What Kind of Beef Should You Use for Philly Cheesesteak?

The Philly cheesesteak is an iconic sandwich consisting of thinly sliced beef, melted cheese, and other simple but delicious ingredients. While the components are straightforward, choosing the right cut of beef is key to getting an authentic, high-quality cheesesteak. Keep reading to learn more about the best type of beef to use for cheesesteak sandwiches.

A Classic Philly Cheesesteak

A traditional Philly cheesesteak sandwich contains just a few core ingredients:

  • Thinly sliced steak
  • Melted cheese (usually provolone or Cheez Whiz)
  • Caramelized onions
  • Hoagie roll or long sandwich bun

The beautifully simple combination results in a delicious sandwich with the savoriness of rare steak, richness of melted cheese, and sweetness from the browned onions.

When you bite into an authentic cheesesteak, you get pleasantly thin pieces of steak that are juicy and packed with flavor. The gooey melted cheese binds everything together. It’s a heavenly sandwich experience!

Why the Type of Beef Matters

While a cheesesteak is simple in nature, choosing the right beef cut makes all the difference.

The characteristics you want in a good cheesesteak beef include:

  • Tenderness – Thin slices need quick, high-heat cooking so tender cuts work best
  • Marbling – Fat marbling provides flavor and moisture
  • Sliceability – Ability to slice very thinly against the grain
  • Cost – No need for expensive cuts since it cooks quickly

Cuts that are naturally tough with extensive connective tissue will not yield good results. The beef must become tender and juicy in a short cooking time.

Best Cuts for Cheesesteak

These two affordable cuts are traditionally used for authentic Philly cheesesteaks:


  • Where it’s from: Rib section; also used for steaks
  • Attributes: Tender, well-marbled, flavorful
  • Sliceability: Excellent

Ribeye is considered the gold standard when it comes to cuts for Philly cheesesteak. It contains great marbling which keeps the quick-cooking slices juicy. Ribeye is tender and slices beautifully thin against the grain. The marbling gives it superb beefy flavor as well.

While ribeye is not the cheapest cut, it delivers premium quality that’s worth the extra cost for cheesesteak perfection.

Top Round

  • Where it’s from: Round primal; also used for roasts
  • Attributes: Lean, moderately tender
  • Sliceability: Good when partially frozen

Top round has a slight texture advantage over other round cuts. Sliced thin, it can work well for cheesesteaks as a more budget-friendly option. Top round is not as tender or fatty as ribeye, but acceptable when sliced properly.

Freezing the meat for 30-60 minutes makes slicing easier. Don’t use other round cuts like eye of round or bottom round as they are too tough.

Other Good Options

In a pinch, these cuts can also make tasty cheesesteaks:

  • Flank Steak – Lean but tender across the grain when sliced thin
  • Skirt Steak – Thinly grained like flank steak; excellent flavor
  • Hanger Steak – Similar texture to skirt; great beefy taste
  • Sirloin Flap Steak – Affordable cut that sears well; slice against grain

The leanness of these cuts means you may need to add a bit of oil when cooking to prevent sticking. Freeze slightly for easier slicing.

Cuts to Avoid

On the flip side, these cuts are not recommended for cheesesteaks:

  • Brisket – Too tough and fibrous even when sliced thin
  • Chuck or shoulder roasts – Fibrous with extensive connective tissue
  • Round roasts – Very lean; can become dense and chewy

Stick with naturally tender cuts like ribeye or partially freeze affordable steaks to achieve perfect thin slices.

Prepping Beef for Cheesesteak

Proper prep and slicing technique is also key to cheesesteak success:

  • Partially freeze beef for 30-60 minutes before slicing
  • Use a very sharp knife to cut slices against the grain
  • Cut slices as thin as possible – 1/8 inch or less is ideal
  • Remove any large sections of fat or silver skin
  • Season slices lightly with just salt and pepper

Practice your knife skills to get paper-thin slices. The quick cooking time of the cheesesteak relies on thin beef.

Cooking Your Cheesesteak Beef

Once sliced, the beef for cheesesteak requires just a brief cooking time. Most recipes call for:

  • Cooking over high heat on a griddle or skillet
  • Browning slices without moving for 1-2 minutes
  • Quick tossing or stirring to finish cooking
  • Total cook time of just 2-4 minutes

You want a nice sear but avoid overcooking the beef. The meat should have a hint of pink/red in the center when done.

Sample Cheesesteak Recipe

To highlight the tasty beef, keep other cheesesteak ingredients simple:

  • Thinly sliced ribeye or top round
  • Caramelized onions
  • Provolone or Cheez Whiz cheese
  • Hoagie roll
  • Butter or oil for cooking
  • Seasonings like garlic powder or Worcestershire sauce (optional)

That’s all you need for an amazing and authentic cheesesteak!

Putting It All Together

While the Philly cheesesteak sandwich has humble components, using high-quality ingredients like the right cut of beef makes a major difference. Ribeye or top round offer the ideal texture and flavor. With ultra-thin slicing against the grain and quick cooking at high heat, you get deliciously juicy, beefy bites in every cheesesteak sandwich.

What Meat Goes in a Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich? : Meat Preparation Tips


What kind of meat is used for Philly cheesesteak?

Ribeye is the steak of choice for Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches. It is well-marbled and tender when cooked. Another cut that we have used with great results is flank steak which is lean but very tender when cut against the grain. You will need a little extra oil on your cooking surface if using flank steak.

What is the secret to a good Philly cheesesteak?

The REAL Philly Steak sandwich actually has a few acceptable variations, but when it gets right down to it, the basics are the same: Good quality, no gristle beef sliced thin, Provolone or Mozzarella cheese, and a fresh hard Italian long roll, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Can you use beef bottom round steak for Philly cheesesteak?

Traditionally, Philly cheesesteaks are made with rib eye steaks or rib roasts, but the cost of making these sandwiches can quickly add up using this premium beef cut. Though not nearly as tender or juicy as a rib roast, a bottom round roast makes a suitable budget alternative with a strong beefy flavor.

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