the city anyway), it is a very short distance and easy access to tons of other east coast cities, and it has a top-notch food scene.
All of these things are pulling us into this city and making it feel more and more exciting and comfortable to live here each day.
In the year and a half living here we have obviously had more than our fair share of cheesesteaks. We’ve tried the original places, we’ve tried the hole in the wall places, we’ve had them at diners, at corner stores, and at food carts, or even at sit down restaurants.
Pretty much every city block in Philly has your pick of places to find a cheesesteak. And let’s face it. Fatty meat + cheese + onions + bread always equals delicious. BUT I have to tell you, we have been pretty disappointed with most of the cheesesteaks we’ve had in the city. Mostly because of the lack of flavor with the meat.
And I say this being fully aware that I do not have the authority to speak on the authenticity of cheesesteaks. I believe that the truly authentic cheesesteak may not be what is the most flavorful and delicious for most.
So today I bring you a recipe, well more of a technique really, of how to make a cheesesteak that is incredibly flavorful but that will also not deviate too much from what is authentic.
Mr. BB told me in moans and groans while stuffing his face, that this was absolutely the best cheesesteak he has eaten. He ate this thing like it was his last meal. Hopefully that is enough of a testament for you.
8 TIPS FOR MAKING AN AMAZING CHEESESTEAK AT HOME
Disclaimer: I acknowledge that this is not the most authentic way of making a cheesesteak but before all of the Philadelphia natives and cheesesteak purists start criticizing, I ask that you try it this way. Try it exactly this way just once.
Tip #1: Use Ribeye
A cheesesteak obviously starts with the steak. You want ribeye for this cheesesteak. It has a good amount of fat/marbling and will keep the meat moist and flavorful.
Tip #2: Cut the Meat Thin
If you have the opportunity to get your butcher to cut the beef on the meat slicer have them do so for you. Ask them to cut it very very thin. But, if you do not have this option or prefer to cut it yourself, you can use this technique to get a very thin slice: place the beef in the freezer for 30-45 minutes to get it firm then use a very sharp knife to cut the meat as thin as possible. This is what I did and it works very well. If you do cut the meat yourself make sure that you cut it against the grain. All meat has a grain (direction of the meat fibers), so look for the grain and slice the meat in the opposite direction. This will keep the meat most tender.
Tip #3: Fluffy Bread with a Slight Crust
Here in Philly and surrounding areas, the best cheesesteaks use Amaroso Rolls. The rolls are crusty on the outside and nice and fluffy on the inside. If you don’t live in this area though, you likely won’t find these rolls. I suggest looking for a roll that is sturdy but not too crusty or too soft. You want a slight crust on the outside and a fluffy inside. You also don’t want a roll that is too thick or bready. I also suggest toasting the bread just slightly in the oven prior to adding the filling.
Tip #4: Use American Cheese (or don’t, if you feel some type of way about that)
Now this is the point where cheesesteak purists disagree the most. In Philly, provolone or cheez whiz are the most common options for cheese and many people get in very heated arguements about which is best. But a lot of traditional cheesesteak places also offer american cheese. I’ve tried all three of these options numerous times. BUT Mr. BB and I both agree that american cheese is best on this sandwich. And here are my reasons and arguments, just hear me out. American cheese has a low melting point so it quickly gets all melty and gooey. It also has more moisture and flavor than provolone. Don’t hear me wrong. I understand that american cheese is super processed and gross, but gross in an incredibly delicious way. Cheez whiz is also equally tasty and discusting, but my cheese barrier tip below validates my reasoning for using american cheese more. Try to get an american cheese that is at least of slightly better quality than those bright yellow Kraft singles.
Here’s the thing, there are some people that are passionately against american cheese always. If you are one of those people, use the cheese you like. You are the one eating it!
Tip #5: Create a Cheese Barrier
THE MEAT WILL MELT THE CHEESE!! EVERYONE CALM DOWN!
While this may not be the most authentic way to make a cheesesteak, we think this is the best way to do it. The cheese barrier allows the cheese to get all melty while keeping your bread from getting too soggy!
Lay your cheese, and lots of it, in the roll before adding the meat. This tip is multi function. It creates a barrier between the bead and the meat keeping the bread from getting overly soggy. It also allows the cheese to get perfectly melty and gooey once the hot meat is placed right on top. Trust me. Cheese barrier is a good idea!
Tip #6: Caramelize the Onions
One of the things I am often disappointed by with my cheesesteak is the way the onions are cooked. A lot of places do get a good caramelization on them, but many of them just sweat and soften the onions. I’m not a fan. Getting some good color on those onions just equals more flavor! Get the pan very hot, add your oil, then throw your onions in with some salt and pepper. Cook for a minute or two until they get good color on them before adding the beef.
Tip #7: SEASON THE MEAT FOR GOD’S SAKE!
This has been THE biggest disappointment when trying cheesesteaks around the city. So many places, so, so, many places, don’t season the meat at all. Like not even the tiniest pinch of salt. It kills me. I know that cheesesteak is all about the steak. We aren’t trying to mask the flavor here. But salt enhances flavor! And no, adding salt yourself to the already cooked sandwich is not the same. I think this is my biggest tip. Season your meat well while it’s cooking with at the very least salt, but preferably with salt and pepper. I like to throw just a tiny bit of garlic powder in there too. Just a very small amount. It won’t taste garlicky, just adds a little something. But that is completely optional.
Tip #8: Eat Immediately
This is a juicy, drippy, gooey sandwich. It’s really not one that can sit around for a while. As soon as that meat hits the cheese barrier and starts getting it all gooey you should devour immediately. You won’t be able to wait anyway.
Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich
- 1 lb ribeye steak
- 1 medium onion, small diced
- 8 slices american cheese
- 2 large hoagie rolls (the ones I used were about 10″ long)
- 2 TBSP canola or vegetable oil
- salt and pepper
- garlic powder (optional)
- If your steak was not already sliced by your butcher, place it in the freezer for about 45 minutes. Remove the steak from the freezer and use a sharp knife to cut the meat as thin as possible, making sure the cut against the grain. Set aside.
- Cut the rolls down the center and place 4 slices of cheese each in the rolls.
Meanwhile, preheat a skillet over medium-high heat. Once the skillet is hot add the oil to the pan. Add the onions to the pan and season with salt and pepper. Saute for a few minutes until slightly caramelized.
- Keeping the pan over medium-high heat, add the steak to the pan with the onions and season well with salt and pepper and a bit of garlic powder if desired. Cook just until cooked through, this should only take a couple of minutes. You do not want to over cook the meat. Most often, cheesesteak cooks shred the meat even further while cooking it by breaking it up with your spatula. I do this and I like the texture and it keeps everything tender. This is up to you.
- Immediately divide the meat and onions between the two rolls.
This recipe serves two very hungry people or the sandwiches can easily feed 4 people by cutting them in half. They are very large sandwiches.