INGREDIENTS AND PREP
The Philly Cheesesteak comes together quick and is best still warm (if not hot) so it is important to have everything ready to go. This is key. Get everything ready before you turn on the heat. The beef and onions will cook fast and the cheese melts quickly.
We used a cast iron pan, which holds heat better than most other pans, but a hot griddle or any other large surface frying pan is fine. You will also want a stiff spatula (metal if possible unless you are using a non-stick pan) and even a second one to help you pull/cut the beef in the pan if you like the meat shredded a bit smaller than the slices. Two spatulas are also helpful when you are scooping the meat and onions onto the roll.
Once you are ready, there is not much to it but to pay attention. It will happen pretty fast. Get the skillet or griddle pretty hot (past medium) and add a tablespoon or two of the oil. Lay the slices of beef flat. The beef will cook in only a couple of minutes so put the onions in at the same time. If you have several guests, it is better to use several pans and it is even possible to lightly fry up some of the onions in advance. The beef will be ready to flip in 90 seconds or less depending on your heat.
Once you've flipped the beef once, it is essentially cooked (depending on the thickness) so isa good time to warm the roll in the same pan. Again, if you are making a lot at once, you may have to simply warm the rolls in the oven or separate pan.
There is one advantage to warming the roll in the pan you are cooking the beef and onions. Just like a White Castle slider, you can get the roll a bit moist from the steam of the onions and beef. This is also a point of personal preference because in reality, there will be no danger of the sandwich being dry with the melted cheese if you use fresh bread. Even so, it is a nice trick.
The picture above shows the cheese being added on the beef while still in the pan. This will melt the cheese faster although many places in Philadelphia actually put the sliced cheese on the bread and put the hot beef on top (or vice versa). I like to give the cheese a head start in the pan to make it extra gooey. As for the warm Cheez Whiz, it will be added after the beef is put on the roll with a spoon (you won't need an 18" narrow spatula like you see at the Philly joints -- they are making hundreds and dipping into a big can of Whiz).
There you have it. Delicious, hearty and easy. If you're like me, you haven't had Cheez Whiz since you were a kid. It is has a surprising amount of spicy kick to it. In the context of this sandwich, the Whiz was good (yes, that last clause is as fun to type as it is to say out loud).
Now, like we like to do in the Clubhouse Kitchen, we tried a few variations on the following pages.