Sunday, January 8, 2012

Slow-Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches

An Italian Beef (also known as THE BEST SANDWICH EVER), is a Chicago specialty dating back to the 1930s & hailing from the Sout Side (no "h) of the city - thin slices of seasoned roast beef, drenched in au jus, piled atop a crusty roll and then dunked into the juices that the meat was cooked in. The sandwich is then topped with hot giardiniera or sauteed sweet peppers. Oh yeah, you won't find them anywhere in Italy, either. 

True Chicagoans pronounce it "sangwitch". Not to be confused with "samrich", though. 

Chicago natives are pretty picky about their Italian beefs; they're classical Second City, like Chicago deep-dish pizza and Chicago dogs. Like with Philly cheesesteaks, there is a fine art to ordering the Italian beef, whether wet/dipped (the bread is quickly dunked in the cooking juices), to juicy (even wetter), to soaked (dripping wet). 

The possibilities are endless: 

Hot-dipped: Italian beef on gravy-wetted bread w/ giardiniera
Hot-dipped sweet: Same as the hot-dipped, but with sweet peppers added (My fave)
Hot-dipped combo: Same as the hot-dipped, but with sausage added.
Sweet dry: Italian beef on dry bread w/ sweet peppers
Soakers/Juice-ons: Meatless; bread soaked in beef juices and topped with peppers or giardiniera. 
Cheef (Cheesy beef): Italian beef with cheese (Provolone or Mozzarella)

This is where I'm PROBABLY going to catch some flak. I've eaten my share of Italian beefs IN Chicago, from Al's Beef to Mr Beef (my personal favorite) to Portillo's. And I KNOW my recipe isn't going to be completely authentic, but, hey, this is the Deep South. We make do with what we've got. Hopefully my Dad, born & raised in Chicago, won't give me the stink-eye for this one. 

The key here is using the sirloin tip roast and roasting, low and slow, for HOURS. This is where the slow cooker comes in and really earns its spot on the kitchen counter. Don't skimp on the bread, either - you want a good high-gluten, chewy bread, preferably Italian-style rolls. 

Slow-Cooker Italian Beef Sandwiches
adapted from

1 3-4 lb sirloin tip or butt beef roast
1 12oz jar pepperoncini peppers, do not drain
1 12oz jar Italian giardiniera, drained (or make your own
1 envelope Italian salad dressing mix

Place the beef roast in a slow cooker. Top with the pepperoncini & giardiniera. 

Combine the Italian salad dressing mix with the beef broth. Add to slow cooker. 

Cover and cook on LOW for 12-14 hours, or until meat is VERY tender. Shred with a fork, douse with cooking juices and serve on split Italian rolls. For a "cheef", top with melted provolone or mozzarella. Top with sweet peppers, pepperoncini and/or giardiniera if desired. 


  1. I can't wait to try this!! I do have a question, how important is the giardiniera? I accidentally picked up dilled cauliflower! Will it make a big difference if we omit this? Can't wait to try it!!

  2. I have been craving this ever since I saw it on your blog!