If the hot peppers and onions don’t pull you in, the gooey cheese on top of thin beef tenderloin surely will.
As a gal born and raised in Philadelphia, I know a thing or two about cheesesteaks. Today I’m sharing with you my version of The Very Best Grilled Philly Cheesesteak.
I know, I know. I can hear you saying, “Wait, hold on…you can’t grill a Philly Cheesesteak!” What about the grease? Doesn’t that have something to do with the siren call of a perfectly made Philly cheesesteak??”
My answer is yes. Sort-of.
I can vividly remember holding the just-made cheesesteaks of my youth and squeezing out some of the grease and cheese “juice.” As a teen, my first serious boyfriend lived about 30 minutes away, down the Boulevard and deeper into Philly. The first time he ordered a cheesesteak, he asked for mayo. I was horrified. Who would put mayo on a cheesesteak?? My family was all about pizzasteaks (steak, cheese, sauce and fried onions) or a plain cheesesteak (steak and cheese) that we would douse with ketchup.
The very thought of mayonnaise on a cheesesteak? Blech! But that’s how everyone in his neighborhood ate them.
Take a guess as to what’s on my cheesesteak these days? Umm, yup… mayo it is! (Today, the thought of ketchup on a cheesesteak makes me shudder.)
I especially enjoy a cheesesteak hoagie. The roll slathered with mayo, lettuce, American cheese, and meat. Hot peppers on the side. Mmm!
I have one make or break about this order: my lettuce must be on the bottom or I am not a happy girl. I want the shredded lettuce mingling with the mayo nestled against the roll with the heat of the meat wilting it. I dot the sandwich with the sliced hot peppers and, bite after bite, the magical combination satisfies.
In my opinion, the secret to the iconic Philly Cheesesteak is the roll. I am not alone in this thinking. Seriously, the magic of our sandwiches (hoagies, cheesesteaks, hot roast pork, hot roast beef) begins with a perfect roll. Soft and pillow-y on the inside and thin crisp shell on the outside. You know how a perfect crème brûlée begins with the tap-tap-tap of the caramelized sugar crust? A well-made Philly roll is the same way!
Traditionally, Philly Cheesesteaks are made with chipped beef that comes in super thin slices that get placed on the flat grill-top to cook through before it’s quickly chopped. Toppings get added like fried onions, mushrooms, peppers, pepperoni or whatever else you dream up. The cook uses his spatula and portions out a pile for each sandwich, tops the meat pile with American or provolone cheese slices, lets the cheese melt just a bit, then scoops it up faster than you thought possible with a spatula and slides it into the roll (which may be slathered with mayo or left dry). Seconds later, it’s wrapped in a paper-lined aluminum wrapper and off to a lucky recipient.
If you visit Pat’s or Geno’s—the two landmarks in center city Philly who notoriously battle it out for supremacy—you’ll hear “Cheesesteak American Wit” or “Cheesesteak Whiz Widdout.” All Day Long. Translation: The wit and the widdout refer to with fried onions or without fried onions.
For my take on The Best Grilled Philly Cheesesteak, I went “wit.” I began with a pan full of sautéed, slightly caramelized onions that I cooked on the grill and followed that by a well-seasoned hunk of beef tenderloin grilled to perfection.
The meat of a traditional cheesesteak is cooked through; however to honor the cut of meat I chose, I went with a medium cook. Sliced thin or it’s not a real Philly Cheesesteak.
I made one sandwich with the American cheese I grew up with and another using the typical Philly Cheese Wiz, as well as a handful of hot pepper rings. Both my husband and I preferred the American. Feel free to use provolone, if that’s your thing.
I’ll be honest with you. The very thought of putting cheese on Filet Mignon was making every part of my being very nervous, I knew it was a bad idea. Boy, was I was wrong.
The cheesesteak was exceptional! I mean…you start with a great cut of meat and grill it. The traditional greasiness of a cheesesteak is gone. What you end up with is bite after bite of onions mingling with filet and bits of gooey cheese here and there, held in place with a crisp-tender roll. Yes, yes, YES! I may never order a cheesesteak again! Pat’s and Gino’s…you better watch out!