Italian beef is the quintessential Chicago sandwich. It was invented here by stockyard workers when they needed to turn tough cuts of meat into something they could eat (and actually enjoy). In true Chicago fashion, they made the best out of a bad situation and found the perfect way to create a savory and filling sandwich. No other city replicates the meaty, messy, au jus-y concoction that is Chicago-style Italian beef.
For the uninitiated, a traditional Italian beef is made of thinly sliced beef piled high on crusty bread and topped with sauteed peppers and giardiniera. Then it’s either dipped into the broth from the beef or the jus is ladled over it, creating a dripping delicious mess.
It sounds easy enough, and it is! The key to a great Italian beef is in the flavors of the beef and how it’s prepared. Instead of cooking the meat in liquid to tenderize it, it’s cooked over a mix of water and bouillon, allowing the spices and juices from the meat to drip into the broth. This creates a heavenly, peppery, savory, and unique jus that will have you feeling like a true Chicagoan, no matter where you are.
This sandwich is messy, so you need bread strong enough to hold up while still soft enough to eat. Enter the French roll. If you can find Turano or Gonnella French Rolls, then you’re that much closer to having an authentic Italian beef sandwich.
Below is a delicious Chicago-style Italian Beef recipe. I’ve made it several times, including for someone who used to own an Italian beef stand. Her comment? “Perfect!”
TLTip: short on time? Buy some roast beef from the deli and ask for a side of jus.
Chicago-Style Italian Beef Recipe
Adapted from AmazingRibs.com