If you’re a fan of Philadelphia’s most iconic sandwich, then you know that choosing the right cheese is crucial to creating the perfect Philly cheesesteak. With so many cheese varieties available, selecting the right one can be a daunting task. In this article, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to choose the best cheese for your Philly cheesesteak. Get ready to take notes, as we dive into the history, science, controversy, and recommendations behind the ideal Philly cheesesteak cheese.
A Brief History of Philly Cheesesteak
Before we talk about the best cheese to use for Philly cheesesteak, let’s take a step back and look at the history of this famous sandwich. The cheesesteak was invented in Philadelphia in the 1930s by Pat Olivieri, a hot dog vendor. One day, he decided to cook some thinly sliced beef on his grill and attractively arranged it on a roll. A passing cab driver smelled the aroma and was intrigued. He ordered one, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since then, cheesesteak has become Philly’s most famous culinary export, with variations of the sandwich available across the United States and beyond. But what really makes a Philly cheesesteak stand out is the cheese. Let’s explore why the right cheese is so crucial to creating the perfect Philly cheesesteak.
The cheese used in a Philly cheesesteak is just as important as the beef and bread. Traditionally, the cheese of choice is Cheez Whiz, which was first introduced in 1952. However, other popular options include provolone and American cheese. The cheese is melted on top of the beef and then mixed together, creating a gooey, savory filling that perfectly complements the soft roll. Some purists argue that Cheez Whiz is the only true cheese for a Philly cheesesteak, while others prefer the sharper flavor of provolone. Regardless of your cheese preference, one thing is certain: a Philly cheesesteak just isn’t complete without it.
The Science behind the Perfect Cheese for Philly Cheesesteak
The cheese is a fundamental component of the Philly cheesesteak sandwich. It’s responsible for the sandwich’s texture, flavor, and the overall cheese-pull effect. When heated, cheese molecules break down into fatty acid and amino acids, creating flavors and aromas. The melting point of the cheese is essential because slow-melting cheese can form clumps while quick-melting cheese will become runny.
The best cheese for Philly cheesesteak should be able to melt quickly, evenly, and smoothly to form a creamy layer over the meat without becoming greasy or runny. Cheese that is too tangy or salty will overpower the flavors of the steak and roll, whereas cheese that is too mild will lack character and won’t create a cheese pull effect. Let’s look at our top five cheese recommendations for creating the perfect Philly cheesesteak.
One of the most popular cheese options for Philly cheesesteak is Cheez Whiz. This processed cheese product was first introduced in the 1950s and quickly became a staple in Philadelphia’s cheesesteak scene. Cheez Whiz has a low melting point, making it easy to spread over the meat and roll. It also has a tangy flavor that complements the savory taste of the steak. However, some people prefer to use natural cheese options like provolone, American, or even mozzarella. These cheeses have a higher melting point and can create a more substantial cheese pull effect. Ultimately, the choice of cheese comes down to personal preference, but it’s essential to consider the melting point, flavor, and texture when selecting the perfect cheese for your Philly cheesesteak.
Top 5 Cheeses for Philly Cheesesteak
There are many different types of cheese that you can use for your Philly cheesesteak, but here are our top five recommendations:
1. American Cheese:
American cheese is the most popular choice for Philly cheesesteak. It’s creamy, mild, and melts easily. When heated, it creates a silky layer over the meat, ensuring every bite is oozing with cheesy goodness. You can opt for pre-sliced American cheese or shredded it yourself for an even melt.
2. Provolone Cheese:
Provolone is a classic choice for Philly cheesesteak. It’s slightly tangy, nutty, and has a more robust flavor compared to American cheese. Provolone has a lower melting point, so it melts more quickly than American cheese. If you’re looking to upgrade your cheesesteak with a more intense cheese flavor, provolone is an excellent choice.
3. Cheez Whiz:
The use of Cheez Whiz in Philly cheesesteak is a subject of ongoing debate. While it’s not a traditional choice in Philadelphia, it’s become a popular option outside the city. Cheez Whiz is made from cheese, milk, and various additives. It’s the go-to choice for those looking for a classic Philly cheesesteak experience. When heated, it turns into a smooth and glossy sauce that coats the meat perfectly.
4. Swiss Cheese:
Swiss cheese is an excellent choice for those who like a nutty and sweet flavor. It’s a little drier than American cheese, and it melts more smoothly than provolone. The result is a sandwich with a creamy texture and a slightly sharp taste.
5. Pepper Jack Cheese:
Pepper Jack cheese is another popular choice for Philly cheesesteak. The addition of jalapenos gives it a spicy kick, which pairs well with the savory flavor of the meat. Its sharp and tangy flavor makes it an excellent choice for those who like a little heat in their sandwich.
How to Choose the Right Cheese for Your Philly Cheesesteak
Now that you’ve learned about the best cheese for Philly cheesesteak, it’s time to determine which one to use. The choice of cheese depends on your personal preference and the type of steak you’re using. If you’re using a more robust and flavorful steak, like ribeye or filet mignon, then a milder cheese, such as American, can enhance the meat’s flavor. On the other hand, if you’re using a leaner cut of meat, like sirloin or flank, then a sharper cheese like provolone can provide a bolder flavor to the sandwich.
The Controversy over Cheese in Philly Cheesesteak: Whiz or Provolone?
The issue of using Cheez Whiz or provolone in Philly cheesesteak is a bit controversial. Some purists believe that using Cheez Whiz is a sacrilege, while others think that it’s a classic and necessary ingredient. Provolone, on the other hand, is a popular choice for those who want a more traditional sandwich. Both options have their benefits and drawbacks, so the choice comes down to the individual’s preference.
The Impact of Cheese on the Texture and Flavor of a Philly Cheesesteak
The cheese in a Philly cheesesteak not only enhances the flavor but also impacts the sandwich’s texture. When melted, the cheese creates a smooth and creamy layer that covers the meat and provides a rich and satisfying mouthfeel. It also has a direct role in creating the cheese pull effect, which is essential to the overall experience of enjoying a Philly cheesesteak.
Where to Find the Best Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia
Philly’s home to some of the best cheesesteaks in the world, so don’t miss out on trying some while you’re there. Locals have their favorite spots, but some of the most popular places include Pat’s King of Steaks, Geno’s Steaks, and Jim’s Steaks. Each restaurant has its twist on the classic sandwich, so make sure to try them all and find your favorite.
Homemade Philly Cheesesteak with the Best Cheese: A Step-by-Step Recipe Guide
Making Philly cheesesteak at home is easier than you think. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make the perfect Philly cheesesteak with your chosen cheese:
- Preheat a cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat.
- Add a thin layer of oil and wait for it to heat up.
- Put thinly sliced ribeye or other steak in the skillet. Use a spatula to chop it into small pieces as it cooks.
- Add sliced onions, green peppers, mushrooms, or any other toppings you like.
- Season with salt, black pepper, and other spices of your choice.
- Add cheese to the top of the steak. Cover the skillet with a lid to melt the cheese fully.
- After a minute or two, scoop the meat and cheese onto rolls or hoagie buns.
Veggie Options: Best Cheese for Vegetarian Philly Cheesesteak
Vegetarians can still enjoy Philly cheesesteak by using plant-based alternatives like seitan, mushrooms, or textured vegetable protein (TVP). Vegan cheese varieties like Daiya or Follow Your Heart work great with these substitutes. They have a similar melting point to traditional cheese and are available in various flavors, including cheddar, pepper jack, and provolone.
The Economic Impact of the Philly Cheesesteak Industry on Philadelphia
Philly cheesesteak has become an essential part of Philadelphia’s history, tourism, and economy. The city’s obsession with cheesesteaks has given rise to a thriving industry that employs thousands of people and generates millions of dollars each year. Many restaurants in Philadelphia specialize solely in cheesesteaks, and the sandwich has become a staple of the city’s food culture.
Best Wine Pairings with a Classic Philly Cheesesteak
Pairing wine with Philly cheesesteak can be tricky due to the sandwich’s flavor profile. The cheese, meat, and bread all have distinct flavors that require a wine that can stand up to them. Full-bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, or Zinfandel are excellent choices. These wines provide enough acidity to cut through the cheese’s fat and enough tannins to balance out the sandwich’s savory flavors.
How to Store and Reheat Leftover Philly Cheesesteaks with the Perfect Cheese
If you have any leftover Philly cheesesteak, don’t let it go to waste. To ensure that the cheese stays as perfect as possible, separate the cheese and meat before storing them in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Use a microwave to reheat the meat and cheese separately at 30-second intervals until fully heated. Then, put them back together, and enjoy your reheated Philly cheesesteak with the perfect cheese.
Philadelphia’s Iconic Food Culture: From Soft Pretzels to Philly Cheesesteaks
Philadelphia is known for its iconic food culture that extends beyond cheesesteaks. The city’s culinary scene is diverse and offers various dining experiences for every taste and budget. From the world-renowned Reading Terminal Market to the Italian Market and beyond, Philly is a food lover’s paradise. Whether you’re in the mood for a classic Philly cheesesteak or want to try a different cuisine, Philadelphia’s got you covered.
A Comprehensive Guide on Making a Mouthwatering Vegan Version of the Classic Philadelphia Sandwich
Vegans can enjoy a Philly cheesesteak by swapping out the cheese and meat for plant-based options. By using either tofu, tempeh, or a vegan meat substitute, you can easily create a delicious Philly cheesesteak that is suitable for a plant-based lifestyle. Vegan cheese alternatives like Daiya or Follow Your Heart work great and can be incorporated in the same manner as traditional cheese. The process is simple, and the result is a vegan-friendly version of the classic Philly cheesesteak.
Now that you’re an expert on the best cheese for Philly cheesesteak, it’s time to put your newfound knowledge to the test. Whether you’re a fan of the classic American cheese or love the intense flavor of provolone, the key to a perfect Philly cheesesteak is to use high-quality ingredients, cook them with care, and enjoy every bite. Bon appétit!