Ah, the city of brotherly love. It’s a hard-scrabble town filled with great people and even better food. While the city is filled with all sorts of immigrant communities slinging their impeccable culinary wares, Philadelphia’s crown jewel is, of course, the Philly Cheesesteak.
We recommend visiting Philly to try out the genuine article, but if you don’t live in the area, we’ll teach you how to make the best cheesesteak you can in your very own kitchen.
The Anatomy of a Philly Cheesesteak
The Philly Cheesesteak was invented in the 1930s by a Philadelphian hot dog vendor named Pat Olivieri. Bored by serving his traditional sausage rolls, Pat decided to buy some beef from a local butcher, chop it up, and serve it on an Italian hoagie, and thusly the cheesesteak was born.
Since then, the recipe has barely changed. We’ll walk you through the anatomy of a cheesesteak here.
When composing a Philly Cheesesteak at home, you cannot skimp out on the bread. The rolls you use must be chewy, with a crisp, flaky outer shell. This is a messy sandwich, so you need a hearty roll that can soak up the slop and keep its structure.
Low-quality meat is usually the nail in the coffin for any meal, but here, the quality of the meat hardly matters. If you visit an authentic cheesesteak shop in Philadelphia, they’ll be using some pretty low-quality meat, too, so don’t bother going for the pricy stuff.
It’s a working man’s meal – essentially gourmet junk food – so go to the grocery and find the cheapest rib-eye beef you can find, sautee it with a neutral oil until it browns, and either slice or chop it up fine.
Typically, you’ll find Philly Cheesesteak is topped with either provolone, American cheddar, or…Cheese Whiz. It may sound odd, but we promise you that the latter option is the best choice for a cheesesteak. Its meltiness perfectly coats an otherwise bland cut of meat better than any other cheese.
Trying a “Whiz” at Boos in Philadelphia will teach you more about why it’s the best option.
Lastly, a Philly Cheesesteak would not be complete without the onions, which typically come fried, grilled, or sauteed. No matter how you cook ’em, they’ve got to be a soft golden-brown.
When adding them to the sandwich, you can do it one of two ways. You can dice them and incorporate them with the meat, or you can julienne them, dressing them on top of the sandwich.
Once the onions are on, you’ve got the perfect cheesesteak!
Craving More Foodie Content?
So there you have it. That’s how you make a delicious Philly Cheesesteak. It’s a simple sandwich for simple people made with ingredients you can buy for cents on the dollar at any grocery store worth its salt.
If you’re craving even more foodie content, be sure to check out the rest of the Food section of our website!