Wondering how to make an authentic Philly cheesesteak? With National Cheesesteak Day coming up on March 24, many foodies out there are probably wondering what the secrets are to making a great cheesesteak at home. We reached out to owner of Geno’s Steaks, Geno Vento, to talk about how to make a Philly cheesesteak like the pros.
“Any good cheesesteak starts with thinly sliced ribeye meat,” he says. “When we cut it, we put it in stacks so that when we go to grab it, it’s like a deck of cards — it just falls apart on the grill.”
So how thin should the meat be sliced, exactly?
“I’ve never had anyone ask that question! In the 25 years I’ve been doing this,” he jokes. “But we have the meat slicer at the #3 setting. It’s sliced thin enough to get the spatula underneath it to flip it but not thin enough to see through.”
Vento adds that you should leave the meat on the grill anywhere from 40 seconds to a minute.
“It depends on the temperature of the grill. If it’s completely frozen, or if it’s already at room temperature, that makes an impact on cooking time as well,” he says. “But you wait until the sides are starting to sizzle and curl up. That’s when you want to put your spatula underneath the meat to flip it over.”
Is lean mean?
Don’t be scared of the fat — it helps tenderize the meat, gives it flavor and even helps lubricate the grill.
“Some customers want to have every piece of fat taken off,” Vento says. “We tell them if we do that, it will be like shoe leather. It’s not like you’re eating prime ribeye.”
Carb load: what kind of bread?
As far as the bread is concerned, many cheesesteak connoisseurs will say that this cheesesteak component is what makes Philly cheesesteaks stand in a league of their own.
“They say it has something to do with Philly water that makes the bread come out the way that it does,” Vento says. “It’s an italian roll that is soft on the inside and has a soft crust on the top. It’s like a soft pillow. You put the meat inside and it holds it all together.”
Geno’s Steaks gets their bread from Liscio’s and even has their own special roll.
“Liscio’s makes our bread. My father was so particular about it that we have our own bake, so when we order, we have a Geno’s steak roll,” Vento says. “It has two slits, not three. It’s baked to a certain size, has a certain color, a certain crispness on top and 97%of the time, the bread looks exactly the same.”
And how about that cheese? Onions? Condiments?
If you’re getting the cheese whiz, it gets spread on the roll first and then the meat goes in, but if you’re getting provolone or American cheese, it gets put onto the meat as it’s cooking.
Then of course, there’s the matter of onions.
“We use white onion that we saute in a little bit of vegetable oil and cook it on the grill. We caramelize it until it’s translucent, so it has a little softness but still has a bite to it,” Vento says. “Kind of soft like al dente I would say.”
So what makes a great steak, according to Geno Vento?
“I believe it’s the quality you put in the product,” he says. “We have had the same product that we’ve had since 1966, when my dad started — except for the bread. [The original baker shut down.] It’s the same meat, cheese, roll and onions. It’s really a simple recipe.”
And he’s also a “whiz wit” kind of guy, in case you’re wondering!
Geno’s Steaks is located at: 1219 S. 9th St.
For more information, visit: genossteaks.com.