Italian Beef Sandwiches

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If you are from the Chicago area, you probably recognize the bad boy in the picture above.  The Italian Beef sandwich is a culinary institution in the Second City.  Each beef stand has its own method and thus, flavor and texture, so everybody seems to have a favorite.  I was introduced to the sandwich in my late teens and after a few years and samples of many variations, I got the familiar voice in my head--"I want to try this at home."  After much searching and tweaking of recipes, I struck gold with this process.  If you have been transplanted to some other city or country and can't get it or if you're still around and always wanted to try your hand at making the succulent, juicy beef yourself-- have I got a plan for you!  

In order to help you make your very own Italian Beef sandwices at home, I have included a few step-by-steps below.  

Prepare the ingredients for the rub, reserving 1 tablespoon of the mixture to season the juice.  Massage the rub on all sides of the meat.  Allow to rest for 1 hour at room temperature.  This ensures that the meat will cook evenly.

Roast the meat at 450° F for 15 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350° F and cook until the internal temperature reaches 130°-135° F for medium rare.  Cooking the meat to medium rare is important for tenderness.  The meat will be further cooked when warmed in the juice before assembling the sandwich. Once rested, tightly wrap the roast in double layers of aluminum foil then plastic wrap and chill for several hours, preferably overnight.  Chilling makes it easier to slice. The meat needs to be sliced as thin as possible, preferably with an electric knife.  In fact, I would not even try slicing it by hand.  Thick cuts of meat make for a tough sandwich.

Remove the roast from the pan, lightly tent with foil, and set aside to rest for 20-30 minutes; reserve any meat drippings.  Meanwhile, deglaze the pan with boullion cubes, water, reserved seasoning from the rub mixture, and any reserved meat drippings.  

Once chilled, slice shave the meat as thin as possible (I cannot stress this enough), preferably with an electric knife, unless you can get your hands on a meat slicer.  

I am talking paper thin slices, my friends.  They don't have to be uniform, but ultra thin is key.  Electric knives are fairly inexpensive, so go get one.  I use mine all the time for meats and roasts.

Juice and meat can be made a day ahead and I recommend it highly.

The next day, heat the juice over a low heat and allow the meat to soak for no more than one minute.  Otherwise, it becomes tough and chewy.  Dress your sandwich with some juice, sautéed green peppers if you like (we like), hot giardinara (we like Pagliacci Hot Italian Pepper Spread in oil), and a good ladle of more juice (or dip the whole sandwich).  Push up your sleeves, elbows up, and dig in.  Don't forget the fries!

Printable Recipe

Italian Beef Sandwiches
serves 10-12

For the Meat
1 boneless top sirloin beef roast, about 4 pounds with most of the fat trimmed off
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
½  teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

For the Juice
6 cups of hot water
3 cubes of bouillon (Knorr brand)

For the Sandwich
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Hot Italian pepper spread in oil or hot giardiniera
Italian bread rolls, sliced lengthwise, but not all the way through

For the Meat
In a small bowl, mix together the rub ingredients, reserve 1 Tablespoon. Massage the meat on all sides with the rub mixture. Let the meat sit at room temp for about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450° F. Place the roast in a roasting pan or oven proof skillet and roast for 15 minutes.  Turn the oven temperature down to 350° F and cook until the internal temperature is 130°-135° F for medium rare, about 40-60 minutes more. (The meat must be cooked to medium rare as it will be cooked again in the juice just before placing in the sandwich.)

Remove the roast from the pan, lightly tent with foil, and set aside to rest for 20-30 minutes; reserve pan drippings. Tightly wrap in double foil, then in plastic wrap, and refrigerate several hours, preferably overnight. Reserve any accumulated meat drippings for the juice. Chilling the meat allows for easier slicing. Once chilled, transfer the meat to a cutting board and slice as thin as possible, preferably with an electric knife.

For the Juice
Deglaze the pan or skillet with the water and boullion over medium heat until the bouillon has dissolved.  Add the 1 tablespoon of reserved seasoning and stir to combine; taste for seasoning and add any reserved meat drippings. If you want a more concentrated flavor, reduce the liquid slightly.  If you want a thinner juice, add a little more water.  Cool the juice to room temperature.  Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Sandwich
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the sliced peppers and cook, covered and stirring occasionally, until they have softened and browned slightly, about 10-12 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Add the garlic and sauté for 5 more minutes.  Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, bring the juice to a low simmer. Soak the meat in the hot juice for about 1 minute.  Do not over soak the meat or it will become tough and chewy.

To assemble the sandwich, spoon some juice directly onto the roll. Top with the soaked meat followed by the green peppers and giardinera.  Enjoy!

Source: Adapted from amazingribs.com


  1. A very nice post, will share it with my carnivores!

  2. One of the things I miss most about Chicago--yum! Still trying to come up with a skinny version ;)

    1. It is a top sirloin roast and not a fatty chuck roast. So, it is a little on the skinny side:)

  3. For the juice, I would not use bouillon, but a good no salt added beef stock and reduce it a bit. That way I could control the salt and avoid the MSG. Otherwise, this looks fantastic.

    1. Telesma-
      There is much debate on whether to use bouillon or stock. But since this is a once in a while meal, I prefer the bouillon. You can certainly use what you prefer.

  4. Also, I pinned the recipe on Pinterest so I wouldn't forget about it. That should get you some much deserved traffic. :D

  5. You are so right. After being down South for these past few months and getting reacquainted with some great food, I was beginning to rethink some old favorites from up North. It will be fun to share this with new our friends. I have always wanted to try this at home, too, but never dared. Thanks for the tutorial. As always, you make it look so-o-o easy and so-o-o delicious. Miss you!

  6. I was actually just craving a good Italian beef! Good timing :)


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