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Dec 10, 2012 07:46 AM

The Ultimate Baltimore Pit Beef Sandwich

For those Baltimorons and those who wish you were, what is your ideal for the ultimate pit beef sandwich? I made 'em last night, and they were purdy dam' good (I chuffed four), but bein' a west Texas barbarian, it's possible I grilled the faintest facsimile of the genuine article. I want to hear from the pros.

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  1. I like my meat nice and rare, probably would be considered medium rare by cooking standards. The Canopy is my go to place for them but they are good at home too. Boog's at Camden Yards is also excellent. The roll is almost like a cross between a kaiser roll and a potato roll. I like BBQ sauce ( not too much) and tiger sauce on mine. BBQ is a tangier looser variety. Tiger sauce is basically horseradish mayo.

    Best with a side of ocean fries with salt, malt vinegar or cider vinegar and ketchup.

    2 Replies
    1. re: melpy

      How thinly is the beef sliced? And how much is usually applied to the roll?

      1. re: Perilagu Khan

        Pretty thin, like almost deli style but piled up on the bun, probably a fist size.

    2. Rare with a nice char on the crust, sliced thin, raw onion, horseradish and barbeque sauce. The Canopy in Ellicott City is the most consistent. Because the beef is from top round, it has very little fat and tends to dry out if its less than rare or true medium rare. Therefore, I order rare. A kaiser roll is required, because regular sliced bread will just be a bloody mess. A good pit beef sandwich does not travel well and should be consumed within 15 minutes of preparation before it gets too soggy to hold together.

      1. Rare to medium rare with a salty, peppery, garlickey crust. The older places still slow roast several feet over wood charcoal, but most have switched to gas for a consistent product. I do mine using eye of round on a Weber Smokey Mountain cooker minus the water pan. I don't usually care for paper thin sliced lunchmeat, but pit beef should be really thin. Ideally, you'd use a deli slicer, but a good sharp Chinese cleaver will do. Kaiser roll, raw white onion, horseradish. The fresher the better. Expressway Pit Beef does a good one.

        5 Replies
        1. re: monkeyrotica

          I forgot the OP was in Texas, not Baltimore. I've never seen pit beef cooked any way but over a wood-burning open pit. I guess I've just been lucky.

          1. re: flavrmeistr

            I cooked my top eye round roast over charcoal and pecan wood in my BBQ pit. Got a pretty good char. The meat, that is, not me.

              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                For me, the char is more important than the smokiness. That sort of crackling char you get with a good bone-in rib roast or a brisket burnt end. The rub plays an important role as well; some folks just want a basic salt and black pepper rub, but others look for something garlicky or paprika-ey or even Old Bay. I'm not a mayo fan, so I tend to go for straight horseradish (Tulkoffs is my favorite brand) and a thick slice of white onion.

                1. re: monkeyrotica

                  My rub was salt, pepper, garlic powder and hot paprika. Condos were horseradish (disappointingly vinegary) and sliced sweet onion.

          2. I grill the meat, with frequent turns, over a charcoal and oak fire. This develops the bark that I like. I will move it off heat and cover the grill (I use the main chamber on my offset) until the meat hits 120 to 125 in the center. My rub is only salt and pepper - quite a bit of each actually and left on the roast for ten to twelve hours (the last two on the counter)

            I lived in (and just outside) Baltimore for several years. I took the pit beef thing home and started making it myself after I realized I was never going to buy one from a NJ restaurant. One consequence of my relocation is that I now prefer Jersey hard rolls. As for toppings, thinly sliced onion, freshly ground horseradish (like I used to take from Lexington Market to put on my sandwich a couple blocks down Paca at the Yards), and, on some occasions, a slop of Bone Suckin' Sauce (hot version).

            I like the meat to be as thin as I can get it with a chef's knife, but if I had a deli slicer in the house I'd not hesitate to use it. Also, I'm fine with a piece or two of good Swiss cheese and/or a slice of an heirloom tomato out of my summer garden.

            1. What cut of meat is typically used folks? Never made one myself. My father used to but did pork more often.

              6 Replies
              1. re: melpy

                I bleeve eye of round roast is a popular favorite, at least for home cooks.

                1. re: melpy

                  Top round, Bottom round, and Eye round are the most widely used. I think I prefer the Eye, but I'd more likely than not simply use what I can get on sale. Here's an old thread:


                  1. re: MGZ

                    Interestingly enough, the only reason I know about pit beef is because my wife used to get the stuff in south-central Pennsylvania, particularly the York area. Must have migrated north by northwest from Bawlmer.

                    1. re: Perilagu Khan

                      York is just Baltimore without the charm.

                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                        Haven't seen it in the Carlisle area at all.