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What is a Cheese Steak?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A cheese steak is a sandwich that originated in the American city of Philadelphia and has become a staple food found in numerous restaurants, bars, and other eateries. The sandwich primarily consists of steak sliced thin and cooked through, served on a hoagie roll. This is then topped with an array of toppings, though sautéed onions and cooked peppers are both common, along with cheese. A cheese steak can also be prepared using a number of variations to create sandwiches such as the pizza steak and the buffalo chicken cheesesteak.

Often referred to as a Philadelphia cheesesteak or Philly cheesesteak, a cheese steak sandwich usually begins with the bread. A hoagie roll is typically used. This roll can potentially consist of any type of bread, though Italian bread is traditional. The roll is split and can be lightly toasted on the inside, depending on the preference of the cook or eater.

Meat for a cheese steak can consist of any cut of steak, though a rib eye or top round cut is typically used. The meat is sliced thin and cooked on a hot griddle; thicker pieces are cooked a bit longer and thin pieces can sometimes be piled together or cooked on top of sliced onions to prevent overcooking. These slices of meat can be left whole or chopped slightly using a spatula while cooking.

While the steak and cheese are all that is strictly necessary for a cheese steak, there are a number of other toppings that can be included. Onions, especially Spanish onions, are quite popular and are usually sautéed lightly in oil to soften them and bring out their sweetness. Cooked peppers and mushrooms can also be used as toppings when desired.

Once all of this is on the roll, cheese is then placed on top to complete the sandwich. The original cheese steak was likely prepared with provolone cheese, which remains a favorite for many people, though American cheese can also be used. More recently, melted processed cheese has become standard in many locations and this type of cheese is preferred by many cheese steak enthusiasts.

There are a number of variations on the cheese steak that have become quite popular. A pizza steak sandwich typically consists of steak slices that have a red pizza sauce poured over them, often topped with some pepperoni and crumbled mozzarella cheese. Buffalo chicken cheesesteak sandwiches use chicken instead of steak, and the chicken is prepared with a hot sauce similar to the sauce used in making buffalo chicken wings, which is often topped with blue cheese.

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Discussion Comments

By Viranty — On Aug 16, 2014

Whenever I go out and order a cheese steak, my favorite toppings are definitely onions and green peppers. In fact, I find that many cooked vegetables go well with the sandwich, such as mushrooms and spicy peppers.

By Chmander — On Aug 15, 2014

Before reading the last paragraph, I didn't know that there were different variations of the cheese steak, as that actually makes it more unique than I thought. Also, I'll admit that I'm not a big fan of the original cheese steak. I don't know, it just never really appealed to me. However, all these other versions definitely have me interested. I am a big fan of pepperoni pizza, so I think the pizza steak sandwich would appeal to me greatly. This article has really shown me that even if you're not big on a famous dish, you can see much you enjoy the other versions, which might even appeal to a larger audience.

By Euroxati — On Aug 15, 2014

I have had many cheese steak sandwiches in my lifetime, and I have to say that I enjoy them quite a bit. However, I do feel that the quality is better at certain places than others. I can provide three different examples. If you go to a nearby grocery store and buy the frozen cheese steaks, the quality would be a bit lower because they're supposed to be prepared instantly. Now if you go to a restaurant such as Fridays or Chili's, though the quality would be a lot better, it still might not be up to par because the products are bought in stock. However, if you go to Philadelphia, and order yourself one of the sandwiches, you're in for quite a surprise. Considering that's where they came from, it's a lot more authentic than other variations. While it all comes down to personal preference, also remember that the quality can depend on where you get your food product(s).

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