The Italian Beef Sandwich is a Chicago legend. You can easily create this mouthwatering sandwich at home in a crock pot, and it all starts with a good beef roast.
What is Italian Beef
Italian Beef is a flavorful, drippy, cheesy, amazingly good sandwich that everyone needs to try! The main ingredient of an Italian beef is roasted beef, that is typically sirloin tip roast, chuck roast or or top round roast. The beef is slow cooked for hours with a blend of herbs and spices until it literally falls apart. Next, the beef is piled high on a hoagie bun and topped with pepperoncini, giardiniera (pickled Italian vegetables), and provolone cheese.
History of Italian Beef Sandwich
Before we dive into the juicy details of crafting the perfect Italian beef sandwich, let’s explore the rich history behind this iconic Chicago delight. This beloved sandwich traces its roots back to the early 20th century when Italian immigrants, seeking economic opportunities in the United States, brought their culinary traditions with them. As the story goes, Italian beef sandwiches originated in the Italian-American communities of Chicago. In the 1920s, during the Great Depression, enterprising Italian immigrants began selling thinly sliced seasoned beef on rolls as a cost-effective way to feed hungry masses. This sandwich quickly gained popularity and became a staple in Chicago’s street food scene.
A great Italian beef sandwich starts with the right ingredients. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll need for the recipe:
Beef: The choice of beef cut is crucial. For that melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, choose a well-marbled roast. Our favorite cut for this recipe is a chuck roast, but a sirloin roast or top round roast will work too.
Bread: The ideal bread for an Italian beef sandwich is hoagie rolls, crusty Italian or French roll. The texture should be sturdy enough to hold the beef’s juices. However, any bun will do.
Seasonings: The key to the sandwich’s signature flavor is a blend of spices, including italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, black pepper, and salt. You’ll also need beef broth and au jus to add moisture and enhance the overall taste. This recipe uses a homemade seasoning blend, but if you’re short on time, you can also use one packet of Italian dressing mix.
Toppings: Traditional Italian beef sandwiches often include sweet peppers or hot peppers, giardiniera (pickled vegetables), and melted provolone cheese.
All about the beef
Obviously, beef is the star of the show in this sandwich. For that melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, choose a well-marbled roast. Our favorite cut for this recipe is a chuck roast, but a sirloin roast or top round roast will work too.
When we make this recipe, we cut the roast into 2 or 3 large chunks. Then, we heat vegetable oil in a large skillet and sear the meat on all sides over medium high heat. The reason we cut the beef prior to searing is so that the beef cooks slightly faster in the crockpot. Plus, more of the beef has a golden brown crust when seared and it adds a great flavor to the overall dish.
It’s important to note that every roast (and slow cooker) is different, so the crockpot cook time will slightly vary. If after you’ve cooked it for 8+ hours you notice your roast isn’t falling apart with the touch of a fork, you need to cook it longer. Be patient, and be sure to wait until it’s fork tender.
What’s the difference between Italian Beef and French Dip?
Italian Beef and French Dip may seem similar, but they are different:
- Italian Beef. Beef is slow-cooked until fall-apart tender in a blend of broth, Italian-inspired seasonings, and pickled vegetables. Then, it’s served on a hoagie bun with melted provolone cheese. It is a very flavorful sandwhich, and the flavors can be adjusted based on the toppings. If you want a “sweet” Italian beef, you can top with roasted green and/or red peppers, while a “hot” italian beef typically adds the giardiniera.
- French Dip. French Dip is also thinly sliced roast beef, but it is served with a cup of beef broth as a dipping sauce. French Dip does not have the unique zing that Italian Beef has.
- Storing: Italian Beef can be stored for up to 5 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Make sure to store the beef in its juices.
- Freezing: Store the beef in some of its juices in a sealable heavy duty freezer bag. Squeeze out any extra air to prevent freezer burn. Keep for up to 3 months.
- Reheat: You can reheat thawed meat in the microwave, stove top or back in the slow cooker.
Italian Beef Sandwich
- 3-4 lb chuck roast or round roast
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 cups beef broth
- 8 oz pepperoncini pepper slices and juice
- Hoagie Buns or Crusty Italian or French Roll
- Provolone cheese slices
Homemade Italian Beef Seasoning (see note*)
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- In a small bowl, stir together the Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper and thyme. Set aside
- Cut any large chunks of fat off the roast. Next, cut roast into 2 or 3 large chunks. Season beef with Kosher salt.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the roast to the pan and sear meat on all sides until golden brown so it develops a nice crust.
- Place beef in slow cooker. Sprinkle seasoning mixture on top of the beef
- Add pepperoncini peppers and juice, giardiniera without juice, and beef broth.
- Cover the slow cooker and cook on HIGH for 5-6 hours or LOW for 8-10 hours, or until meat shreds easily with a fork. Shred the beef. Keep shredded beef in the slow cooker and allow it to cook for 30 -45 minutes on low with all the juices.
- To serve, split the hoagie buns in half and toast on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes (if desired). Fill the buns with shredded Italian beef. Top with provolone, pepperoncini and Giardiniera as desired. Serve hot.
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ONE MORE THING!
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