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The best Cheese Steak Recipe

I've been enjoying the discussion amongst Philly locals about the best cheese steak joints in Philly. The debate has touched on a nerve for me, which relates to the cheese. Many people think classic cheese steaks should use "Cheese Whiz", although most of the cheese steak connoisseurs claim they would never touch the stuff. I've seen a lot of claims for provolone, or american, but few supporters for the whiz. In a recent Throw Down with Bobby Flay, he took on a local restaurant in a cheese steak competition. They were making the traditional steak and whiz for the multitudes, but once they realized Flay was there for a challenge, they phoned in to the restaurant for the really good stuff, and totally changed their recipe in order to compete with Flay on taste.

I love cheese steaks, and would rather make then at home rather than eat the mediocre sandwhiches in my area. I know the basic ingredients are a good hard roll, thin sliced steak, and cheese....but the variations and techniques can be endless. I'd love to hear how some of you 'hounds make killer cheese steaks. In particular, what kind of meat, and how do you prepare it?

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  1. That Throwdown episode was with Tony Luke. This site has all their sandwiches on the menu. Maybe you can get some ideas:

    http://www.tonylukes.com/

    1. I grab a few ribeye steaks from the meat section of the grocery store, then find someone behind the meat counter and ask them to put it on their slicing machine and slice it very thin. They usually don't mind, or at least don't act like they do.

      Throw meat in a hot skillet and pull apart with two small spatulas, while flipping it around. Season with a little salt and a lot of ground black pepper. Pile meat into a rough "sub" shape, throw a few slices of American (or provolone) cheese on top, add sliced roll upside-down and let sit in hot pan for about 30 seconds. Scoop up with spatula, flip the whole mess over and eat. Mmmmmmmmm...

      6 Replies
      1. re: QueenB

        Thanks QueenB. I've got my Rib eye sliced and am anxious to make some cheese steak sandwhiches for dinner tomorrow. I'm sure they will be AWESOME!

        1. re: egbluesuede

          Good luck! And let us know how your cheesesteak turns out!

          BTW, you can also throw some sauteed onion on top if you like. I'm a steak and cheese only girl most of the time!

          1. re: QueenB

            Oooooh they were AWESOME. Rib eye steak, chip steak peppers, sauteed onions, and a little portabella mushroom topped with Provalone! Thanks for all of the suggestions every one! I will never be able to order out again!

            1. re: egbluesuede

              i used to live in south jersey at the shore and i think the thing i miss the most is the cheese steaks and the cheese fries on every corner.

              i loved mine with provolone, sauteed mushrooms and onions and heinz ketchup!!! it was heaven!!!!

        2. re: QueenB

          I would add to this suggestion that, arguably, one of the secrets is to put a metal bowl upside down over the meat when the cheese is on top, trapping some of the moisture in so that the cheese-melting time doesn't dry out the meat, and, in fact, traps in the moisture almost like a pressure-cooker.

          1. re: joypirate

            That's what the rollis for. Get the meat et.al in the right shape, place the cheese on to and Instead of the metal bowl, slice the roll and tent it. Two effects. As you said traps some steam to melt the cheese, PLUS steam the roll so it is extra good.

        3. Well, I grew up with cheesesteaks and made many while growing up (family owned local fast food place in NJ). No whiz for me! *Shudder* Now cheesesteak is a fast food, ya gotta admit that, so certain criteria matters. The roll is prime! Great rest of it on a bad roll, will not work. I personally like Steak-Ums. yeah, them..I like processed american cheese, Great Lakes, in fact. Ya can't make a non-processed White Castle. Ya can't make a non-processed chessesteak.

          1. I would like to second QueenB on both meat and technique- I used to make cheesesteaks in South Jersey, and that's how you do it!
            If I was making it at home, I would use provolone. When I order one now, I order it with American. If I was eating one at 2am like I used to in my college days, I always went with wiz. I think the alchohol made you immune to the stuff.

            1 Reply
            1. re: JCap

              and there was ALWAYS a place to get a cheese steak at 2am on the way home from a party!!! what was up with that? i can barely find a hospital open at 2am these days!!!

              dang. how i miss jersey!!!

            2. I freeze the meat, then shave it as it defrosts. The thinner the better.

              1. Most of my cheesesteaks were eaten at Cisco's in Flourtown.
                And I should have taken notes, but what are the three different pickled peppers (and how do you make them?) that Cisco uses on their Cheese Steaks? Are the peppers an important part of the food at other restaurants?

                3 Replies
                1. re: shallots

                  The first cheesesteak I ever had was in Boston and it was the best thing I have ever eaten then and now. I had no idea it was originally from Philly. When I finally got to Philly, I was taken to this little hole-in-the-wall with newspaper clippings all over the walls claiming it to be the best. I almost cried when I was handed this abomination with "squirt cheese" on it. In Boston it was made with a combination of provolone and mozzarella - YUM!

                  1. re: shallots

                    The smoke from the grill of your first cheesesteak is still probably on the walls. The inside of Cisco's hasn't changed ever.

                  2. My local chinese grocery store carries thinly sliced rib eye steak in their freezer section. It sautees up in seconds, and makes a very flavorful sandwich, cheesesteak or french dip.

                    1. Local grocer makes his own roast beef for the deli department so I cheat a little. I buy thinly sliced roast beef at the grocer and a couple of slices of provolone (that's the cheese i like best). I slice some onions and cook then slowly in some oil and butter until soft and browned in the same pan as some sliced mushrooms (regular old whites). I cook the RB in an oblong pan pulling apart with two spatulas with a little Pennzey's Chicago Steak Seasoning. When almost done i toss in the onion/shroom mix, lay the cheese on top, tent the roll on top of that and wait a few for the roll to steam a little. Spatula under the whole mess and do a major flip. 90-95% into the roll, 5-10% on the floor for the dog. A little Heinz ketchup and two happy campers.

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: jfood

                        I was right there with you until the Heinz ketchup........ketchup has no place on a cheesesteak : )

                        1. re: sdv231

                          I know, it's one of those things that people criticism me for, but i really like the flavor of grilled meat onions cheese and ketchup (sounds like a commerical for a hamburger). But look at the bright side, I used to put mayo on as well. Even I shudder at that thought today.

                          I feel the same way as you when I read people putting mayo on hot dogs. Go figure.

                          1. re: jfood

                            Plenty of folks like mayo on their cheesesteaks. Personally, I only do that when I order a cheesesteak hoagie.

                            As for your ketchup, my mom always used to get her cheesesteaks topped with marinara sauce. I was never a fan, but it's worth a try.

                            1. re: QueenB

                              QB, other than a hoagie roll what else would you put a cheesestek on?

                              1. re: jfood

                                That's the only appropriate roll as far as I'm concerned. Although out of desperation, I will admit to having eaten Steak-Umm on white bread, but I can't even consider that a cheesesteak.

                                Or are you asking because of my usage of the term "cheesesteak hoagie"?
                                A cheesesteak hoagie is a cheesesteak dressed up with mayo, lettuce, tomato, raw onion and oregano. A mess to eat, and only a few places can do it just right.

                                If you already know this, I sincerely apologize.

                                1. re: QueenB

                                  White breads cool, i have no problem with a cheesesteak on Wonder.

                                  In CT a hoagie is the shape of the roll so a cheesesteak hoagie is just the beginning of the order. Then you give the all important, onions ushroom, or anything else.

                                  Where is it that they put raw onion and mayo on a cheesesteak as a matter of course without special instructions?

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    Well, in the Philly 'burbs (where I come from), if you walk up to the counter and say "cheesesteak hoagie", you'll get exactly what I described. When you order a cheesesteak, you never utter the word "hoagie" unless you wish to have all of the lettuce, tomato, etc...

                                    If I were to order my favorite back home, I'd go up to the counter and say, "cheesesteak, American, mushrooms" and end up with a cheesesteak on a hoagie roll with american cheese and 'shrooms.

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      In CT they're called grinder rolls ;-)

                                      1. re: jacquelyncoffey

                                        Thanks J. Long week. Wasn;t sure in CT (grinder), NJ (sub), or Pa (Hoagie). Then I go to the store and try to buy potato hot dog rolls and they call them "long" rolls. What's that about?

                                2. re: QueenB

                                  I would have never thought to put mayo on a cheesesteak until I was asked whether I wanted it...this seems highly unnecessary...you can keep piling caloric things on it, but is it really worth it...cheese seems like enough, and half the time there isn't even enough of that to make an impact.

                                  1. re: observor

                                    interesting that 2 years ago jfood posted no mayo. now his normal thursday night dinner on his flight home is a cheesestaek with ketchup and mayo and now he adds some vinegar peppers.

                            2. re: jfood

                              Actually LOTS of Philadelphians put ketchup on cheesesteaks. Personally, I prefer a Marinara-type sauce, but of you order a PIZZA steak in the wrong place, you'll get Mozzarella, and they'll toast it (and charge extra !!) I typically order a cheesteak, American with sauce and fried onions.

                            3. OK, I know this is not a cheese steak recipe, but if you like cheese steaks you will love this!

                              A local BBQ place here in town used to make a prime rib sandwich that was a heart attack on a bun - and realy, realy, realy, good!

                              The basic sandwich is:

                              Take a nice crusty baguet (must be a wide one), mix blue cheese and butter (double yum!), and slather both halves of the baguet. Take a nice 1/2" thick slab of prime rib dripping with juices and put it on one of the baguets. Top with sauted onions and a very zesty BBQ sauce (I usually just mix katchup, vinegar, worshtishire, brown sugar, and Tobasco sauce). Another optional topping is to sautee some mushrooms with the onions as well.

                              You don't need a lot of BBQ sauce, just enough to give you a lip smaking zest. Or I suppose you could mix some horseradish in the butter/blue chease mix and for-go the BBQ sauce. Either way it is extreamely unhealthy and realy delicious!!

                              Cheers!!

                              1. A GREAT cheesteak comes down to ingredients and preparation. Philly partisans prove that either rib eye or round will work. It MUST be sliced paper-thin, which really requires a deli-slicer. You may be able to partially freeze the meat and excercise surgical skill with a sharp slicing knife.

                                As was brought up here, the roll is ALL important. In Philly and S. Jersey, this is no problem, but if you are in Phoenix, AZ you are hosed. The roll should have slightly crispy crust and a fresh chewy interior. In Florida, I have used Cuban bread, and in Paris, made do with fresh baguettes. If you live in a climate where bread turns to melba toast as soon as it leaves the oven, you should save up for plane tickets to Philly,

                                Wiz is fine. American is fine. Provolone ... I think should be saved for hoagies (even a steak hoagie.) Pizza shops often toss on Mozzarela..... Bad idea ... as is toasting the roll.

                                When John Kerry came to Philly he ordered his steak with SWISS !!!! Guess what THAT got him....

                                Reall good cheesesteak chefs blend everything together on the grill.. fried onions, mushrooms, hot or sweet peppers and sliced cheese together with the meat before scooping it all up with the roll. If you use Wiz, just slather it on the roll.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: phillyjazz

                                  I realize this is an old conversation. But is there much difference between rib eye and round in a finished Philly Cheese steak? Because I'm seeing a huge price difference between the two -- like, 7 bucks a pound difference for the USDA choice.

                                  Obviously, I'm predisposed to go with the top round for reasons of flavor, price and fat, but I wonder if it has enough fat to give the sandwich that richness that a proper one has. If I were to go to one of the iconic places like Geno's, which would I find in the freezer? On the same subject, do they even use choice beef or do they use select? I'm wondering because I want to make the "best" cheese steaks in terms of my guests' enjoyment but I also want to know about the canonical cheese steak.

                                2. I like to buy "cheap" rib eye steaks from a standard grocery store like Ralphs that are cut an inch or less thick, coat em in Prudohomme blackening seasoning and sear em in a cast iron. Then cook up some onion, mushrooms and sometimes peppers, all sliced up in the same pan as the steak. I cut up the steak it small chucks and put em back in the pan with the veggies. Then I top the contents with Tillamook smoked cheddar and serve on bread. Its damn good. Seriously.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: blackbookali

                                    Try William Rice's recipe from his "Steak Lovers Cookbook". So Good.

                                  2. hey , how are you, my name is duane. i grew up in the boston mass area and quite a few of my family members have either a rest business or something of the like. in that area alot of the old timers use home cured and smoked roast beef , ( you can get the same from any deli, just get the rarest) and american cheese. i moved to pa a couple of years ago and they do not have the same recipes as back home , so,,,,,, what i do is take a nice peice of london broil, put it through my grinder 2 to 3 times , throw it on my flat top griddle , throw som "boston spices" on it and then throw on about half a cup of mozzerella, mix it up , throw it on the sub roll and serve. everyone has different taste but if you want as close to traditional boston cheesesteak at home this is it. hope this helps.

                                    2 Replies
                                      1. re: draven74

                                        I grew up in Philly (and return often) and have lived in Boston 20 years now and have NEVER seen a 'traditional Boston cheesesteak" anything like what draven74 describes above. A meat "grinder 2 or 3 times" ?? Where do they serve these in the Boston area ? Do not know what Boston spices are either....maybe Lobster powder ?? :)

                                        I'm curious...

                                      2. I'm interested in this topic because my new brother in law is from Philly and I'd like to have some fun with the world series. I'm thinking of doing rib eye presliced from the butcher - should I season it with anything in particular? I've never had an authentic cheesesteak from Philly, just west coast interpretations.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: blkery

                                          Watching the game right now...GO PHILS!!! Ok, now that that's out of the way...as far as seasoning, salt and pepper only.

                                        2. Never been to Philly and I sure hope I do get to visit one day soon.
                                          There used to be a place that was in Pleasanton CA called Philly Cheese Steak, and they made a pretty good sandwich. I quite sure it's not authentic, but it's the closest we can get unless we make our own. So I try.
                                          I still know that my cheese and steak sandwich is not authentic, but I buy thinly sliced steaks, cut them up with my board scraper (it's pretty sharp) on my cast iron griddle (the flat top side) I add cheese as chop the steak, garlic powder, sea salt and black pepper.
                                          Right before I pull it, I add more sliced fontina or provolone and put a lid on it so it melts beautifully. Grill some onions for the hubby, and also jalapenos. I love the sweet and hot red peppers to. Best way I love it is just like this, without any mayo, ketchup or mustard on a hoagie roll. I find the meat so delicious mixed with all that cheese is just the perfect "Philly Cheesesteak", for me anyway!

                                          1. Cheese wiz for a great on nochoes , not cheese steaks lol when I make cheese stakes I use fantina provolon and ausago cheese with onions banana peppers with tons of mayo . The mayo make the sandwich nice and moist. Yummmm

                                            1. The people in philly no better then the people who visit philly to get all that cheese wiz crap in thier sandwaitch , cheese wiz is for racos lol not a cheese steak , i use provolone how evet you spell it lol and fontina cheese nayo and thats it

                                              1. I get rib-eye from my local deli.....get a cast-iron skillet (NO Teflon), add a drop or two of olive oil (NOT a lot), if you want onions, NOW is the time to sautee them...about 10 minutes, I do mine in a separate pan....pre-heat skillet, medium heat, add rib -eye (about a 1/2LB per sandwich...GO BIG OR GO HOME!!!) chop up with two spatulas, add salt ,pepper, & a dash of oregano....add cheese of choice(Cheez whiz is OK, as is Provolone or American, but my personal fave is D&W Hot Pepper cheese, gives it a kick!!), & mix in thoroughly w/ meat....that's the key for the best taste. mixing the cheese & meat, & you gotta have great bread, the bread will make the sandwich...& as I live in Philly, you can get great bread anywhere!! Add your onions on top, & you got a great cheese-steak!!