The BEST Italian Beef Sandwich Recipe

Italian Beef Sandwich

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Originating in South Chicago, the classic Italian Beef Sandwich is a mesmerizing roast beef dish, perfect for dinner with your buddies over a couple of beers. It features a unique take on the original French Dip with a twist; unlike the classic French Dip that you make with a baguette, this variation uses French Rolls, which are much higher in gluten. These provide you with a pillowy inside, perfect for soaking up all the juice, while still maintaining a crust sturdy and thick enough to prevent most leakages.

Before structuring the sandwich itself, you soak this sandwich’s meat wholely with the Dip (more often referred to as ‘juice’), which is just the beef bouillon used in roasting the beef. This method of dipping the meat before serving differs once again from the original French version; with that sandwich, you dip each bite in the juice as you eat. After dipping the meat and building the sandwich, you can also dip the entire sandwich back in the warmed-up juice, but if you do, be prepared for a dripping, wonderfully-flavorsome mess.

Moving on, let’s begin the recipe itself!

Making the classic Chicago Italian Beef sandwich involves slowly roasting a lean cut of beef, covered in a dry rub you’ll be making. Your best bet is using top sirloin with most (but not all!) of its fat removed before cooking, but just about any lean beef will work (though perhaps not as well in terms of flavor). As for the roast itself, the meat is placed on a rack that sits above a pan of seasoned beef bouillon; this becomes the earlier-mentioned ‘juice’ later on. Once roasted, leave to rest in the fridge for a minimum of three hours – bear in mind that the best flavor will accumulate overnight (around eight or more hours), but if you don’t have time for this, or simply don’t want to wait that long, three hours will do the trick fine.

Then, cut your cold roast into paper-thin slices, and soak in the warmed-up juice for a couple of minutes (you can warm up the juice in a stove pot). Once you’ve done all that, generously layer your freshly-dipped slices of beef onto the French rolls. Top the meat with sauteed green bell pepper slices and giardiniera. Giardiniera is simply a bunch of pickled serrano peppers, green olives, celery, and spices packed in olive oil. Some variations also come with cauliflower, carrots, and other vegetables. Giardiniera can be purchased from most grocery stores. 

To finish it off, add more beef juice onto the open sandwich. After this, you can either dip the entire sandwich in the juice as described earlier or eat it as-is. Both options are amazingly flavorful and tasty in their own ways.

Traditionally, the roast used to make this sandwich is made indoors, but here at TastyBBQing.com, we believe you’re best off making this roast in an outdoor grill of your choosing. To top it all off, you can use wood chunks, chips, or any other wood smoking type to make your sandwich’s flavor profile all the more enjoyable. For more information on how to wood-smoke your meats, visit our guide here.

You may also cook the roast a day or two in advance, making it the perfect Superbowl game day dish for you and all your buddies.

Italian Beef Sandwich Recipe

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Recipe by Ran – TastyBBQing.com Course: MainCuisine: Italian, AmericanDifficulty: Medium
Servings

10

Sandwiches
Prep time

20

minutes
Cooking time

3

hours 
Total time

3

hours 

20

minutes

Ingredients

  • For the Beef:
  • 3 lb Top Sirloin, with most of the fat trimmed off

  • For the Dry Rub:
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper

  • For the Juice:
  • 4 cubes of beef bouillon (don’t use stock or soup base – must be bouillon for intended flavors)

  • 6 cups of hot water

  • For the Sandwich:
  • 10 Soft french rolls (or other high-gluten rolls)

  • 3 green bell peppers (you can also use yellow or red; green is the traditional variant)

  • 1 cup hot giardiniera

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)

Method

  • Preparing the Meat: Thoroughly mix all of the listed rub ingredients in a bowl. Lightly spritz your meat with water – this will help the rub stick. Sprinkle your rub generously onto the meat, and massage it into the beef using your fingertips; note that there will be some rub left over – do not throw this away as it will come in handy when flavoring the juice. As an alternative method, you may stab the meat’s surface every inch or so and fill the gashes with slivers of fresh garlic. 

    I don’t usually use this method, as the gashes mean more of the meat’s juices will flow out while you roast it. Still, none of these flavors go to waste, as they will just end up in the juice. I prefer having tastier meat, to begin with, and seasoning the juice afterward – but that’s all my personal preference, and either method is fine.
  • Roasting the Beef: Start by pouring your six cups of water into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. (Note that 9″ x 13″ is the ideal size for this recipe; you must add more water if using a bigger pan, as it will otherwise evaporate and leave you little to no juice. Any smaller and the pan won’t be big enough for the cut of meat). Then, dissolve your bouillon cubes in the water, and pour in the rest of your dry rub that you kept from earlier. Once you’ve done this, place a rack (I use a cooling rack in most cases) on top of the water-bouillon-rub mixture pan, and place of these on the indirect side of your grill.

    Roast at a constant temperature of 225°F until the interior temperature of your meat is between 130°F and 140°F, which will usually take around three hours for a 3-pound sirloin. Exact times will vary depending on the cut of meat you use, the thickness of the cut, and other such variables; check your meat around the three-hour mark and bear this in mind: roasts are to be monitored with a thermometer, not a clock!

     Also, if you’re making this sandwich for people who don’t know how to enjoy a beautifully roasted, medium-rare piece of meat, fear not; you can always extend the cooking process in step five of the recipe when you dip the beef in the hot juice.
  • Preparing the Toppings: While the beef roasts, cut your bell peppers open and remove the stems and seeds. Then, cut into 1/4″ thick strips, ideally as long as the entire pepper. Sautee these peppers in a small frying pan over medium-high heat with roughly 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Let these sit in the oil bath for around 15 minutes or until the pepper’s skin starts to brown. Set these aside at room temperature, or mix them with the giardiniera for a more even topping later on.
  • Preparing the Finished Roast: Remove your roast and juice pan from the grill. Pour the juice into a separate bowl, making sure to get any fats that may have melted as you do this; don’t worry, these will become part of the juice when you heat it up later, so you aren’t going to have stray pieces of fat in your sandwich. Place both your juice and your roast beef in the fridge to rest for a few hours. We do this both for the development and cultivation of flavor as time progresses, and to make slicing easier. 

    Some recipes say to skip this step if you have a meat slicer, as you needn’t wait for the beef to firm up, but in my opinion, the additional flavor you get out of letting the meat rest is well worth the wait. Then, when cutting the meat, ensure that you’re using a sharp, thin-bladed knife and drag it along your meat rather than sawing or cutting down through it; if you do the latter, the slices will be too thick.
  • Finalizing your Juice: If you wish, you can thin your juice by adding water to it or reduce it in a pot to make it thicker and more concentrated. Traditionally, the viscosity of your juice should be about halfway between water and thick barbecue sauce. Once you’re happy with your juice, turn your heat to a point at which you’ll reach a low simmer. Then, soak your meat slices in the juice for around a minute, or longer if you don’t want your meat to be medium-rare. Note that the soaking step should only be done before making the sandwich, so unless you’re going to be making all ten sandwiches at the same time, store some of your meat in the fridge.
  • Serving: When assembling your sandwich, start by pouring some of the precious juice onto the bun directly until it has absorbed enough moisture, and its surface becomes wet. Then, generously lay roughly 1/4-pound of meat onto the bun. Pour on even more juice. Top it all off with your bell peppers and giardiniera. Optionally, you may dip the entire sandwich in, you guessed it, even more juice. Keep your napkins handy!

P.S.

  • As mentioned in the recipe itself, please ensure you are using only beef bouillon for the water pan, as soup base nor beef stock can replace the flavors we’re trying to achieve here.

Conclusion

And you’re done! Finally, after hours of work and dedication, you’ve finished making the delicious mess that is the Italian Beef Sandwich. Be proud! Most people give up as soon as they read that it’ll take 3 hours to cook.

I sincerely hope that you’ve enjoyed this recipe and learned something new. Be sure to leave a comment below if there’s anything you want addressed or clarified, and also share the results you got from this recipe!

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