Slow Cooker Italian Beef

published Dec 31, 2021
Italian Beef Recipe

Turn this tender, flavorful beef into a mouth-watering hoagie.

Serves8

Prep10 minutes

Cook5 hours

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Italian roast beef sliced on a roll with a green plate, with peppers and onions diced on top
Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Stylist: Kristina Vanni

As someone who was born and raised in Chicago, but spent much of my adult life in New York City, I am often asked about my pizza affiliation. While I am not one to fight for the supremacy of one slice over the other, I will argue that a Chicago-style Italian beef is hands-down the best sandwich in the country.

Italian beef sandwiches are traditionally made with roasted beef that has been sliced paper-thin, which can be difficult to achieve when recreating it at home. This slow cooker version incorporates all the flavors I have come to love in this Chicago-style sandwich, but it can be sliced and served slightly differently: either shredded with a fork or cut into slices.

Once the beef is ready to serve, there is an important question you need to ask yourself: Do you want your sandwich dry, wet, or dipped?

  • To serve a dry sandwich, the beef is pulled from the cooking liquid with tongs, most of the juice is allowed to drip off, and it is put into the roll. No additional juice is added.
  • A wet sandwich is served from the cooking liquid straight into the roll while still wet. In addition, another ladle of juice is spooned over the top before serving.
  • Finally, a dipped sandwich is fully assembled and then the entire roll is dipped into the beef juice making a deliciously soggy sandwich. Some will argue this is the most authentic way to enjoy the iconic sandwich.

Although it may be a sin according to some Chicagoans, I often elect for a daintier option: I like to serve my Italian beef with a small bowl of juice on the side. That way I can get a quick dip before each bite for the perfect moisture without holding a soggy sandwich.

What Cut of Meat Is Italian Beef?

Italian beef is made from a large top round roast.

Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Stylist: Kristina Vanni

Why Is Italian Meat Called Italian Beef?

The origin of the Chicago Italian beef began with the Italian immigrant population in Chicago that worked in the stockyards in the early 1900s. The men working in the stockyards would bring home tough cuts of meat that couldn’t be sold. They slow-roasted it in liquid and spices before slicing it thin and serving on rolls. This not only improved the taste of less appealing cuts of meat, but it also gave birth to this iconic local dish.

What’s the Difference Between Italian Beef and a Philly Cheesesteak?

A Chicago Italian beef sandwich is sliced roast beef on a roll, served with the cooking juice and topped with giardiniera. A Philly cheesesteak is made with slices of ribeye that have been cooked on a griddle and served in a roll. A cheesesteak can be served with or without grilled onions and topped with Cheese Whiz or slices of provolone.

How to Serve Italian Beef

Italian beef should be cut as thin as possible and served in a warm hoagie roll. The rolls can be toasted with a few slices of provolone or mozzarella cheese, if desired. Finally, the sandwich is served with hot, medium, or mild giardiniera. This is an Italian relish that includes peppers, celery, cauliflower, carrots, jalapenos, oregano, and garlic, all pickled in a vinegar and oil mixture.

Italian Beef Recipe

Turn this tender, flavorful beef into a mouth-watering hoagie.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 5 hours

Serves 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1

    (3- to 4-pound) beef top round roast

  • 1 to 1/2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

  • 4 teaspoons

    olive oil

  • 1/4 cup

    water

  • 2 cups

    regular or low-sodium beef broth

  • 1 (0.7-ounce) package

    powdered Italian dressing mix

  • 1 cup

    sliced pepperoncini peppers

  • 1/4 cup

    pepperoncini brine (from the jar)

To serve:

  • 8

    hoagie rolls

  • 16 slices

    Provolone cheese

  • Mild or spicy giardiniera

Instructions

  1. Season 1 (3- to 4- pound) top round roast all over with 1 teaspoon kosher salt if using regular beef broth (or 1 1/2 teaspoons if using low-sodium beef broth) and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

  2. Heat 4 teaspoons olive oil in large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shiimmering. Add roast and sear until browned and crusty on all slides, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the roast to a 5-quart or larger slow cooker.

  3. Add 1/4 cup water to the pan, scraping up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. Pour into the slow cooker. Add 2 cups beef broth, 1 (0.7-ounce) package Italian salad dressing mix, 1 cup sliced pepperoncini peppers, and 1/4 cup pepperoncini brine. Cover and cook until the meat is very tender, 8 to 10 hours on the LOW setting or 4 to 5 hours on the HIGH setting.

  4. Transfer the roast to a clean cutting board. Shred with two forks into small pieces, or thinly slice across the grain. Reserve the sauce.

  5. When ready to serve, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Split 8 hoagie rolls and place cut-side up on a baking sheet. Top each half with 2 slices provolone cheese. (Toast in 2 rounds or on 2 baking sheets if needed.)

  6. Bake until the cheese is melted, 5 to 7 minutes. Fill the toasted rolls with the beef and top with mild or spicy Giardiniera, as desired. Taste the sauce and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Spoon the sauce over the sandwiches and divide the rest into individual bowls or ramekins for dipping.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover Italian beef can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.