Think of Philadelphia, and images of gooey delicious cheesesteak probably come to mind. It’s like the sandwich is synonymous with the city, and even those who have never stepped within Pennsylvania have heard all about Philly’s awesome treat. Those who have sampled authentic cheesesteaks from Philadelphia, whether it be from Tony Luke’s, Geno’s, or Sonny’s, know that the sandwich is serious business. You can’t just slap some meat on a hoagie, put on any type of cheese, and call it good — there’s a right and a totally wrong way to go about making this epic dish. If you want to make an awesome Philly cheese steak at home, here’s how to do it.
Great Philly cheese steaks start with good quality ingredients, so you’ll want to get the freshest and best onion, peppers, rolls, and meat that you can afford. If you’re an adept baker and you don’t mind turning out your own hoagie rolls, that’s the best route to take — eating fresh and crusty rolls pilled high with perfectly cooked meat and all the fixings will be like an experience you’ve never even dreamed of before. If you can’t or don’t know how to make your own hoagie or Italian rolls? Don’t sweat it. Get store bought, and ones from a bakery will do as well. However, don’t dare try putting this on regular sandwich or white bread.
One of the most important ingredients that you’ll put on your Philly cheese steaks is the cheese itself. If you were to go to a Philadelphia cheesesteak joint, you’d have the option of American, Provolone, no cheese, or Cheez Whiz. For the best results, go with the Cheez Whiz. Yes, it’s processed cheese. But it will hold your cheese steaks together like nothing else, provide classic flavor, and will give you the full cheese steak experience.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 6 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1 large white onion, cut in half and thinly sliced or diced
- 1 15-ounce jar of Cheez Whiz
- 24 ounces of rib eye steak or eye roll steak
- 4 crusty hoagie or Italian rolls
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- One green bell pepper, de-seeded and sliced thinly (optional)
Cooking the Ingredients
The first thing you’ll need to do is put your oven on its warming setting, or about 180 degrees Fahrenheit, and get the rolls warmed up. Put the Cheez Whiz in a small saucepan or pot and put it on a low heat. If your stove top has a “warm” setting, that will work as well. Keep the Cheez Whiz covered and don’t let it start simmering or boiling — you just want to get it to a more liquid state so it’s easier to spread. Alternatively, you can warm up the Cheez Whiz in your microwave after the meat has finished cooking for one to two minutes.
While the oven and Cheez Whiz are warming up, turn your attention to your steak. Ideally you want to slice it very thinly so it cooks quickly and doesn’t dry out. Slice the meat against the grain and not with it to get the juiciest and most tender result. When you slice meat with the grain, it will always turn out tougher and more difficult to chew.
A super sharp knife will go a long way towards making the meat easier to slice, but something that also helps is putting the meat in the freezer for 20 to 40 minutes, until it has just started to freeze. In this more solid state, your knife will be able to make very fine cuts of meat. Authentic Philly cheese steaks have meat that’s shaved, and if you have the equipment to do that definitely go for it. Otherwise, the sharpest knife in your kitchen and freezing the meat for a bit will work. After it’s cut, set it aside so it comes to room temperature.
Next, put a cast iron skillet, enamel cast iron skillet, or stainless steel skillet on your stovetop and put it on medium heat. Add three tablespoons of the oil, and wait for it to get hot. If you haven’t already cut up your onion and bell pepper, the time to do so is now.
Once the pan and oil are heated saute the bell pepper, if you’re opting to include it, and the onion until the onion has started to become translucent. Don’t forget to stir it every couple of minutes to cook the vegetables evenly — this should take five to eight minutes. If you notice that your onion and pepper are starting to brown, turn down the heat. Though a caramelized flavor won’t hurt your Philly cheese steaks, that’s not what you want if you’re trying to get an authentic look and taste.
Take the vegetables out of the pan once they’re done, slide them on a plate, and put that plate into your oven or on the counter loosely covered with foil. Add the remaining three tablespoons of oil to the skillet that you used to saute the vegetables, turn it to medium-high heat, and add the steak once the oil is hot. The steak will cook very quickly, so don’t stop stirring or walk away from the stove — do that, and you’ll run the risk of your steak turning out dry and overcooked.
After the steak is added to the pan, add salt and pepper to taste. A good guideline to start with is 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Remember: you can always add more seasoning later, but you can’t take it out once it’s already been added. Once the meat is cooked, which will take three to seven minutes, you’ll be ready to assemble and eat your Philly cheese steaks.
Putting It All Together
Fortunately, putting together cheese steaks is just about as easy as eating them. Evenly divide the meat and vegetables between your rolls, and then add the crowing glory of the sandwich: Cheez Whiz. You can add a little or a lot, but if you want to get technical, three tablespoons per sandwich will work. Philly cheese steaks are best enjoyed freshly made, so eat them while they’re warm.