is supported by our Pitmaster Club. Also, when you buy with links on our site we may earn a finder’s fee. Click to see how we test and review products.

John Markus’ World Famous Philly Cheesesteak

Share on:
Philly cheesesteak sandwich

There’s no need to head to Philadelphia for the city’s famed cheesesteak sandwich!

In 1984 I was a fresh-faced 20-something who’d arrived on time at the Elvis Suite at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. After a full minute of banging the door knocker on the oversized glossy-black double-doored entrance the resident, feeling no need to disguise that he’d been napping, open up and invite me in. This was my first staff job writing on a television series, and its star, a famous comedian with Emmys and platinum albums, was cranky.

Sure, I had the guts and confidence of a young ‘un, but the six foot-four-inch ex-football player intentionally intimidated me. He’d commanded my presence in order to deliver me the bylaws of writing his show. My first contract was for three weeks only. I could’ve been let go for using the door knocker. The star expertly drew himself a cappuccino from a five-foot-tall brass Italian espresso machine without offering me one. The drink perked him up a bit, and the edicts began to flow: No jokes, just write The Truth. Tell a story. Don’t write the kids like they have cigars in their mouths. He gave that one after taking a huge puff on a Churchill-sized Cuban.

To his credit, all his rules turned out to be on the money. I was the baby writer, and the show didn’t feature my name in the title. He must’ve started to like my Midwestern vibe, because 20 minutes into the meeting, he pivoted and asked if I’d ever had a Philly cheesesteak sandwich. I replied that I was raised in central Ohio and the closest I’d had to this Philadelphia specialty was “Italian” cold cuts stuffed into hoagie rolls with a drizzle of oil, called “subs.”

He held up his index finger, lifted the receiver of a fire-engine-red phone, punched in a number, and ordered four of them. A mere 25 minutes later, a paper bag with four oblongs, white-wax wrapped, grease-stained torpedo-shaped rolls arrived, with a griddled beef/onion aroma so intoxicating I literally thought “If I get fired tomorrow, this will have been worth it.” The star kept three and handed me one. That’s all it took. I banged that door knocker a long long time ago. The show went off the air in 1992 but not before I won an Emmy for my writing for it. But my romance with the sublime invention from Philly has endured beyond.

Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich Recipe

Philly cheesesteak sandwich
Tried this recipe?Tell others what you thought of it and give it a star rating below.
3.80 from 24 votes
You don't have to travel to Philadelphia for a delicious cheesesteak thanks to this recipe.

difficulty scale
Author: John Markus


Servings: 2 hefty sandwiches


Prep Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours 20 minutes


  • 1 Griddle
  • 2 sturdy spatulas (try to get one about 6-inches long)
  • Mandolin slicer (I strongly recommend the Benriner brand).


  • 2 boneless prime ribeye steaks
  • 2 tbsp. Morton Coarse Kosher Salt
  • 2 tbsp. coarse ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. granulated garlic
  • 3/4 pound high quality cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 pound bright orange American cheese
  • 1 cup half & half or milk
  • 2 medium size sweet onions
  • 2 hoagie rolls, soft inside, crunchy crust, about6-inches long
  • 4 tbsp. beef tallow
About the beef tallow. You will use this to oil the griddle. You can make tallow by melting some beef fat that you’ve trimmed from the ribeyes or other beef. When I cook a brisket or chuck roast, I trim the fat and freeze it for occasions like this. In a pinch, you can use duck fat or bacon fat. You can substitute butter combined with a high smoke point neutral vegetable oil, but when you lower yourself to those ingredients, you’ll be making sammies with noticeably less Love in them. Just sayin’.
About the salt. Remember, kosher salt is half the concentration of table salt so if you use table salt, use half as much. Click here to read more about salt and how it works.
Metric conversion:

These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page


  • Fire up. Pre-heat your smoker to 225°F or set up your grill in 2-zones with the indirect side at about 225°F. Get some smoke rolling. Trim off excess fat from the steaks and set the fat aside to use as tallow. Mix the salt, pepper, and garlic in a bowl and sprinkle the meat. Smoke the meat for about 30 minutes, just enough to give it some flavor but not so long as to cook it through. Let the meat cool a bit and then wrap it tightly in plastic wrapand place in your freezer for at least four hours. You want them frozen stiffenough to shave thin on the mandolin. You can do this a couple days in advance.
  • Make the cheese sauce. While the meat is smoking, grate the cheese with a box grater on the large holes. Set up for double boiling by placing a bowl ontop of a pot with 2-inches of water in it. Turn the burner on medium high. Thesteam will heat the bottom of the bowl but won’t let it get too hot. Add the half& half to the bowl. Give it a few minutes to warm. Slowly add the cheese.Whisk nonstop. Expect some hand cramping, but do not wimp out. Take no breaks.Visualize eating the most delicious thing you’ve ever put in your pie hole.After approximately 20 minutes, the mixture will show signs of thickening. You’ll feelit. When you can write by drizzling the sauce, just a tad more and you’rethere. Turn the stove to low to keep the sauce warm and give it the occasionalwhisk, while you move on.
  • Prep.Dice the onions into 1/2-inch chunks. Put them in a bowl, cover, andrefrigerate. Slice your loaves the long way, leaving them hinged on one side. Slicethe frozen meat thin on the mandolin and be sure to use the protective guard.
  • Practice. Pullout a clean cutting board and spend some time rehearsing your moves with thetwo spatulas. Use one to pin down the imaginary slices of beef, while the otherpulls and shreds. Practice until you have the technique.
  • Cook. Preheatyour griddle to about 300°F. Melt a heaping tablespoon of beef tallow on it. Saute your onions until translucent. Should take only 5-10 minutes. Push them to the sides,away from the intense heat or take them off altogether.
  • Add the rest of the beef tallow, and just whensizzling starts add the beef. Brown one side for a minute or two then flip to brown the other. Now, working quickly, employing both spatulas, pin down thebeef with one spatula, stab and pull with the other, shreding the beef. Addthe onion and drizzle a couple of tablespoons of cheese sauce. Form yourmixture into two columns, matching the size of bread.
  • Serve. Open the loaves of bread and place them cut side down on top of the columns. Leave everything alone for a minute, allowing the beef to brown. With the confidence of a swordsman, in a single move, slide the 6-inch spatula under the beef, and flip the entire sammie into your hand (careful, hot oil). Drizzle on more cheese sauce. Don’t be shy, you worked your damn hand into carpal tunnel whisking this stuff. Place the whole thing on a cutting board, slice in two. Enter heaven.

Published On: 11/17/2022 Last Modified: 9/7/2023

Share on:


High quality websites are expensive to run. If you help us, we’ll pay you back bigtime with an ad-free experience and a lot of freebies!

Millions come to every month for high quality tested recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, product reviews, and inspiration. But it is expensive to run a website with more than 2,000 pages and we don’t have a big corporate partner to subsidize us.

Our most important source of sustenance is people who join our Pitmaster Club. But please don’t think of it as a donation. Members get MANY great benefits. We block all third-party ads, we give members free ebooks, magazines, interviews, webinars, more recipes, a monthly sweepstakes with prizes worth up to $2,000, discounts on products, and best of all a community of like-minded cooks free of flame wars. Click below to see all the benefits, take a free 30 day trial, and help keep this site alive.

Post comments and questions below


1) Please try the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help.

2) Try to post your question to the appropriate page.

3) Tell us everything we need to know to help such as the type of cooker and thermometer. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can’t help you with time and temp questions. Please read this article about thermometers.

4) If you are a member of the Pitmaster Club, your comments login is probably different.

5) Posts with links in them may not appear immediately.



Click to comment or ask a question...


These are not paid ads, they are a curated selection of products we love.

All of the products below have been tested and are highly recommended. Click here to read more about our review process.

Use Our Links To Help Keep Us Alive

Many merchants pay us a small referral fee when you click our “buy now” links. This has zero impact on the price you pay but helps support the site.