Easiest, Fastest, Best Week

What Google Can’t Tell Us About "the Best" Philly Cheese Steak Recipe

September 30, 2016

Before you even make it, there are clues this recipe—the first that comes up on Google when you search “best Philly cheese steak recipe"—won’t be a traditional Philly cheese steak:

  • It takes two hours to make.
  • You’re making Provolone sauce.
  • There are 14 ingredients, give or take (the ingredient list is unconsolidated, so it makes it hard to count)
  • It’s Bobby Flay, on an episode of "Throwdown." If you know the show, or Bobby, you know it’s not going to be the easy way. Watch the video and you'll hear Bobby say it's "jacked up."

So no matter how fail-proof the recipe, if you’re looking for a traditional cheese steak (you know: long hoagie roll, thin slices of seared steak, typically Cheez Whiz), you’ll likely be disappointed with this one.

As a commenter on Food Network put it:

it's a cheese steak for crying out loud. it falls in the realm of fast food. FAST FOOD!! 2+ hours is not fast.

But if you’re game for a souped-up cheese steak recipe, where will you end up with this one? Did the internet dish out the best cheese steak out there?

Shop the Story

Freeze strip loin (for easy slicing), then slice and cook the loin. Construct the sandwich. Make provolone sauce. Sauté mushrooms, caramelize onions, sauté peppers. This is what the recipe says. Start moving through it without reading first and you’re layering steak on a roll but are yet without sauce, mushrooms, onions, and peppers. I’m confused! Uh oh. And by calculations, this means I’m dirtying four sauté pans and a saucepan in the process—of making a sandwich.

I opted out. But was still curious—for the sake of Easiest, Fastest, Best Week. This seemed like a challenge that wasn’t insurmountable for the sake of the best Philly cheese steak, so we asked two of our professional recipe testers to make the recipe and see if all these downsides were true hassles or worth it.

This recipe was pretty awesome.
Anna, Food52 recipe tester

Anna found the recipe’s upsides to be the caramelized onions—you make a lot so you have plenty left over for omelets and burgers—the steak-freezing trick, and the provolone sauce: "It took the sandwich to the next level. So delicious and velvety."

She found it labor intensive, but worth it, which was not the case for our other tester, Kate.

"The sandwich reminded me more of a steak bomb than a Philly. And quite honestly, if you spend that much time and effort (not to mention the cost of 4 pounds of strip loin), it has to be a mind-blowing sandwich—but it really wasn't. You could have just sautéed onions with the peppers and saved time. The cheesy Béchamel was a nice touch, though, and I do prefer it to the traditional orange Cheez."

So while all of the steps did work—something you hope you can count on when the source of the recipe is a trained chef—it doesn’t mean it’s tailored for home kitchens. But Google can’t know that, can it?

Listen Now

Join The Sandwich Universe co-hosts (and longtime BFFs) Molly Baz and Declan Bond as they dive deep into beloved, iconic sandwiches.

Listen Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Smaug
  • Gremlinkurst
  • Dan
  • ErinM724
  • Seth
Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.


Smaug November 16, 2023
I sympathise with Bobby. At one point I did some "research" (i.e. poking around on the internet) on Philly cheese steaks and arrived at what I'm pretty sure was an authentic recipe-
I had nothing to compare my homemade rolls to, but they matched the description well. I found it to be bland and overly greasy, which fit my expectations pretty well, but the basic concept (sauteed thin cut steak with sauteed onions and cheese) had possibilities and have messed around with it some. Well trimmed sirloin made for a reasonable level of fat, sharp cheese and less of it made a better balance, pepper strips (decried by the traditionalists) are a huge plus (I like sweet Italian peppers especially) and various additions- worcestershire, thyme- all sorts of herbs and spices, actually- soy sauce, hot pepper can be combined in all sorts of ways to make some excellent sandwiches (which are not Philly cheese steaks, but neither are many fine things- hamburgers, roses, ukuleles etc.). I like ciabatta rolls as a base.
Gremlinkurst July 20, 2021
I hate to break it to all the "experts" out there, but ANYONE—and I don't care WHO they are—ANYONE says that Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches have Cheez Whiz or ANY kind of artificial nacho cheese crap on it, or ANY kind of yellow cheese whatsoever? Gardeners line up with your wheelbarrows, 'cause that guy is tossing 100% pure FERTILIZER! I don't care if you can find 198 shops in Philadelphia poisoning their customers with that drek, IT'S NOT PHILLY!

Now, folks with more refined palates—YELLOW? REALLY?—folks with more refined taste may quibble and hem and haw over which non-cheddar or non-Colby or non-whatever-yellow-mess is the right white or whitish cheese, but that's another argument. And if it has half of some weirdo's kitchen pantry in it, or it takes longer than fifteen minutes to prepare, it's not WHAT? It's not PHILLY! The gustatorial beauty of that iconic sandwich is that it's SIMPLE, delicious, and there's not really a "correct" recipe. And I don't care if "Uncle Bob and Aunt Janet" are eighth-generation Philly denizens and THEY make it that way—if there is ANY kind of yellow dripping from it (that includes mustard), it's not what? You got it: It's not Philly! ...Not the Philadelphia treat I remember from 1980, anyway!
Dan January 23, 2018
Seth, you are right about the old days at 9th and Passyunk.
Erin, ask them if they can make a pizza steak, available at every steak shop in Philly. Same Italian roll, griddled beef, your choice of fried onions, sweet or hot peppers and mushrooms, but The cheese becomes mild provolone and pizza sauce is ladled on top. Dry becomes messy. The pizza sauce can be canned, or even just thick tomato purée blended with oregano, basil, pizza herbs etc.
Many people here will also order a regular steak with ketchup.
ErinM724 January 23, 2018
I live smack dab in the middle of the country and have never been to Philly. We found a place in town that makes cheesesteaks and ordered for the NFC game last Sunday. They were pretty good....but so dry! I'm considering ordering them again for the big show, but am considering making some kind of sauce at home for us to add....maybe a garlic aioli? Any suggestions?
Seth January 23, 2018
I'm a Philly boy...go Birds...beat them Pat's
and I know my steaks too. So y'all can say what you want about any steak out there...but no marinara for me = no steak sandwich.
and Dan...Pats and Genos certainly are tourist spots today....but thats not how they started out. They were just local corner spots down in the neighborhood. just an aspect of South Philly living from back in the day

Dan October 23, 2016
Yes, by polls the most common cheese on a steak is American, followed by provolone. Whiz is a relatively recent development from the late 60s, found primarily at the famous tourist spots like Pats and Genos, which are generally the models for articles in magazines/blogs.
beejay45 October 1, 2016
Two Philly guys I new when I lived back East swore than only white American cheese was traditional on the cheesesteak. Gotta say I prefered their version. I've had an aversion to the yellow cheese in a can from childhood. Overlooking the fact that it's something-called-cheese that comes in a can, it is soooo salty - way more salty even than American cheese. Even as a kid, that wasn't for me. The provolone sauce? That's just Bobby being Bobby. ;)