Pulled Italian Beef Sandwich
While I don’t usually get a lot of time to travel for leisure (except now during my mini-retirement/hiatus), I have been lucky enough to have travelled a lot for work. I’ve always found that traveling is the best way to be exposed to news ideas, cultures and of course, food. I've always said it’s my 'Continuing Education' in food. When I find something I like, or new and delicious, I want to share it, capture how it’s made, understand the flavour and recreate it in a different way if possible. So that brings me to this super simple sandwich I had for the first time years ago in Pittsburgh, the Italian Beef Sandwich. I did find out however that the Italian Beef Sandwich originated in Chicago, not in Pittsburgh like I thought it did, so while my history may be off, this sandwich recipe is on point.
I’ve seen different versions of this recipe and a lot will tell you to use a slow cooker or crock pot to make your pulled beef, but I would argue that the bqq is an even better way to do it. In this recipe that is exactly what I do, show you how to make an Italian Beef sandwich on the bbq. It’s super simple and all you need is a cast iron pan. I use boneless beef short ribs, perfect for braising and is just melt in your mouth tender. That low and slow three to four hour cook. If you can’t find boneless beef short ribs in your area, I would recommend using beef blade which is another great cut that does well with a low and slow cook and is usually found off the bone already. What’s so great about this sandwich too, is that it is so easy to make with just a few ingredients. The beef is seasoned with Italian spices, seared in the cast iron and then braised with pepperoncini peppers and beef stock to give it a nice kick. Some sautéed mushrooms go in with the beef and a few hours later, voila, delicious pull-apart meat in a rich jus. The crusty hoagie bun is lined with Provolone cheese, topped with muffuletta mix for some crunch and acid and then the hot and spicy pulled beef is layered on top. Muffuletta mix is like having Italian pickles around but it has pickled and spicy celery, baby onions, carrots, cauliflower, olives and hot peppers. Keep reading to find out how to make my Italian Pulled Beef Sandwich or click here to jump to the full recipe.
The first step is to season your beautiful beef short ribs with salt and Italian seasoning. This particular blend of Italian seasoning has chili flakes, oregano, fennel seeds, garlic flakes, dried parsley and dried basil.
Once your short ribs are seasoned, place your cast iron pan on the hot bbq grill, add some olive oil and let it get to temperature. Once the oil is hot, add in the beef short ribs and allow to sear. While the meat browns, add some more salt and Italian seasoning. Flip, and let the other side brown, adding in salt and more Italian seasoning.
The real secret to this recipe are the pepperoncini peppers, so you're going to add them straight into the pan with the beef, with a couple of tablespoons of the pepperoncini liquid and then add in your beef stock. The peppers add a great flavour and a bit of spice to the beef that is part of the signature flavour of this classic sandwich.
While the beef starts to braise, prepare your mushrooms. In a separate pan, add in olive oil and once hot, add in your sliced mushrooms. Once the mushrooms are a nice golden colour, add them into the pan with your beef and allow everything to cook for about three to four hours. As the liquid reduces over time, make sure to add in more so the meat doesn't dry out. You can add some more beef broth, some water or some wine, just make sure you don't lose all the liquid or have it swimming in too much.
At the three hour mark, check the meat and see if it pulls apart easily with a fork. If it doesn't separate easily, keep letting it cook for longer, and then check it again at four hours. Once the meat pulls apart easily, remove the pan from your bbq and shred all of the meat, mixing it together with the mushrooms, peppers and flavourful juices you've built up over the low and slow cook.
To assemble, cut your hoagie bun in half but leave it connected on one side. Place your provolone cheese down first, then your muffuletta mix and finally the pulled hot beef. Using a large piece of parchment paper, roll your sandwich up and let it sit about a minute to let the cheese melt a bit. Cut the sandwich in half with a serrated knife and dig in!
And now for the full recipe...
Pulled Italian Beef Sandwich
Makes 2-4 sandwiches (serves 2-4 people)
Prep Time:15 minutes
Cook Time: 3-4 hours
Total Time: 4.25 hours
2 lbs Boneless beef short ribs (if using bone-in, use 3-4 lbs)
Italian Seasoning (Chili flakes, Oregano, Fennel seeds, Garlic Flakes, Dried parsley, Dried basil)
1 jar Pepperoncini peppers
2L Beef Broth
1 pint mushrooms
2 x 12 inch (or 4 x 6 inch) Hoagie buns
12 - 16 slices Provolone cheese
Muffuletta Mix/ Giardiniera
Large Cast Iron Skillet
How to Make It:
Season your beef short ribs with salt and Italian seasoning on all sides.
Take your cast iron skillet and place it right on the bbq and then add in some olive oil. The bbq should already be hot by this point, around 450-500F. Once the oil is hot, you are going to add in your beef for it to sear. Sprinkle a bit more of the Italian seasoning and salt on the beef, let it cook, and then give it a flip. Once on the other side, add a little more Italian seasoning and salt.
Once the meat is nicely seared on both sides, add in a handful of pepperoncini peppers into the beef, I used about 8-10. Pour in the beef stock so it comes up to just the top of the meat and then spoon in about 2-3 tablespoons of the pepperoncini liquid. The meat is going to braise, low and slow for about three to four hours so I drop the temp down to 275-300F. During this time, if you see the liquid starting to reduce too much, add in some more beef stock or any liquid of your choice: stock, water, wine. Make sure the liquid level doesn’t get too low as it cooks, but also make sure you don’t add in too much liquid. You want there to be enough liquid for the beef to braise nicely and stay juicy, but you also don’t want it to be swimming in it.
While the beef cooks, prepare your mushrooms. Either slice your whole mushrooms, or if you have pre-sliced mushrooms, great, you can skip a step! In a pan with some olive oil, sauté your mushrooms until they are a nice golden colour. Add the cooked mushrooms to your cast iron with the beef and make sure they are submerged in the liquid and let it all cook together.
Once the beef has been cooking for the three to four hours, it’s time to check if it’s ready by pulling the meat apart - you know the beef is ready if it pulls apart super easily. If at the three hour mark, your beef isn’t shredding easily, let it go for longer and try again after four hours. Now that the meat is pull apart tender, remove the pan from the bbq and use two forks to shred the beef in the pan.
To assemble, cut your hoagie roll in half, but keep one side still attached. Put your provolone cheese down on the bottom of the bun, add your muffuletta mix and your hot beef on top.
Pro tip: take your sandwich and place it on a large piece of parchment paper. Fold the parchment over the sandwich, tuck in the sides and roll. Let it sit for about a minute to let the cheese melt a bit. Cut in half with a serrated knife and then crush your Italian Beef Sandwich!
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