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Making Philly Cheesesteak at home

  • g

I live in CA and there are NO philly cheesesteaks to be found where I am. In fact, I have never had a philly cheesesteak sandwich except what I’ve made at home. I feel like a primitive human in my kitchen, doing it from scratch, expending way too much effort to get my meat exactly right. I'm freezing 2” x 3” x 4” blocks of rib eye steak with lots of fat. Thawing it just enough to shave VERY thin with a mandolin. Cooking it on medium heat until just this side of pink and using only salt and pepper to season it. Wow! The result is an epiphany every time! All the fat melts and coats the meat which is never dry and has a gorgeous flavor that can only happen with the tedious shaving. The rest is more or less superfluous. I fry onions and mushrooms, I have great crusty-soft hoagie rolls, and I throw cheese on it but the real enchantment is the meat and lots of it. The flavor is BETTER than a steak. Was wondering, is this what I would find in Philadelphia? Is this what a home cook would do? Just wondering. Don’t really care what authentic is. Just so thrilled to discover the most flavorful way to cook a rib eye roast!

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  1. We can get pre-frozen steak meat in Philly (NOT Steak-UMS) although you would be surprised if you went to a Restaurant Depot that all they have is chopped/flaked/formed stuff.

    Real joints use both ribeye and top of the round. Nobody does it "this side of pink", though it would be great. It's just not done because of expediency. Philly would never accept "Cheese WIT - Medium Rare" as an order.

    You sound authentic. We are split between eating the meat whole, or chopping it up with two spatulas (spatulae?) The cheese should melt ON the meat. You capture the whole thing (with the help of your spatula so the cheese ends up on bottom.

    Maybe you should open a cheesesteak joint ??

    2 Replies
    1. re: phillyjazz

      Agreed. You should open a cheesesteak joint and tell me where it is. We come to CA often!

      1. re: phillyjazz

        Yes! Be sure to lay the cheese on top of the meat, let it get melty, then scoop up the whole package and flip it over onto the roll. I find this to be key in getting the melty cheesy bread bottom. Yum.

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. I agree with the others, you sound pretty on point. The questions are, what sort of pan/griddle do you use for cooking, what kind of cheese do you use, how do you apply/melt the cheese, and how good are your rolls REALLY as I have not found Italian rolls of the appropriate quality outside of the Northeast corridor.

          Medium rare sounds really good. It is pretty much unheard of here, but I wonder if a shop like Steve's Prince of Steaks in the Northeast would honor that request. They use good quality, hand trimmed beef with little fat compared to most shops.

          9 Replies
          1. re: barryg

            I think if you hit Steve's when it was REALLY slow and the grill chef was in a good mood, you might get a medium rare sammy. I would not try that at Pat's on a Saturday night. That would be worse than asking for Swiss.

            I guess if you have not had East Coast rolls, you won't know what you're missing...

            1. re: phillyjazz

              Very funny. As I mentioned, I haven't any clue and yes, I DON'T know what I'm missing, breadwise or otherwise! I use american cheese and have used wiz. The meat tastes best cooked through, not rare, only because you want the fat to melt away from the meat. Guess that means just PAST pink. I use Costco's ribeye roast. Delicious! I could eat the WHOLE roast myself.

                1. re: saeyedoc

                  Another twist to blanch and satuee some broccoli rabe with a lot of garlic. Then serve the steak with the rabe and some good sharp prov. A lot of the better places in South Philly offer this as an option. You can use spinach, too, but the rabe, if cooked well, adds great flavor. A roll is with a hard crust, and maybe sesame seeds, works best with this sandwich. You can also "scoop" out some of the bread in the roll if its too bready but you definitely want a crispy crust in this case.

                  1. re: barryg

                    Uhh .. I think you are describing roast pork. I have NEVER seen broccoli rabe or spinach on a steak. Maybe if a joint serves pork as well, they will throw it on a roll for you with whatever you want, but I would not describe that "twist" as common.

                    Scooping the roll is a great and little known secret. John's Roast Pork does it by default, and they use Carangi Bakery rolls who are right up there with Sarcone's. I hope to GOD they use the scraps for stuffing or bread pudding or something.

                    Anyway, when a roll is very dense, a chopped steak (especially when lubricated with Whiz will slide out all over with the first squeeze to get a bite into your mouth, Scooping the roll turns each half into a mini-canoe that cradles the meat and cheese, preventing it from hitting the sidewalk.

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                    John's Roast Pork
                    Wecceccoe Snyder Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19102

                    1. re: phillyjazz

                      Tony Lukes, for one, offers a steak sandwich with rabe and sharp. Others as well

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                      Tony Luke's
                      39 E Oregon Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148

                      1. re: Bigley9

                        I never said it wasn't possible. Anyone who has broccoli rabe could also serve it to you as dessert on a waffle cone. I am just saying it is not a typical way to eat a cheesesteak in Philly.

                      2. re: phillyjazz

                        I used to live 3 blocks from Sarcones, best sandwiches EVER! I miss Philly!

                  2. re: gki

                    Try using Cooper Sharp in lieu of American cheese... Melts the same, but has more flavor.

              1. Sounds WAY better than anything you'd find in Philly.

                1. Having been born in Warminster (just outside of Philly), I am often appalled at what some places serve as "Philly Cheese Steaks." Some use Cheese Whiz, some use American, I've even seen some that used Swiss, but all the Cheese Steaks I ever had were made with Provolone. Also, the cheese should be grilled right in with the meat, but some places would just melt it on top, and the sandwich never got that full, "Philly" taste. The grilled onions, peppers, and mushrooms were optional, but NEVER did these sandwiches include lettuce, tomato, or mayonnaise, though I've seen places that throw that stuff on there and try to call it a "Cheese Steak." That would be a "Cheese Steak Hoagie," not a "Cheese Steak." Likewise, if it has pizza sauce and Mozzarella, it's not a "Cheese Steak," it's a "Pizza Steak."

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: labradors

                    I've lived in the Philly area all my life, and have probably been to several hundred distinct cheesesteak joints. In my experience, American is always the default, and provolone or whiz are ordered specially. Provolone would be the default on a cheese steak HOAGIE, as Mozzarella would be on a pizza steak (which also is typically toasted in an oven.) I don't really like my rolls toasted if they are fresh and chewy, so I tend to order a "cheesesteak with sauce" to avoid the string mozz and dry roll.

                    1. re: phillyjazz

                      I will add that despite popular perception that whiz is the the standard for Philadelphia cheesesteaks, not all shops even offer it. American and prov are universally available, and Phillyjazz is right that American is the default.

                      If anyone outside of the area is reading this, American does NOT mean processed cheese slices (eg, Kraft singles) but a decent quality, white deli-style American.