Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich
I don’t know if there is a sandwich more fitting for the “Super Bowl” than the Chicago Italian Beef. Hailing from the South Side of Chicago, this sandwich has it all: Piles of thinly sliced, hot beef nestled in a soft bread smothered in tasty “beef juice” topped with sautéed peppers and spicy giardiniera; it just doesn’t get any better. This is a sandwich worthy of a Championship Trophy!
For the authentic version of this recipe I turned to my friend Meathead over at AmazingRibs.com. There you will find a treasure-trove of recipes dedicated to the art of deliciousness, and his recipe for “Better than Chicago’s Best Italian Beef Sandwich” is my guide for this masterpiece.
Meathead suggests starting with a Top Sirloin Roast in the 3-4 pound range. And I had Kevin from The Butcher Shoppe in Pensacola send me a great one to cook… You can also substitute top round or bottom round roast as well. I would say any lean beef roast will work. Remove as much fat and sinew from the outside of the roast as possible.
To season the roast he uses ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, basil, and crushed red pepper. I added a little salt to the mix because it’s a big piece of meat and I like salt, but omit it if you wish. Mix the seasonings together in a bowl, spritz the outer surface of the roast with water and sprinkle on a good dose of the seasoning. The water will help the seasonings stick and release some of the flavor from the herbs.
To cook the roast I set up my Big Green Egg for indirect cooking running Royal Oak lump for heat and few chunks of hickory for smoke flavor. Use the plate setter in the Egg to create indirect cooking. The temp needs to run at 325 the entire cook. You can use any grill or smoker for this cook and in Chicago they mainly cook it in an oven.
The cooking set up is key for Chicago Italian Beef. The roast sits above a pan of simmering beef broth while it cooks. Place a 9×13” baking pan on the cooking grate and add 6 cups of water. Throw in 4 beef bouillon cubes and stir to dissolve. Season the beef juice with a good pinch of the same seasoning used on the outside of the roast. Place a baking rack over the pan and sit the roast on the raised rack.
For the first stage of cooking the roast needs to hit 125-130 degrees internal for medium rare. Insert a wired probe thermometer into the center of the roast to monitor the temperature. I used my Thermoworks DOT and it works perfect for cooks like this. Check out the Thermoworks DOT here>>
If you use a 9×13” pan you shouldn’t need to add any more water, but keep an eye on it. Add additional water if necessary.
Once the roast hits 125-130 degrees, remove it from the pit. Pour the beef juice into a large container and place the roast in the pan. Cover it with foil and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 3 hours (or overnight) to cool. Refrigerate the beef juice as well.
When the roast is completely cool, it’s ready for the next step. Remove any fat that floats to the top of the juice then bring it to a slow simmer. I used a crockpot set on low but you can also use a pot on the stove. Taste the juice for flavor. Add more seasoning if necessary or reduce to add richness.
Now it’s time to slice the beef! In Chicago they use a meat slicer for thin slices but at home you can use a thin bladed knife. Let the knife do the work and take your time. Like Meathead says you don’t want to press too hard or saw at it because it’ll be too thick.
Also no Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich is complete without peppers. I sliced 3 sweet bell peppers into 1/4’ slices. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet and toss in the peppers to sauté (I hit them with just a touch of my AP Seasoning for added flavor).
To assemble the sandwiches first you need a good bread. If you have fresh Italian bread loaves great, but I didn’t, so I went with fresh French Rolls. The bread needs to be firm on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside. Slice it lengthwise but don’t go all the way through.
Place a big handful of the sliced beef into the simmering juice and let it hang out for 1 minute. Ladle the bread with a big spoon of the juice then pile the hot beef right on top.
Add a few strips of sweet pepper and giardiniera (it’s a chopped vegetable condiment packed in oil or vinegar depending on where you get it. Meathead has a great recipe for making it yourself over at AmazingRibs.com).
Lastly spoon more of the Beef Juice over the top or if you’re like me just dunk the whole sandwich back in the crockpot. They call this “wet” in Chicago but I call it Pandemonium!!
There are several variations of the Chicago Italian Beef. Meathead describes them much better than I can, but my favorite has to be the Combo. A grilled Italian Sausage is placed on the roll with everything else, and I go one step further by adding provolone cheese. I highly suggest trying this version if you want to be blown away.
If you want to make your weekend “Super”, dive into this sandwich and drop Meathead a note thanking him for the recipe.
Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich