The Essential Seasonings For Delicious Italian Beef Sandwiches

When it comes to good eats, Chicago is no slouch. Alongside deep-dish pizza and the Chicago-style hot dog, endures another legendary must-have dish for visitors of the Windy City: the Italian beef sandwich. Consisting of thinly sliced beef (usually chuck roast) piled on a grilled hoagie roll and topped with provolone cheese, pepperoncini, and giardiniera, this iconic sandwich was featured in the very first episode of Hulu's popular, award-winning series, "The Bear." Fans of the show who can't get their hands on a real-deal Chi-town sandwich can still approximate a version at home, but they won't get very close if they forgo the essential seasonings that make Italian beef so delicious.

Part of what makes an Italian beef sandwich distinct from a roast beef sandwich or French dip is the seasonings that the beef is slow-cooked in. Although everyone has their own slightly different mix, some commonalities run throughout, giving this Chicago comfort food its foundational flavor.

How to season Italian beef for optimum flavor

Italian beef has a long history extending back to the early 1900s when it's believed that Italian immigrants working in the Union Stock Yards (a meatpacking district in Chicago) first created the dish by slow-cooking unwanted, tougher cuts of beef to make them more appetizing. It's not surprising with such a long history that there are a lot of variations when it comes to this sandwich. But what remains fairly consistent are the core dried spices the beef is cooked in. These are garlic powder, oregano, basil, black pepper, and salt.

Many Italian beef recipes — such as the recipe used by Mr. Beef (the legendary and much-beloved eatery which inspired the fictional restaurant in "The Bear," and where scenes in the series were actually filmed) also use red pepper flakes to lend a spicy kick. Though some choose to vary the mixture, adding or substituting onion powder, parsley, thyme, or bay leaves, others remove all the fuss, simplifying by using an Italian dressing packet. You may have to play around to find your perfect Italian beef blend, but that just means you'll be enjoying this succulent sandwich on more than one occasion.