Growing up in Philadelphia made me a lover of cheesesteaks. Fun Diego Family is on a quest to find the best cheesesteak in San Diego. However, I have learned to make a decent version at home. This Philly Cheesesteak Recipe is more about the ingredients and technique I use. It will never be truly authentic, but my family loves it.
Many people say you can not get a true cheesesteak outside of Philadelphia because the bread is the crucial ingredient. They say the water in Philadelphia makes the best bread in the world. I can definitely say that Philadelphia hoagies are far superior to other sandwich. A large part of this is because of the hoagie roll, that is also used for cheesesteaks.
I admit most of the time making a Philly Cheesesteak is a last-minute decision (usually when I see ribeye on sale). That means I grab whatever bread I can get from the grocery store. That may be a hoagie roll or even a loaf of French bread. However, if you plan ahead you can get bread direct from Philadelphia.
The Amoroso bakery has made a business of selling its bread to restaurants across the U.S. On Amazon you can go online and order a package of 18 rolls for under $30. This is a great deal. Of course, you will need to freeze any rolls you don’t use right away. Unfortunately, in our house, freezer space is at a premium so we do not do this option.
It should also be noted that, contrary to popular opinion, Amoroso is not the prime bakery for the best Philly cheesesteak places. There are many small bakeries in Philadelphia and this is where most shops get their bread from. I have talked to some Philly cheesesteak operators who openly disparage Amoroso’s as not the real deal.
Liscio’s is a fairly new bakery that many claim is the best. Major Philly cheesesteak places like Tony Luke’s, Geno’s, Campo’s, Primo and Caprotti’s use Liscio bread.
I lived in the western suburbs of Philadelphjia and many of the shops in the area got their bread from the nearby Conshohocken Bakery. Other legit bakeries for hoagie rolls include Sarcone’s, Aversa’s and Del-Buono’s.
Really there is no getting around the fact that you will never get true Philly bread in most of the U.S. Amoroso’s is decent compromise but I just don’t sweat the bread. I have tried making my own rolls using recipes from The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book and David Rosengarten’s It’s All American Food. However, that is generally too much effort. Most of the time when we make cheesesteak it is a last-minute deal.
The best meat for Philly Cheesesteaks is rib-eye. Of course, this can be expensive, so it is okay to substitute top round. Many Philly places use top round over rib-eye. I like to stock up on rib-eye when it goes on sale for around $5 a pound (usually bone-in, you want to remove the bones!).
Erin also does her own version of cheesesteak. She gets meat from the many Asian butchers in our area. The main advantage is it already comes thinly sliced. Presumably for use in stir-fry, pho, ramen and other Asian dishes. However, I have learned how to get a very thin slice on my meat. When I make cheesesteaks I slice my own.
Getting a thin slice on the meat is crucial. I have seen many so called cheesesteaks where the meat is simply too thick. You could buy an expensive meat slicer or ask the butcher to do it. However, I have found that the slicing blade on my food processor does the trick.
I have gone through about 6 food processors over the years, but my current Cuisinart is by far my favorite. Best of all it comes with an adjustable slicing blade perfect for cutting meat thin for Philly cheesesteaks.
The secret is to cut the meat in fairly large chunks, just small enough to fit in the tube of the food processor. Partially freeze the meat. Set the slicing blade on its lowest setting of 1 mm and feed the meat through.
In my favorite Philadelphia cheesesteak places, they cut the meat even smaller on the griddle. The problem is this wreaks havoc on both the knifes and griddle. What I do is take the meat from the food processor and further slice it while it is still partially frozen. The result is very thin, finely chopped meat that cooks in a matter of minutes. Just don’t forget to season the meat before cooking (I have done that once or twice).
There is a great deal of debate over what cheese to use in cheesesteaks. Many claim that authentic cheesesteaks only use Cheez Whiz. Growing up in Philadelphia, the places I went to only served either Provolone or White American.
Cheez Whiz became known because it was served at the popular and touristy Pat’s cheesesteak. I have actually never been to Pat’s because, while it was one of the first cheesesteak places, it is generally rated as mainly for tourists. Last time in Philadelphia we parked right by Pat’s and walked down the street to Cosmi’s Deli.
More Philadelphia places are bowing to the pressure and adding Cheez Whiz as an option. However, some are holding strong and refusing to serve it.
I far prefer provolone over either Cheez Whiz or white American. However, my wife takes guilty pleasure in Cheez Whiz. Just realize, if you don’t want to, there is no need to add a highly processed fake cheese product to a sandwich that is already not the healthiest.
In Philadelphia they will ask you if you want your cheesesteak with or without onions (wit or without). I always get it with and have taken things a step further by adding green peppers to the mix. This is not standard but is a commonly founded add-on option.
There are many ways to dress up your cheesesteak. Hot cherry peppers are common. There is also a long hot pepper hard to find outside Philadelphia. Mushroom cheesesteaks and pizza cheesesteaks (adding marinara sauce and sometimes pepperoni) are common. Ketchup and hot sauce are commonly used. But never mayo or mustard. Run if you come across a place where mayo comes standard on a Philly cheesesteak.
In terms of equipment, you can do this in a skillet pan. However, I think it is better to do it on a griddle. For years, we had an expensive All-Clad griddle. Recently we replacerd with a much less expensive Lodge griddle that was only about $30. It is a reversible grill/griddle that also works great for hamburgers, panacakes
To see more about our cheesesteak quest go here.
Philly Cheesesteak Recipe
This Philly Cheesesteak Recipe attempts to get as close to the real thing as you can at home.
- 3 pounds rib-eye thinly sliced and chopped
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 green pepper sliced into strips (optional)
- 1 onion thinly sliced (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons canola oil
- 10 slices provolone cheese
- 6 rolls
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in griddle or large skillet pan. If using add sliced onions and peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes until partially brown. Remove from heat and set aside.
Season meat with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon oil to griddle or skillet pan. Add meat and cook until it is brown on all sides, about 3 minutes. Top with cheese and cook another two minutes until cheese is melted.
Serve on rolls with onions, peppers and any other desired toppings.
NOTE: Cheez Whiz and White American can also be used. If using Cheez Whiz add at end. Hot cherry peppers, mushrooms, marinara sauce and even ketchup are popular toppings