Cheesesteaks 101:

The Essentials

Cheesesteaks 101

The Meat

The core ingredient. Here’s the science on the specific cuts that make a true Philly Cheesesteak.

More
Cheesesteaks 101

The Bread

Its importance is often overlooked but the bread plays a crucial role in the equation. Let us break it down.

More
Cheesesteaks 101

The Cheese

American or Whiz. The debate in our hometown will never die. Here’s some points for discussion.

More
Cheesesteaks 101

The Cheese

History

For the first 20 or so years of its existence, steak and bread monogamously formed a sandwich. It wasn’t until sometime in the 50’s that cheese was introduced and the modern Philly Cheesesteak as we know it was born. Today, the three are inextricably linked.

Popularity

The pervasive misconception from folks not from the Philly area is that a legitimate Philly Cheesesteak must be smothered with Cheese Wiz. This is not true. Sliced White American followed by sliced provolone are the most popular types of requested cheese on cheesesteaks throughout Philly and the rest of the country. Wiz was first introduced by the two famous South Philly steak joints because of its convenience and time savings – when there are lines of salivating cheesesteak junkies running down the block at 3 AM, preparation time is of the essence.

Cheesesteaks 101

The Bread

History

The first cheesesteak was created by a hot dog vendor in Philly who, when tired of consuming his franks for lunch everyday, had the idea to cook up some thinly sliced steak he bought from the local butcher. As is no surprise, he put the steak on the only type of bread he had at the ready, a hot dog bun! Obviously that was a temporary solution. And, presumably, a hot dog bun in 1930 had a little more character than they do today.

Popularity

As was the case in 1930 as it is today, most cheesesteaks in the Philly region are served on rolls baked fresh and delivered to steak shops and restaurants every morning (and sometimes multiple times a day).

Outside of the Philadelphia area, the same mostly holds true; fresh rolls delivered from a local baker each morning. Some restaurateurs, however, choose to import rolls directly from Philadelphia’s legendary bakery, Amoroso’s. Amoroso’s has perfected the flash freezing processes and ships several varieties of their Hearth-Baked Bread and Rolls to restaurants, grocery stores and food service organizations throughout the country and the world for those who demand absolute authenticity.

Cheesesteaks 101

The Meat

History

Legend has it that one day in 1930, a Philadelphia hot dog vendor named Pat Olivieri finally had enough of eating hotdogs for lunch. So he bought some thinly sliced ribeye steak from the local butcher, fried it on his hot dog grill, added some onions, put it into a hot dog bun, and readied himself for the meal. Just as he was about to take his first bite, a regular customers walked up and remarked about how good it smelled and offered to buy it from him. Ever the entrepreneur, Pat sold it to the cabbie and the Philly Steak was born (cheese wouldn’t make an appearance for 20 more years).

Popularity

Ribeye is the cut of beef most synonymous with a Cheesesteak. It was the original cut used and popularized in the early days by the steak shops in South Philly and to this day remains the cut of choice for many destination shops. It’s the Steak Cut Emeritus of the Cheesesteak World. A great balance of flavor and texture.

That said, the majority of operations in the Philadelphia region and across the country use a blend of whole muscle beef cuts chosen for their distinct individual characteristics that, when married together (chunked and formed), are the optimal combination of flavor, texture and bite. And perhaps most important to restaurateurs and consumers, they’re of great quality and taste without the higher cost of single cut products.

Honorable Mention - Onions

The Onions

Many would argue its an essential, but in the big picture it’s an “add-on” but not just any “add-on”, it’s the most noteable for those who prefer the extra flavor of “with” or “wit”.

More
Honorable Mention - Onions

The Onions

History

In the beginning, a Philly hot dog vendor paired thinly-sliced steak with a roll. An icon was born — yet its creator saw room for improvement. So he thought, “let me throw on some of these diced onions I put on my franks.” And there was “wit.”

Popularity

To most, onions are a must. Depending on the variety used and how they're prepared, onions will add a bit of sweetness or a tang of sharpness to the cheesesteak experience.

Hang out near the counter of a Philly steak shop or pizza pallor and you’ll observe the following: Some folks will order a cheesesteak with grilled onions. Some will order a cheesesteak with fried onions. And, of course, some will just say “with”. No matter how it’s phrased, everybody is referring to the same thing. Technically, sautéed onions.

The Add-ons

Long Hot Peppers
A crookedly long, green pepper that is either roasted or fried. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of peppers. One bite could be pleasantly spicy. The next bite might ruin your night with it's heat.
Ketchup
The condiment of choice on cheesesteaks in and around Philadelphia.
Heinz® is a registered trademark of H.J. Heinz Company, L.P.
Hot Cherry Peppers
Break 'em up and put them in your cheesesteak or hold one in the hand opposite your cheesesteak and alternate bites.
Mustard
Serious violation! A priest in South Philly once threw a guy out of the confessional for admitting he liked mustard on his cheesesteaks.
Lettuce & Tomato
Some shredded Iceberg Lettuce and several slices of Jersey Tomato and you've got a Cheesesteak Hoagie.
Mayonnaise
Not a very popular choice for folks in the Philly area (but the #1 cheesesteak condiment for the rest of the country).
Hellmann's® is a registered trademark of Unilever-affiliated companies.
Mushrooms
Sautéed mushrooms go well with almost everything. Mix them into your steak for a Mushroom Cheesesteak.
Hot Sauce
For those who like it hot. Tabasco® brand Buffalo Style Sauce is great on a chicken cheesesteak!
TABASCO® is a registered trademark of McIlhenny Company.
Pizza/Marinara Sauce
Slather some on a cheesesteak made with provolone or mozzarella and you've got a classic Pizza Steak.
Sweet Peppers
They go best with hoagies but no one is going to fault you if you like them with your cheesesteak.
Bell Peppers
Great for Chicken Cheesesteaks. For beef steaks…ehh…