Easy Italian Beef Recipe can be made in a slow cooker, braised in the oven, and even simmered on the stovetop. All the spicy flavors you expect in a shredded beef sandwich.
Our recipe gets all of its flavors from spices, pepperoncini are reserved as a condiment. There is no vinegar in a true Chicago Style sandwich nor does it have Italian dressing packets added to it either!
The traditional cut of beef used is a top round roast. If you had a commercial kitchen slicer this would be ideal because you could cut it across the grain to get those tender thin slices you find at Portillo’s and other restaurants. It’s not great for our home method.
These are nowhere near an original Italian Beef that can easily be found in that area. Those are made with beef roasts cooked to rare in a flavorful broth, then sliced into thin perfection pieces of meat.
The meat is dipped back into that wonderful broth and slapped onto a sturdy Gonnella roll (which are unfortunately only available in and around the Chicago area grocery stores).
I’ve tried recipes that called for rare beef, thinly sliced and simmered in broth, but I could never get a kitchen slicer or knife to recreate that perfect tenderness of the original beef in Chicago. So now I used the shredded beef method. It turns out more like an Italian “flavored” shredded beef in a spicy au jus.
You will never find shredded meat at a hot dog stand, but unless you have a commercial slicer, slicing beef appropriately as a home cook is almost impossible. I have burned through 2 meat slicers trying!
Shredded is not perfect, but it will get the job done and its less work anyway.
Chuck roast is probably the roast I use the most for this recipe. It’s relatively cheap as far as beef goes. It holds up well under a long slow simmer and actually needs a long braise to become tender. A chuck roast is also not so thick that it produces really long strings of beef when shredded.
Rump roast would be my second choice. This cut also requires a long slow braise to make it tender without the ability to slice it thinly across the grain. This can be an economical choice if you happen to catch it on sale. The only drawback to this cut is that it can be kind of thick. To prevent the beef piece from being too long, I cut it in half after cooking and then shred it.
Bottom round roast starts getting into a higher price range. It’s supposed to be slightly more tender that rump roast so they charge more.
Shred the Beef
Remove the meat from the cooking liquid and allow to cool slightly before attempting to shred the beef. There is going to be some fat and other things that may require hands to get rid of.
The meat may start to fall apart as you pull it out of the broth. This is good, it will give you some idea of which direction to shred it.
On a cutting board or another plate, add a section of cooked beef and start to pull it apart. Don’t shred it too finely though, it will continue to fall apart after it is added back to the cooking liquid!
As big chunks of fat or sinew turn up, remove them and discard.
Once all of the beef is shredded, add it back to the cooking liquid and set it to low.
It’s called gravy when served with this type of sandwich, but its really just an au jus. There should be no reason to have to add anything more to the cooking liquid at this point. It was added when you started the dish.
Don’t be off-put by the amount of beef broth and base used in the beginning. All that beef flavoring, garlic, and oregano will give great flavor to the beef but the real purpose is to have a good gravy.
It can be spooned over the meat on a sandwich and served on the side for dipping.
If I were back home, I could easily buy Gonnella Rolls in the store. But I could also easily buy a whole Italian beef sandwich……….. If you have access to Gonnellas or Turano hard rolls, those are the absolute best for holding wet beef without falling apart so they can be dipped into the au jus!
I prefer to serve these with hard rolls, Kaiser rolls, or any sturdier roll is the best bet but in a pinch, any sub roll will do. It is just going to fall apart more readily. Soft sub rolls will do the best if the gravy is served on the side!
Most folks just say no to cheese and we don’t eat ours with cheese. However, guests always ask for cheese whenever I serve these, so I offer shredded mozzarella. Don’t use the dusty package stuff for this. Hand shred this from a block of mozzarella. It will melt so much easier.
Alternatively, you can use sliced mozzarella. This will require a quick run under a broiler.
How to Serve
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- 5 pounds roast chuck roast works the best, but I use other cuts if they are on sale
- 6 cloves Garlic cut into slivers
- 2 cans condensed Beef Consomme
- 4 beef bouillon cubes or 1 Tablespoon concentrated Beef Base (optional)
- 3 Tablespoons Dried Oregano
- 1 pinch Red Pepper Flakes more if you like heat
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Trim roast of any visible silver skin, gristle, and large pieces of fat. Cut small slits all over the meat and insert garlic slivers.
- Place roast in a roasting pan that has a fitted lid.
- Cover with oregano, sprinkle with red pepper flakes and pour condensed consommé over the top. Add the bouillon or beef base into the liquid. Add water if necessary to bring the liquid up to the top of the roast.
- Place lid on the pan, or tightly cover with aluminum foil. Place in preheated oven and slow roast for 3 to 4 hours or until meat is easily shredded with 2 forks.
- Remove meat from liquid and shred. Place meat back into broth and reheat over low heat if necessary.
- Use tongs to place meat on sliced hard rolls. Serve with pepperoncini. Add broth to individual small bowls for dipping sandwiches.
- This recipe can be made in a slow cooker. Cook on high for 5 – 6 hours or low for 8 – 12 hours.