Today I’m going to show you how to make the Italian Beef sandwich. This is a great sandwich that originated in Chicago around the 30’s and has become a Chicago food staple.
I remember my first Italian beef sandwich experience in Chicago in March of 2006. It was in a restaurant called Al’s. After standing in a rather long line I had finally made my way up to the counter where I thought I would take a minute to read their menu. Next thing I heard was the guy at the counter screaming at me to “GET TO THE BACK OF THE LINE”. All of a sudden I felt as if I was in a Seinfeld episode wanting to get some soup!!
This southern boy got a reality check that day as to what life in the “fast” lane looked like. So I got back in line, figured out what I wanted, and ordered my Italian Beef sandwich without hesitation, and thankfully I did because this sandwich was incredible. I’ve never eaten anything quite like it and and from that point forward I set out on a mission to try all of Chicago’s Italian Beef Eateries.
The Italian Beef sandwich is not a complicated sandwich. Seasoned beef topped with pickled vegetables (giardiniera) all in a bun that’s strong enough to hold everything together as this is a messy sandwich. The trick to nailing comes down to the seasonings and the preparation of the vegetables and meat.
Giardiniera is an Italian word that means “from the garden” or “garden style”. It is an assortment of pickled garden vegetables that can be eaten as an anti pasta or used as a condiment on everything from pizzas, hot dogs, salads, and of course the Italian beef sandwich. We prepare our giardiniera by chopping all of our vegetables into bit size pieces. Once everything has been processed we’ll create a simple salt water brine and add that to the vegetables. This step helps extract some of the moisture from the vegetables which will keep our preservation dressing from getting diluted.
Once our vegetables have been brined (this normally takes 12-24 hours), I’ll drain the brine, rinse off the vegetables, and add our vinegar/olive oil dressing to the vegetables. That’s it. We normally make quite a bit because it’s that delicious. In your refrigerator this giardiniera will last 2-3 weeks but it freezes great so we normally portion ours into smaller bags and freeze them till we are ready to use it!! If you don’t feel like making your own giardiniera mix you can always get some from Amazon. The brand Marconi is a good trusted brand that is used by some of the Italian beef restaurants in Chicago..
The Italian Beef & Au Jus
Preparing the beef is fairly easy. There are lots of ways this can be made with any number of cuts and while I’ll be using a sirloin roast you can just as easily use rib eye, chuck, or eye of round. The trick though is to cook it in a way that’s juicy and tender. For the Sirloin Roast we will be using dry heat only and cooking it to a final internal temp of 130-135. This means I’ll be pulling it out of the oven around 125f and letting it rest for 30 – 40 minutes. Since we will be dry roasting this meat (rather than braising) we will need to make our own au jus. This will be the liquid that our Italian beef finishes cooking in.
The au jus needs to compliment our beef so it’s going to be seasoned with the exact same seasonings that we used to season our beef. I personally like to add a little extra beefy flavor to my au jus so I’ll start off with some high quality beef stock then add a little extra beef base right in there. There are whispers amongst die hard Italian Beef fans of adding cured pork fat to the au jus for an added kick of flavor but in today’s recipe I left it out.
Here are a few things you might find helpful when making this recipe
- Meater + (Meat Thermometer)
- Roasting Rack
- Cambro Bin
- Cambro Lid
- Kitchen Boss Sous Vide
- G-3 Mini Butchering knife
- G-4 Butchering Knife
- G-5 Butchering Knife
- FN Big D-7 Chef’s Knife
- Custom Engraved Cutting Boards
If you want to see the different things that we use in operation our be sure to check out our new Amazon Store.
Chicago’s Italian Beef Sandwich
FOR THE GIARDINIERA
- 454 grams celery cut into bite size pieces
- 454 grams carrots cut into bite size pieces
- 454 grams cauliflower cut into bite size pieces
- 2 each jalapenos sliced
- 2 each sweet peppers sliced
- 4 each garlic cloves minced
- 285 grams red onion sliced thin
To brine the vegetables
- 2 liters water
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
For the Giardiniera Dressing
FOR THE ROAST BEEF
For the Giardiniera
- chop all of your vegetables into bite size pieces (you don't want them to be too big).
- prepare a brine by dissolving the kosher salt in the water. Let it cool
- Once the brine has cooled pour the brine over the vegetables (make sure the brine covers all the vegetables) and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day taste the vegetables. If it doesn't seem salty enough continue to brine another 6-12 hours. The vegetables should be crispy and taste a little salty.
- Once they have been properly brined, drain the brine and rinse the vegetables. If you find that they are too salty you can soak the vegetables in cool water for an hour or 2.
- Prepare the Giardiniera dressing by combining all of the ingredients and whisking well.
- In a bowl, combine the dressing and the drained vegetables. Refrigerate for 48 hours.
- This will last 2-3 week in your refrigerator or can be frozen in a freezer friendly container.
For the Roast Beef
- Tie your roast up and coat with olive oil
- combine all of the roast's spices and herbs together and rub on the roast
- Marinate for 1 hour at room temperature.
- Preheat oven to 450f (232c)
- Place seasoned roast on a roasting rack and roast for 20 minutes
- After 20 minutes reduce the heat to 325f (163c) and roast for another 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 125f (53c).
- Once your target temperature has been met, remove from oven and let your roast rest for 30-40 minutes covered.
- Once cooled refrigerate overnight before slicing thinly against the grain. (optional) Once sliced you can chop your roast beef into even smaller pieces.
For the Au Jus
- combine all of the ingredients for the au just and heat on a medium heat for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust for seasonings as necessary
To assemble the sandwich
- Warm your bun in the oven
- Bring your au jus to a temperature of 140f (60c). Add the roast beef and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Add the beef to your sandwich and top with your giardiniera vegetables.
- (OPTIONAL) Dip your sandwich in the au just or dunk the entire thing and let it soak up some juice. ENJOY!!
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