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How to make a great Italian beef sandwich

Updated on August 4, 2015


The Italian beef sandwich has been made in the Chicago area for multiple generations. When I was in the pizza business in the Chicago area during the 1960s, almost every pizzeria made their own Italian beef sandwiches from scratch.

Then over the course of a few decades, large wholesalers started precooking the beef and slicing it for sandwiches. The ability of pizzeria owners to cook your own italian beef was lost, and now you have to pay a much higher price for the already sliced beef, and you also pay for the juice to heat it in.

Because of this, I will now show you how to make your own Italian beef from scratch to use for making sandwiches. This is such a good sandwich that I don't want the art of making it die out.

I first started cooking inside rounds for beef sandwiches when I worked for the Inferno pizzeria in the late 1960s and I got a basic understanding of how to do the prep cooking.

Then when I bought Mr. C's pizzeria in 1970, the old owner showed me how to do the prep cooking better. This is the recipe that I want to pass on. In the next section I will show you how to do the prep cooking that most restaurant owners have forgot.

inside round of beef

cooking the inside round of beef

The first thing to do is to buy the right size inside round of beef from your meat wholesaler. You need to buy 6 to 8 pound inside rounds. One of these cooked up will make about a weeks worth of sandwiches.

The first thing to do is to slice off all outside fat and place it in the bottom of the roasting pan. Then set the inside round on top of it and place in a preheated oven. You want the oven preheated to 350 degrees.

Before you put the round in the oven, you cut three slits in each long side of the round. You place a piece of peeled fresh garlic in each slit. You then put the round in the oven and cook until a golden brown, or about 35 to 40 minutes. This is for searing the round on the outside.

You then remove the round from the oven and sprinkle the following spices all over the outside of the round. At this time you also turn the oven down to 300 degrees, for the rest of the time that you are cooking the round.

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • Crushed oregano

  • Crushed Basil

There is not an exact amount for the spices, you want a very thin layer of each on the round.

You then carefully fill the roasting pan with water, till only about one fourth of the round is above the water. Then you carefully put the round back in the oven and cook until the temperature in the thickest part of the round, is 130 degrees by a meat probe.

At that point take the round out of the oven, use a large fork to take the round out of the roasting pan and place on a tray. Then pour the juice from the roasting pan to a stainless steel bucket, and after cooling a little place both in the walk in cooler overnight.

In the next section we will discuss how to proceed the next day. By the way, its okay to cut a sliver off the outside of the round while still hot for a taste treat. You can't keep the cooks from doing this.

cutting on a slicer

Preparing the cooked beef for sandwiches

The next morning after the cooked meat and juice has been in the walk in cooler overnight, it is ready to be worked with. First bring out the bucket with the juice in it . You will notice a solid layer of fat has formed on the top, and you need to carefully remove it and throw it away.

If you turn this layer of hard fat over you will notice there is a coating of spices clinging to the underside. When you throw both away you get rid of any excess spices. You can now store this juice in closed containers in the walk in cooler ready for use in the steam table.

The next area to consider is the slicing up of the inside round. Bringing the meat out from the walk in, the first thing is to cut any gristle out of the meat. As you cut the large piece of meat into smaller pieces that can be handled by the slicer, you will notice small amounts of gristle that need to be cut out. Any time you see gristle, make sure you cut it out.

Next set the slicer on a three setting as this is about as thin as you can slice the meat without shredding it. Then make sure you slice all of the meat cross grain, as this makes the slices much more tender. Continue the slicing until the whole round is cut up, and then we will take up the storage of the sliced meat.

If you figure to use all the sliced meat within a week, you can store it in containers with lids in the walk in cooler. If you figure it will take longer to use the sliced meat, you can portion package it into 4oz amounts and store it in the freezer.

You can also store some of the juice in closed containers in the freezer. As you build up your business for Italian beef sandwiches, you will notice that you use it all up within a week and don't have to store it in the freezer. Next we will consider making the actual sandwich.

getting ready to start

making the Italian beef sandwiches

We now have the beef cooked, sliced and ready to serve. Each day when you open your place you put a half size pan in the steam table and partially fill it with the juice. You then place a small amount of the sliced beef in the juice to heat up.

When you get an order for a beef sandwich you take a six inch piece of french bread, slice it lengthwise and fill with about 4oz of sliced beef. We then use to shake a small amount of salt on top and then wrap and bag the sandwich.

When I had my pizza place in Evanston, I had a couple customers that drove from Highland park to get these sandwiches. That was a distance of about 25 miles. So you can see the sandwich had quite a bit of appeal.

If you are looking to cook the beef at home, you will have to get your meat at the supermarket. You can use either a top round roast or a bottom round roast. Make sure you use a boneless roast.

The idea in cooking the roast is to cook it slowly. First you sear the outside with 350 degree heat and then turn the heat down to 300 degrees so that you can cook it slowly. This tends to make the meat more tender.

At home the hardest part you will have is slicing the beef thin enough. If you have a sharp enough knife you may be able to do it. Remember to let the roast cool in the refrigerator overnight, as it will be easier to slice then. When you are ready to make sandwiches you can use a double boiler to replace the steam table. The next thing is to sit back and enjoy a really good sandwich.


The Italian beef sandwich is a great addition to a pizza place that needs to do more business. It is easy to fix when ordered, and your customers will find it tastes good enough that they will want to order the sandwich quite a bit.

As a sandwich it is one of the easiest to serve and a good money maker. To our original idea of a pizza place you would just add a steam table. The main idea is you can serve a good sandwich that isn't commonly found in this country. Also your cost is lower because it is a cheaper cut of meat. Here is to your successful sale of Italian beef sandwiches.


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    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      awesome sandwich. Love the different style and ingredients involved. Voted up