Gooey, meaty, melty & oh so delicious, a Philly Cheesesteak is the perfect comfort food in its simplicity. If you have ever visited Philadelphia, then chances are you have been told to definitely try a cheesesteak here. In the City of Brotherly Love, cheesesteaks are a cultural icon and a big draw for visitors. Philadelphians Pat and Harry Olivieri are often credited with inventing this iconic sandwich in the early 1930s.
Living in Philadelphia for 7 years, I can say with confidence that I know what an authentic cheesesteak should be like. In Philly, a cheesesteak is a long, crusty roll filled with thinly sliced pan-fried beef and melted cheese. Basic toppings are caramelized onions and/or hot peppers. Generally, the cheese of choice is Cheez Whiz, but mild or sharp Provolone and American cheese are common substitutions.
How to order a Cheesesteak in Philly:
There are general rules of etiquette to follow when ordering a cheesesteak. There are two critical, self-reflective questions to answer:
- First, what kind of cheese do you want? Whiz? Provolone? American?
- Second, do you want onions?
If you want Whiz and onions, request a “Whiz wit”. Don’t care for onions? Then ask for a “Whiz wid out”. You will get a cheesy Whiz sandwich and no onions.
For the final step, you can ask for any other toppings or condiments you desire.
Another important component in the cheesesteak is the type of bread you use. It has to be a long, crusty roll. Among several brands, perhaps the most famous and in my opinion the best are the Amoroso Rolls.
If you are a cheesesteak fan like me, you’re going to love my best ever cheesesteak recipe. I make a homemade Cheese Whiz to get that authentic flavor at home and with no processed ingredients. I highly recommend making the Cheez Whiz at home. The flavor is amazing, the drippy quality of the cheese is awesome and makes the sandwich as authentic and as AMAZING as possible! Look at that drippy, melty cheese? If you don’t want to use Cheese Whiz, then Provolone should be your first choice. White American is the last resort.
You might be wondering what type of beef to use for the cheesesteak? It usually is boneless rib-eye or sirloin or a mixture of both. Usually the beef is cut very thin to make sure that it cooks fast. But if your butcher didn’t cut it right or you tried to cut it at home, then sometimes while cooking, some parts of the beef are still raw and that becomes a disaster. To make sure that this never happens and the meat always remains tender, I boil the beef with spice and salt and then once tender, I pan-fry it to a perfect golden brown. The result- perfect, juicy and golden beef shreds in every bite.
Authentic Philly Cheesesteak with homemade Cheese Whiz
Recipe by Leena Ali
- 1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced beef, rib-eye or sirloin
- 2 large sweet onions, sliced
- 1 jalapeño, sliced, optional
- 4 tbsp canola/avocado oil
- Kosher salt to taste
- Black pepper powder to taste
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper powder or red chili powder
- 1 small clove of garlic
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 4 to 6 hoagie rolls
- In a wide pan, add 1 tbsp of oil and heat it till it reaches near smoking point. Sear the steak pieces in this hot oil till they are nice and brown on all sides. Add the whole clove of garlic, cayenne/red chili powder and salt. Mix well. Add 1 cup of water in the beef, cover and let the beef cook on low heat till it’s nice and tender. Make sure all the water evaporates. If beef is not tender, keep adding water in 1/4 cup increments till beef is fully done.
- Remove the beef from the pan. In the same pan, add the rest of the oil. Add in the onions and caramelize them. Lower the heat and sprinkle 1 tsp sugar on the onions and let them slowly cook to a light brown color. The sugar will caramelize along with the onions. As the onions are almost done, push them to a side in the pan and fry the sliced jalapeños if using.
- Once onion and jalapeños are done, add the cooked beef back into the pan. Increase the heat to high and pan fry the beef mixing in the onions and jalapeños. Add in salt and black pepper powder to taste.
- Toast the rolls.
- If using Provolone or American cheese, cover the beef with the cheese so that it melts slightly in the pan. Once melted, pick up the beef and cheese mixture with the spatula and slap it on to the toasted roll.
- If using Cheese Whiz, using the spatula, load the roll with the beef mixture. Pour cheese Whiz at the top.
- Serve hot!
Homemade Cheese Whiz
- 1 can of whole evaporated milk
- 2 ounces of cream cheese
- 1 tsp cornflour
- 1/4 tsp of dry mustard powder
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp of sugar
- pinch of garlic powder
- 16 oz of cheddar/provolone cheese, sliced
In a deep pan, heat evaporated milk till it simmers. Add in the cream cheese and whisk till combined. In a small bowl mix all the dry ingredients. Add this mixture to the simmering milk and cream cheese mixture. Whisk constantly and let the milk thicken. Add the cheese and let it melt. Cheese Whiz is ready!
Hope you enjoy this authentic Philly Cheesesteak in the comfort of your home! This is one of my family’s most favorite recipes and I’m sure it will quickly become yours too. You can see step by step videos on my highlights @leena.ali