What’s not to love about a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich? Sweet, caramelized sauteed peppers and onions; smooth, nutty melted provolone cheese, and of course, finely sliced caramelized steak, all stuffed into a sandwich.
I’ve upped the game here by turning the buns into a garlic loaf, adding beef’s favorite condiment horseradish, and adding in an absolutely decadent melted black truffle infused cheddar into the mix too, before topping with a bit of mild American mustard for added sweetness to a deliciously rich sandwich.
You don’t have to follow my Philly cheesesteak recipe exactly, I’ll share the technique you need to make this decadent sandwich your own.
Why is it called a “Philly Cheesesteak”?
All good sandwiches have a legendary origin story, and the Philly Cheesesteak is no different…
Legend has it that the cheesesteak sandwich originated at what is now Pat’s King Of Steaks in – of course – Philadelphia, back in 1930.
Pat Olivieri had a hot dog stall, and the workers would line up daily for them. He would sell them hot dogs off his little cart on the street. And then one day Pat wanted something different for lunch; he was tired of the hot dogs.
So he asked his brother to go down to the butcher and pick up some scraps of meat. When he came back, Pat cooked it up on the flatplate and put it on a hot dog roll with some cheese.
There was a cab driver there who saw the sandwich, thought it looked amazing and asked for one too. Pat told him he only had enough beef for one sandwich, so they split it. The cab driver raved about it, and told Pat to stop selling hot dogs and sell that instead.
And that was the invention of the steak sandwich. Some places now sell it with grilled peppers, mushrooms and/or onions too, but the original was exactly how the name describes it.
Gear that will help with this recipe
- A grill capable of direct and indirect cooking, such as a
- A cast-iron skillet or BBQ plate
- Charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal of your choice
- A chunk of your favorite smoking wood
- A chimney starter (not essential)
- A burger flipper or metal spatula
- Heat resistant gloves or tea towel for handling the skillet
What type of steak to use for a Philly cheesesteak?
The best steak to use for a Philly cheesesteak is one that holds up to a very hot, very fast cook.
Ribeye and flank steak sliced thinly is what I used for this recipe, as I wanted to get a mix of flavors in there. You could use one or the other, but you could also use skirt steak, new york strip or porterhouse too.
If you do use one of the latter, be sure to cut the outside edge of fat off first.
Anything with a little marbling through it is excellent, as we are going to heat up a griddle super hot to get some awesome caramelization on the thinly sliced steak.
What type of cheese to use on a Philly cheesesteak?
Provolone cheese is traditionally what you should use but I used a light nutty swiss-style cheese. Any mild white American cheese will do the job.
It’s best to buy pre-sliced.
Preparing your steak and capsicum
You’re going to want your steak slices to be super caramelized with nice little edges.
In order to do this, we need to slice our steak super thin. To help you get these nice thin slices, I recommend that you put your steak into the freezer for around 30-40 mins before slicing it.
Once your steak has been in the freezer for a while, remove it, and working quickly so that your steak doesn’t thaw too much, use a super sharp knife to slice the steak very thin – around ⅛” thick. It’s important that you don’t let your steak thaw too much, as it will become too difficult to slice as thinly.
Slice your onion and peppers into ½” pieces, ready to grill.
I use a mini garlic loaf as the base for my cheesesteak sandwich, but you can use hoagie rolls too.
If you’re following my recipe exactly, now is the time to make your garlic butter. Finely chop your garlic, mix it with a little salt, and use the back of your knife to grind the garlic into a paste.
Mix this with your butter, and then spread this across each side of your split hoagie roll. Place this into an oven at 390°F for about 5 mins or until lightly toasted.
Different sized rolls will cook differently, so keep an eye on it! Alternatively, you can put it under a broiler or best of all, use your BBQ to toast it over indirect heat at the same temp, and finish face side down to nicely crisp up.
Light your grill
If you don’t have a grill you can always cook your steak and filling on a griddle pan, but you can’t beat the flavor from cooking over charcoal.
I use a whole chimney of charcoal and then add some more lump charcoal to get my BBQ up to a raging hot heat. If you’re using a gas grill, light all burners under your hotplate, and close the lid to get it as hot as you can. Alternatively, use your side burner and a cast iron skillet.
Once your coals are white hot (or your hotplate is screaming hot), place your cast iron skillet directly over the coals, and allow it to heat up as hot as you can (you can skip this step if you’re using a gas grill with hotplate).
Cooking your fillings
Once your skillet or hotplate is hot, add a little oil, and then add your peppers and onions.
You want to fry them off until they’re nice and soft. Don’t worry too much if the edges start to char a little – it will add to the flavor!
Once your veggies have cooked down (about 5-6 mins), remove from the skillet or plate, and put into a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.
Next, it’s time for the star of the show – the steak! Take your thinly sliced steak, and put it into a bowl with a drizzle of oil and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper.
Put your skillet back onto the heat and allow it to heat up until it’s smoking hot – remember, we want to cook this super hard and quick to get some glorious Maillard reaction flavors happening.
Chuck your steak combo into the skillet or onto your hotplate – it should sizzle loudly if your cooking surface is hot enough!
Spread your sliced steak out using tongs so that as much surface area is in contact with the hot cooking surface as possible, and keep moving it around until it’s nicely charred and caramelized.
Add your peppers and onion back into the steak to reheat and then mix all together.
For an extra bit of flavor if you’re using charcoal, at this point you can move your griddle off the heat to indirect, add a chunk of cherry or your favorite smoking wood, and add the lid to smoke for 5 mins.
Once you’ve done this, separate your fillings into as many piles as you have sandwiches to make.
The ingredients I have listed will make 2 generous sized rolls, although I use an extra long roll, and then slice into halves.
Once you’ve separated into piles, it’s time to add your cheese. Add a couple of slices of cheese to the top of each pile of delicious steak and peppers, take off the heat and allow it to melt.
Assembling your Philly Cheesesteak sandwich
As your cheese is melting, spread the bottom of your hoagie roll with some horseradish cream, which you should be able to get from any decent supermarket or deli, and then top with a generous pile of your meat/cheese/peppers.
I find it easiest to use a spatula to remove from the skillet and transfer straight to the toasted bread.
I then added some grated truffle infused cheddar, although if you can’t find this, a drizzle of black truffle oil from your local deli works just as well for a delicious, decadent finish. To top it all off, a squirt of American mustard, then the top of your roll, and get stuck in!
This is quite a rich sandwich, so a crisp, clean, easy drinking lager is the way to go with this.
Ultimate Philly Cheesesteak
- 1 thick ribeye steak approx. 12 oz
- 1 flank steak approx. 8 oz
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
For the bread:
- 2 hoagie rolls split
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tbsp butter room temperature
For the filling:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 red onion sliced
- 1 red pepper sliced
- 1 green pepper sliced
- 4 slices Provolone cheese or Swiss
- horseradish optional
- truffle cheddar (or black truffle oil) optional
- American mustard optional
- Place steak into freezer for 30-40 mins.
- Combine the garlic and butter thoroughly and spread over the the rolls.
- Slice steaks into ⅛” slices and put into a bowl to come up to room temp.
- Use a full chimney of charcoal to light BBQ, and separate into direct and indirect zones.
- Place a cast iron griddle over direct heat, add a drizzle of oil and add onions and peppers. Cook until softened and edges are slightly charred, then transfer to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.
- Place the cast iron pan over direct heat again and get as hot as you can.
- Add salt and pepper and a drizzle of oil to the steak slices, and mix well.
- Add the steak to the cast iron pan and fast cook it, turning it often with tongs.
- Once the steak is caramelized and the edges are lightly charred, add the cooked peppers and onion, and mix thoroughly. Remove to indirect heat, add a chunk of smoking wood to charcoal and cover BBQ for 5 mins.
- Separate into 2 piles for sandwiches, and add 2 slices of Provolone or Swiss cheese to each pile and allow to melt.
- Heat the rolls in the oven at 390°F for 5 mins. Alternatively, cook in BBQ indirect for the same time once lit, and finish face down over coals to crisp.
- Spread bottom of toasted roll with horseradish.
- Using a spatula, transfer the pile of steak/peppers/cheese to the bottom of the roll.
- Add grated truffle cheddar or a drizzle of truffle oil.
- Top with a squirt of American mustard, and then the other side of the toasted hoagie roll.
- Serve with a crisp American lager.