I am very passionate about my cheesesteaks, especially homemade cheesesteaks. Born and raised in the Philly suburbs, I grew up with homemade cheesesteaks and store bought cheesesteaks. They're the perfect sandwich and I judge local pizza places solely on their cheesesteaks (and buffalo chicken cheesesteaks). It breaks my heart seeing published cheesesteak recipes with thick slices of green peppers and provolone cheese. It also drives me crazy seeing guides suggesting Philadelphians call up a pizza place and say "can I get a Wiz wit?" Absolutely not. Homemade cheesesteaks are my favorite easy weeknight meals to make and you need a few simple ingredients.
This post is long, but thorough with opinions I'll defend to the grave. As you may be able to tell, I take my cheesesteaks very seriously. Feel free to scroll to the bottom for the recipe.
What kind of cheese for a Philly Cheesesteak?
At a typical corner store or cheesesteak establishment in Philly, you can usually find white American Cheese, Cheez Whiz, and provolone. I am saying this with my full chest, provolone cheese does not belong on a cheesesteak and it is most certainly not standard practice. It is technically an option, but not what makes a cheesesteak authentic. The most common cheese you will find and the default cheese for cheesesteaks is White American Cheese. Cheez Whiz is good on a cheesesteak, and that's usually option #2. Cheez Whiz cheesesteaks are best at 2 am after a night out.
For those unfamiliar with Cheez Whiz, Cheez Whiz is a Kraft Food product that you can usually find in a jar at a supermarket. As most restaurants in the city, they buy their fluorescent orange cheese product sauce in a can and store it in a warming tray on the flat top. It's delicious, but not necessary for an authentic cheesesteak. Cooper Sharp Cheese is my personal favorite American Cheese for cheesesteaks; Cooper Sharp has been in Philly since 1918 and is a clear indicator of a good cheesesteak shop.
What kind of meat for a Philly Cheesesteak?
You need shaved ribeye for the best homemade cheesesteak. Keyword here is shaved. You may find it in your grocery store as shaved beef. While I have grown up with more than one option of shaved beef in grocery stores all of my life, I know it is not super common throughout the country. I can find it in my local grocery stores, Target, and even Trader Joe's. If you have trouble finding shaved beef, check your local Asian market because shaved beef is also sold for hot pots.
There are a few frozen options for shaved beef. Steak-Umms is popular, but it's not quite the same (although it can do in a pinch). Ideally, though, fresh shaved beef is best. If you are thinly slicing or shaving your own beef at home, you can manage thinner slices by freezing your beef for 30-60 minutes and cutting with a sharp knife. Alternatively, you can ask a butcher if it's possible but you may have to order ahead.
If you're looking for other delicious beef recipes, you can find all of my beef recipes here.
What kind of roll for a Philly Cheesesteak?
You want a soft but durable long roll for a homemade cheesesteak. My favorite brands are Corropolese and Amoroso rolls which are common around here. While you may struggle to find Corropolese rolls nationally, but I know they sell Amoroso rolls nationally. Some of Philly's best cheesesteaks come on seeded rolls, but I don't trust the rolls wherever you may be reading this from to recommend them
What toppings on a Philly Cheesesteak?
I don't trust food blogs that publish cheesesteak recipes with bell peppers, mushrooms, or a sauce on their cheesesteak. It is blasphemy to do that. If you want a fajita sandwich, knock yourself out. Any typical cheesesteak ordered in or around Philadelphia is a plain cheesesteak with just meat and cheese. Typical condiments are ketchup and sometimes mayo, but I never trust a cheesesteak shop to put it on themselves. Onions are never assumed, but they are common. Peppers are way less typical and mushrooms are optional and not common.
Of course, if you love your cheesesteaks resembling fajitas or packed with mushrooms, knock yourself out with those peppers and mushrooms. My mother-in-law's cheesesteak order has salt, pepper, ketchup, mayo, peppers, fried onions, and mushrooms. She's a monster, though.*
How to Order a Philly Cheesesteak
As I said earlier, do not say "can I get a wiz wit?" when ordering a cheesesteak. That's not a thing. Yes, I know there are articles online that say that, but nobody in Philly says that. When I had my college orientation for Villanova, my orientation leader from Long Island proudly explained how all the locals say that when they order "the best cheesesteaks" from that legendary corner in East Passyunk. They don't do that and no local willingly goes to that tourist trap unless it is after closing time. I do not know a single living person in the greater Philadelphia area that says "wiz wit." Wit, for those unaware, is supposed to mean "wit onions." Just don't.
Tips for making a cheesesteak
Whether you like onions on your cheesesteak or not, I swear by sauteing an onion in the pan before cooking the beef. This seasons the pan and oil, and fried onions are delicious. Any place that sells great cheesesteaks usually has a pile of onions cooking away in the corner of a flat top. Even without the onion on your sandwich, you can kind of taste it on the meat. If you are absolutely against the idea of real onions, add a sprinkling of onion powder to your beef. When my onions are close to caramelized, I put them at the back of my griddle with the heat off and scoop them in at the end.
Chop the beef while cooking. Cheesesteaks are cooked best with two spatulas. Hold the meat down with your spatula in your non dominant hand and then tear the meat apart with the spatula in your dominant hand. Cheese steaks are finely chopped bits of shaved beef--you don't want sheet of beef. This isn't a roast beef sandwich.
Toast your roll. Cheesesteaks are great with a toasted roll. Sop up that beefy, onion-flavored oil with the roll or toast it with some butter. You don't need to put the rolls in the oven though--that's unnecessary.
To melt the cheese, splash some water on the griddle and cover with a lid or pot. The steam will melt the cheese. Add the roll on top of the cheese steak filling, work your spatula underneath, and scoop and flip to fill your roll.
Cheese to meat ratio is key. An Amoroso Italian roll is approximately 11 inches long. For that length of roll, I use 8 oz. of shaved beef, 3 slices of American Cheese, and 1/2 cup of caramelized onions.
- 2 large onions, sliced thinly
- 2 lb. shaved ribeye
- 4 hoagie rolls, 11" long
- 12 slices of white American Cheese
- neutral oil like vegetable oil
- kosher salt and pepper
- Oil a griddle and saute onions on medium heat with a pinch of kosher salt until they begin to caramelize. Remove onions or move to back of griddle with burner off.
- Season beef with about 1 tsp kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
- On medium high heat, saute shaved beef until fully cooked (no pink and slightly crispy). To break apart beef, use two spatulas to tear beef apart into small pieces.
- If toasting roll, add roll (cut side down) to griddle until crispy and golden.
- Divide beef into 8 oz sections and top with American cheese. Add a splash of water to the pan and cover with a lid to melt cheese.
- Top beef and cheese with roll (cut side down) and flip over with a spatula and serve.
This can be done in a pan, but works best on a griddle. For a two burner griddle, I cook my cheesesteaks 1 lb. at a time to not overcrowd the griddle.
Serving Size:1 cheesesteak
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 743Total Fat: 44gSaturated Fat: 12gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 160mgSodium: 1008mgCarbohydrates: 86gNet Carbohydrates: 84gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 57g