The website for the Philadelphia area’s official tourism agency, visitphilly.com, claims that Pat Olivieri invented what would become the Philly Cheesesteak in 1930. Olivieri founded Pat’s King of Steaks, which is across street from their cheesesteak rival Geno’s Steaks. Around the city you can find places like Jim’s Steaks, Philip’s Steaks, Max’s Steaks, Joe’s Steaks and Soda Shop and other creatively named joints.
In my house we have cheesesteak nights a couple times a year. We mostly eat the traditional type of Philly cheesesteaks, but sometimes we switch things up.
I’m not claiming that what I’m making here is 100% authentic. I’m not from Philly. I never worked in a Philly cheesesteak restaurant, but I have watched a lot of cheesesteak youtube videos and stayed in a Holiday Inn Express once.
Follow along as I show you how I make my cheesesteak sandwiches.
For this sort of sandwich I use my Sandwich sub roll. This isn’t especially traditional for a Philly style cheesesteak, but it works really well for a sub/hoagie/cheesesteak sort of sandwich. If you’re a beginner baker, you should be able to handle this recipe fairly well.
Typically I make this recipe with three 11 or 12 inch rolls, but this time I tried going to 14 just to see how that worked out and we really enjoyed the size and shape. They were a bit thinner than my usual sub roll, but that just means you can have a slightly smaller sandwich.
We have a local Korean market nearby and they prepare ribeye steak for people to use when cooking bulgogi (sometimes spelled bulgoki). They take a ribeye steak and freeze it and then put the frozen steak onto their deli slicer and slice full sized super thin slices that we can buy whenever we’re craving cheesesteaks.
If you do have a Korean market nearby, check them out. Hopefully they will have something like this available. Otherwise you’ll have to slice your own steak. I’ve done the slice yourself technique too.
You do this by buying a ribeye, freezing it for 3 hours or so and then using a serrated knife, make slices as thin as you can. If you’re making cheesesteaks in a pan and not a large griddle, you can use your knife while the meat is raw and chop through it a little. Usually the meat is chopped on the griddle, but if you’re using a smaller pan, pre-chopping the meat a little will help you with the process.
You can use any cheese for a cheesesteak. The traditional choices are Cheez Whiz, provolone or white American cheese. But honestly, any sliced or spreadable cheese will work here. The sliced varieties need to be placed on the meat that is still cooking on the griddle/pan and the spreadable cheeses should be spread onto the cut side of your roll, ready to be filled with steak.
I’m guessing that people would want me to chose a favorite cheese here and I just can’t do it. Both Cheez Whiz and sliced provolone are great and it’s fun to switch things up from cheesesteak to cheesesteak.
I typically use onions and maybe mushrooms for my cheesesteaks. Some folks will put green or red bell peppers in there too. Regardless of which vegetables I am using, I cook them all the same way. Before you start the steak, you should thinly slice your veggies and cook them in a skillet or on your griddle to get them soft.
Note: if you’re ordering in Philly you don’t say, “please sir, may I have onions in my cheesesteak.” You just say “wit” or “wit-out” and that will let them know if you want onions or not.
Put the pieces together
When we have cheesesteak night we typically cook our onions/vegetables in a pan before we cook the meat. We usually use two pans, but you can use the same pan/griddle if you want. The point is that you can cook your veggies first and they can be a bit lukewarm because you will mix them in with your steak when your steak is almost finished cooking. Steak and veggies do not cook at the same time so this is why we take this tactic.
When you cook your steak you should try to cook it in a cast iron pan or griddle. The reasoning for this is that you will want to chop up your meat a little if you can. If the only pan you have available is non-stick you will want to fully chop up your steak into smaller pieces prior to cooking.
When you feel that the meat is almost cooked through to your liking, line up the meat on your griddle or pan to be about the length of the bun that you want to use (check the gif below). Now is the time you want to add your vegetables and mix them in with your steak to make sure everything is warm and similar temperature.
At this point you have to make a decision based on the cheese you’re using. If you are using Cheez Whiz you would want to spread that into your sub/hoagie roll that you’ve cut 2/3rds of the way through. If you’re using provolone or white American cheese you would want to lay that on top of your meat and veggies that you have lined up to fit your bun length. Let the sliced cheese have a couple minutes to start the melting process.
Once you’ve spread your Cheez Whiz on your bread or let your sliced cheese melt you should open your sub roll up and lay it on top of the meat. I typically let the bun sit there for 30 seconds or so which helps to steam or moisten the bread a little.
Once your bun has had a chance to warm up and everything has gotten all cheesy (or cheezy), take your spatula and slip it under everything and flip your sandwich off of the hot surface hopefully keeping all the meat and cheese inside the roll.
Some completed cheesesteaks
And here are a couple of the cheesesteaks I made.
If you’re a frequent visitor around here, you probably knew I was going to pimento cheese some steak. Well, guess what? I did.
This was a fantastic sandwich. You treat the pimento cheese like you treat the Cheez Whiz, which means you spread it on the bun while the steak is cooking. Then you open up the bun and place it on the steak on the griddle to steam the bread and heat up the pimento cheese.
This recipe also is using my Cheddar cheese sub roll which I have linked below.
Pimento cheesesteak recipe
Here’s the whole Pimento cheesesteak recipe. You can follow this recipe and substitute the pimento cheese for Cheez Whiz or even just sliced provolone. The concept of the recipe is all the same up until your choice of cheese.
Instead of Cheez Whiz we're trying something different. Spread some pimento cheese on your roll and let it get warmed up and melty with the hot steak for a great sandwich.
- 1 lb ribeye steak thinly sliced (if you can get your butcher to do this it's best)
- 1⁄2 thinly sliced large yellow onion
- 4 to 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
- 1 thinly sliced red bell pepper (optional)
- pimento cheese spread (enough to spread on the inside of your two rolls)
- 2 six to eight inch sub/hoagie rolls (or 1 large roll cut in two)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or olive oil
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook your thinly sliced onion, red bell pepper (if using) and mushrooms until they are tender. This usually takes me between 5 and 10 minutes depending on how soft/tender I want my veggies.
Move the cooked veggies to a plate to be used later.
If you were able to get thinly sliced ribeye from your butcher you can skip the next step because you're ready to cook.
If you have a whole unsliced ribeye, you will need to freeze it for an hour or two so that you can slice it thinly. After your steak has been in the freezer for 1 to 3 hours, remove it and get a very sharp knife and slice very thin pieces.
When all your meat is sliced you can start cooking.
In a large skillet or preferably cast iron griddle over medium high heat, add a little vegetable or olive oil to your pan. When the oil is shimmering add the steak and group it into "sandwiches." So if you're making two sandwiches, group the meat into two piles. Salt and pepper your piles of meat.
Leave the meat where it is for 4 minutes. After that time has elapsed, start moving it around, flipping and even chopping the larger pieces with your spatula. The real Philly cheesesteak joints really chop at the meat, to get it into small bite size pieces. Be careful and do not ruin your pan with a metal spatula if your pan has a non-stick coating.
Continue flipping and moving the steak around until all of the meat seems to be cooked.
Add your veggies to your steak. Divide the cooked veggies evenly between your meat piles.
With your spatula or tongs incorporate the meat and veggies until they are combined and mixed through.
Slice your sub/hoagie rolls 2/3rds of the way through and spread the pimento cheese on the inside of each one.
line the meat and veggies on the skillet/griddle up so that they are about the length of each of your buns. Open each bun and lay it on top of the still cooking meat/veggies.
Using a spatula, get under the meat and with your other hand grab the bun and flip the sandwich out of the pan, attempting to keep all of the meat and veggies in the sandwich. Do this for your other sandwiches as well.
Enjoy your pimento cheesesteak!
You can use this recipe with Cheez Whiz or any other cheese spread as well, just spread the cheese spread inside the bun as the meat is almost cooked through.
If you want to use sliced cheese, just lay the slices of cheese on top of the meat when it's cooked through and give it another minute or two for the cheese to start melting.
If you’re still reading I bet you want a cheesesteak right now. Go get one and come back next week when I’ll most likely be writing about another type of cheese.