Making great cheesesteaks is second nature to Philadelphia restaurateur Tony Luke. With more than 30 franchises (including the South Philly flagship) and multiple TV appearances under his belt, Tony can be considered a higher power when it comes to cheesesteak ideology, so we asked him to provide the official dos and don'ts of the sautéed beef sandwich. Hark, here are thy 10 Philly Cheesesteak Commandments.
1. Only use ribeye steak Think that using a filet will make your cheesesteak better? Well, you're wrong (and clearly, like, have too much extra cash lying around). A real cheesesteak is made with thinly sliced, marbled ribeye, and you’ll want it sliced paper-thin (but not thin enough to see through) to ensure the meat can cook all the way through.
2. Cook on low With the overkill of cooking shows, TV personalities, and general food culture, every Bobby Flay wannabe says the only way to cook steak is to get a nice sear using the highest heat possible. With thinly sliced ribeye, the only thing that you’ll get using high heat is a cheesesteak with the texture of beef jerky. Low and slow is the way to go.
3. Only use Italian bread The type of bread you're looking for is crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, like a nice French baguette. Tony Luke's makes its bread fresh in-house every hour. Don’t trust any place that serves a cheesesteak on wheat, rye, or God forbid, white bread.
4. Not need condiments Would you put ketchup on a steak from Del Frisco’s? Nope, and the same goes for your divine cheesesteak. Unless your cheesesteak was made with Steak-umms (it shouldn't be), there's no inherent need for any ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, or other condiments.
5. Not use Swiss cheese Technically you can use a few different kinds of cheese on your steak: American, sharp or mild provolone, and Cheez Whiz (yes, it's cheese!) are all acceptable options. Swiss cheese is meant for ham sandwiches and mice. Oh, and to ensure properly level of melt, the cheese should be added right before the meat is done cooking.
6. Allow onions (if fried) "Wit' or wit'out?" That’s the prompt most folks expect when ordering a Philly cheesesteak and honestly, they do benefit from some freshly fried white or yellow onions. Just don’t caramelize them -- you want the onions to still have a little bit of bite. Raw onions would also be out of place on regular cheesesteak but can be added to a hoagie, along with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and oregano.
7. Use little oil One of the easiest ways to spot a poorly made steak -- aside from dry, crumbly meat -- is the use of too much oil when cooking. If your cooks know what they're doing, it only takes a small amount of canola oil on the griddle. Fat from the beef along with slow cooking will ensure that the steak doesn’t stick. Philadelphia-style cheesesteaks should not be greasy!
8. Wait for your steak The construction of a proper steak should occur as follows: you place your order, steak is thrown on the grill, cheese is added right before the steak is done cooking, you get to enjoy your meal (repeat as needed). Notice how the meat isn’t cooked until you order. Invest some time; it’s worth the wait.
9. Not use a knife and fork This should go without saying, but cheesesteaks are meant to be eaten with your hands, not with a knife and fork Trump-style. While the “cheesesteak stance” is fairly overblown by the press (think leaning aggressively forward while standing), eating a steak can be a messy endeavor. Embrace the mess: juice = flavor.
10. Consume excessive cheesesteaks If you live in Philly, you’ll undoubtedly eat more than your fair share of cheesesteaks. Visits from out-of-towners, late night drunchies, and dozens of options make getting a cheesesteak an inevitable part of living in the city of brotherly love. That’s not a bad thing -- they’re portable, filling, and healthy (relatively), assuming you don't overload on Whiz.
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Dan McKay is a freelance writer/photographer living in Philly. He was once the fastest kid in second grade but now gets winded walking up the Rocky steps. You can follow him on Twitter or Instagram @dannypageviews.