The Best Meat for Philly Cheesesteak (Prepare It Like a PRO)

Iva Carter
Published by Iva Carter
Last Updated On: December 5, 2023

I am not from Philadelphia, but love a good Philly cheesesteak sandwich.  The choice of meat is paramount in achieving that perfect balance of flavor, tenderness, and authenticity.

Drawing from years of hands-on expertise and consultations with fellow culinary professionals, I've delved deep into the nuances of selecting the ideal meat for the iconic Philly Cheesesteak.

In this guide, I will share my insights on not only which cuts of meat to consider but also how to prepare them like a seasoned pro.

Quick Summary

  • Ribeye is typically considered the best meat choice for its flavor and texture.
  • A Philly cheesesteak is a sandwich made with thinly sliced ribeye steak, cheese, and onions on a long roll.
  • When shopping for steak, look for a cut with good fat content, as this will create a juicier sandwich.

What Are Philly Cheesesteaks?

An image of Philly cheesesteak sandwich on a white background

Philly cheesesteaks are classic sandwiches made with thinly sliced steak, melted cheese, and onions, all served on a soft and chewy roll. This delicious sandwich originated in Philadelphia but has become popular worldwide.

In the 1930s, Pat and Harry Olivieri were credited with inventing Philly cheesesteaks while running a hot dog stand [1].

The brothers used thinly sliced beef and onions grilled on a flat-top griddle and then placed on hot dog buns.

As the sandwich grew in popularity, customers asked for cheese and a toasted roll, which the brothers then added to the sandwich in the 1940s

Over time, there have been many variations of the sandwich. For example, many kinds of cheese can be used, such as American cheese, provolone, or even Cheez Whiz.

In addition, you can add toppings like green bell peppers, mushrooms, and hot sauce to your Philly cheesesteaks.

Some people spice up the sandwich with garlic powder, butter, or Worcestershire sauce.

"I'll only get a cheesesteak in Philadelphia. No one else does it right."
- Kevin Hart, Actor

The traditional cheesesteak has also been adapted to become a pizza or chicken cheesesteak.

A hoagie cheesesteak with lettuce and tomato is another Philadelphia creation. However, the original version of the cheesesteak is still the most popular.

The Perfect Meat for a Philly Cheesesteak

A man who is about to eat a Philly cheesesteak sandwich

When it comes to making a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, the quality of the meat makes all the difference.

The traditional meat for an authentic Philly cheesesteak is boneless ribeye steak.

You must thinly slice the meat to make a good cheesesteak, and these hearty sandwiches should be served on toasted hoagie rolls for the real Philly cheesesteak experience.

This cut of beef has excellent marbling, which means it has streaks of fat running through it. The fat helps to keep the steak juicy and provides intense flavor as it cooks.

Many chefs also use top rounds or sirloin for their Philly steak subs. These cuts are leaner than ribeye but still have plenty of flavor.

We recommend ButcherBox as a trusted provider to source top-notch meat delivered straight to your door. They offer a wide selection of premium meats at highly competitive prices.

You don't have to limit yourself to just those cuts of beef, though. You can make a delicious sandwich from:

 

And in a pinch, 80/20 ground beef makes for a passable Philly cheesesteak. But, of course, it does not beat thinly sliced steak on a hoagie roll or amoroso rolls.

If you are willing to stray even further from tradition, consider chicken or turkey breast options for your sandwich.

You can also use pork tenderloin; many people find lamb chops a tasty choice.

No matter which type of meat you use, the key is to slice it thinly and cook it quickly over high heat to remain juicy and flavorful.

Making Philly Cheesesteak Like a Pro

A close up image of a Philly cheesesteak sandwich on top of a paper

These are my favorite easy recipes for this iconic sandwich. Although the first recipe calls for thinly sliced ribeye, I will sometimes substitute flank steak, chuck roast, or other thin sliced steaks from the butcher shop.

1. Recipe Overview

  • Prep Time: 1 hr 15 min
  • Cook Time: 1 hr
  • Total Time: 2 hr 15 min
  • Number of Servings: 4

Ingredients

Cheesesteak:

  • 2 to 2 1/2 pound ribeye, fat trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Soft hoagie rolls split 3/4 open
  • Sauce, per below
  • Mushrooms, per below
  • Onions, per below
  • Peppers, per below

Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heated whole milk
  • 1 cup grated aged provolone cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Mushrooms:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds coarsely chopped mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fried Onions:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3 large thinly sliced onions
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Peppers:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 thinly sliced green peppers
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Place the steak in your freezer. It should stay there for at least 30 minutes in order to make it easy to slice.
  2. Create sauce by melting the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Stir to combine the flour and milk. Continue to cook for 4-5 minutes while constantly whisking until the sauce has thickened.
  3. Remove the mixture and add Parmesan and provolone. Whisk until thoroughly combined, then add a few dashes of pepper and salt.
  4. Saute mushrooms by heating the butter and oil in a large pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute until golden. Add salt, pepper, and parsley.
  5. Make caramelized onions by heating the oil and butter in a large pan over medium. Add onions, salt, and pepper. Cook until caramelized and golden, stirring occasionally. This should take 30-45 minutes.
  6. Saute peppers by heating oil in a medium pan over high heat. Add the peppers and cook until they are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Take the steak from the freezer and slice it into very thin strips. Season with pepper and salt.
  8. Heat a flat grill or large skillet over high heat. Brush steak with oil and cook on high for 45-60 seconds per side.
  9. Put beef on the bottom of the roll. Add cheese sauce to the top of the meat and then top with peppers, onion, and mushrooms.

Recipe Notes

A top view image of a Philly cheesesteak sandwich with a side of fries
  1. Placing the meat in the freezer before slicing helps ensure you get the thinnest possible slices.
  2. Slicing against the meat's grain ensures that it is as tender as possible. This direction of slice relaxes the muscle fibers and helps the beef to be more delicate.
  3. It is essential to cook your steak over high heat so it doesn't lose any of its juiciness or flavor.
  4. If your meat does not have a high enough fat content, adding a bit of butter or oil to the pan can be beneficial to help prevent it from drying out.
  5. To make this sandwich vegetarian, replace the beef with thinly sliced portobello mushrooms. Season them with pepper and salt and follow the same instructions for cooking.
  6. For a vegan option, replace the beef and cheese with thin slices of eggplant or zucchini. Season with pepper and salt and cook over high heat until golden brown. Serve on the hoagie rolls with vegan mayonnaise, hot sauce, onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomato, avocado, or other desired toppings.

Nutrition Facts:

  • Calories: 1300 kcal
  • Total Carbs: 35g
  • Protein: 75g
  • Fat: 100g
  • Fiber: 7g
  • Net Carbs: 28g
  • Cholesterol: 280mg
  • Sodium: 1950mg

2. Recipe Overview

  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Inactive Time: 45 min
  • Cook Time: 60 min
  • Total Time: 2 hr 15 min
  • Number of Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds of strip loin, trimmed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Soft hoagie rolls, split 3/4 open

Provolone Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups heated whole warm milk
  • 1 cup grated aged provolone cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sauteed Mushrooms

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds coarsely chopped mushrooms (cremini and shiitake)

Caramelized Onions

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large peeled, halved, and thinly sliced Spanish onions

Sauteed Peppers

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 poblano peppers, thinly sliced
  • 2 Cubano peppers, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. In order to make the meat easier to slice, place it in the freezer for 30-45 minutes.
  2. Remove the meat from the freezer and cut it into very thin slices.
  3. Sauteed peppers: Heat the oil over high heat in a medium saute pan. Add all peppers and cook until soft. Season sauteed peppers to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Caramelized onions: Heat the oil and butter over medium heat in a large saute pan. Put in peeled, halved Spanish onions, freshly ground black pepper, and salt. Slowly whisk, cooking until caramelized and golden brown, about 30-40 minutes.
  5. Sauteed mushrooms: Heat the oil and butter over high heat in a large saute pan. Add the cremini and shiitake mushrooms and cook until they are golden brown. Stirring occasionally, add parsley and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Provolone sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and whisk in flour over 1 minute. Add whole milk to the flour mixture, whisking constantly until thickened - approximately 4-5 minutes. Remove from milk heat and stir in the provolone and Parmesan. Season provolone sauce with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  7. Heat grill pan or griddle over high heat. Brush oil over steak slices and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook slowly, 45-60 seconds per side.
  8. Put the steak on the bottom half of the roll. Place provolone sauce over the meat and then top it with peppers, onions, and mushrooms.
  9. Salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe Notes

  • This recipe is best served hot, right off the grill. However, it can be made ahead of time and reheated.
  • If you're short on time, you can skip the step of freezing the meat. Just slice it as thinly as possible.
  • You can make the cheese sauce beforehand and reheat it.
  • The recipe calls for whole milk, but you can substitute lower fat milk mixed with cream.

Nutrition Facts

  • Calories: 650
  • Total Carbs: 56g
  • Protein: 41g
  • Fat: 31g
  • Fiber: 3g
  • Net Carbs: 49g

FAQs

Should I Marinate My Meat for a Philly Cheesesteak?

You should not marinate your meat for a Philly Cheesesteak, but marinating the steak overnight can help to add flavor and tenderize it if desired.

What Is the Best Type of Cheese for a Philly Cheesesteak?

Provolone cheese is considered the best type of cheese for a Philly cheesesteak, but you can also use a variety of other cheeses such as American, cheddar, muenster, Swiss, or Cheez Whiz. For an extra cheesy sandwich, try adding a mix of cheeses.

How Do You Cut Meat for a Cheesesteak?

You must cut meat thinly for a cheesesteak. The best way to do this is to place the steak in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to firm up the meat. Then, slice it against the grain very thinly with a sharp knife.

How Thick Should Philly Cheesesteak Meat Be?

Philly cheesesteak meat should be about 1/8 inch thick. This will help ensure the steak cooks quickly and evenly when grilling or sautéing.


References:

  1. https://www.charleys.com/blog/the-history-of-the-cheesesteak/
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About the author

Iva Carter
Associate Editor
Iva Carter is a FBP certified foodie and influencer who loves to share delicious yet quick dinner recipes. When she's not in the kitchen concocting meaty delights, you'll find her playing with her dog, Sylvie.
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