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How to make a Philly cheesesteak

Everything you need to know about the ingredients in a Philly cheesesteak: The bread, meat, cheese, and more.

From the bread to the meat, here is how to make your own cheesesteak.
From the bread to the meat, here is how to make your own cheesesteak.Read moreHeather Khalifa / Staff Photographer

Here is a primer on the ingredients in a Philly cheesesteak, and how to make one. For more on how the sandwich got started, here’s a brief history of the Philadelphia cheesesteak, and here is how to order one and where to go for the best.

What beef is used for a Philly cheesesteak?

A classic cheesesteak is made with thinly sliced steaks from various cuts of beef, with rib-eye considered the best choice. The meat is often sold frozen in multi-sliced, shingle-shaped portions, or you can buy your own meat and cut it yourself. One tip: It’s easier to slice it thinly if it’s partially frozen.

What is the best bread for a Philly cheesesteak?

Next to the meat — and perhaps on par with it — the quality of the roll is key to a cheesesteak connoisseur’s appreciation of any given sandwich.

There is, perhaps, fiercer debate about the right bread to use among cheesesteak connoisseurs than about any other aspect of the sandwich.

Torpedo rolls, known as submarine rolls in other parts of the country, are standard, though one highly rated purveyor — Donkey’s, across the Delaware River in Camden — puts its cheesesteaks on kaiser rolls. The crust should be firm but not teeth-crunching hard. The inside should be tender but not chewy.

» READ MORE: The best cheesesteaks to eat in Philly right now

How to cook a Philly cheesesteak

The meat is sautéed on a slightly oiled grill until cooked through. Most cooks chop the meat with their spatulas, and add salt and pepper. Onions are often cooked on the same grill but are not married with the steak until it’s time to put them on the roll. That is, if you want your sandwich ‘wit’.

» READ MORE: Most popular cheesesteaks in Philly, including Pat’s, Geno’s, Jim’s, and Dalessandro’s

What cheese goes on a Philly cheesesteak?

It depends. There are different approaches when it comes to the cheese. If you’re using sliced cheese, like American or provolone, put it on the bread before the steak, so it will be softened by the heat of the meat, or put the cheese on the meat while it’s on the grill before you put the whole mess on the roll.

Cheez Whiz, if that is your thing, is melted and drizzled over the steak in the sandwich.

» READ MORE: Best hoagies in Philly to eat right now

How to season a cheesesteak?

Cheesesteak lovers don’t always put condiments on their sandwiches, but if they do it is likely to be ketchup. Other options that seem to be more common include sriracha or other types of hot sauce.

Toppings to add to a cheesesteak

A traditional cheesesteak is only meat, cheese, and, maybe, onions. But some are starting to loosen up about the “correct” toppings to put on a cheesesteak. As Ray Boyd wrote in an article from 2019:

“As a city, it’s time for us to claim the cheesesteak as a whole, not just the handful of ingredients that we arbitrarily deem are right because they’re ‘classic.’ We’ve seen green peppers pop up on various cheesesteak remixes and purists always get offended.”

Here are some toppings that some enjoy:

  1. Cheesesteak hoagie: chopped lettuce, tomato and fresh or fried onions with a sprinkle of oregano and, if desired, some olive oil and vinegar

  2. Bruschetta cheesesteak: tomato, celery, and basil

  3. Hot peppers: jalapeno, long hots, cherry peppers, banana peppers

  4. Green peppers

  5. Raw onions

  6. Mushrooms

Boyd did a survey of Inquirer readers, and here were the toppings they preferred:

This story has been updated since it first published.

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