The crock pot makes homemade Italian Beef sandwiches a fun and easy way to bring this Chicago classic to your next party!
An Italian-American Creation
Contrary to what the name suggests, Italian Beef does not claim the Italian boot as its founding soil. Rather, it is the creation of Italian immigrants in Chicago in the early 1900s.
Cheap, tougher cuts of meat were what these hard-working immigrants could afford, and slow roasting was the way to make these less desirable cuts incredibly tender. Adding a spiced broth and flavorful toppings did wonders to make the meat more flavorful.
Although the specific origins of the sandwich are unknown, the recipe was popularized by Paquale Scala, a butcher from the South Side of Chicago, during the Great Depression. Scala sliced his beef super thin so that it would be able to feed more people. His simple, economical act became a sensation, and many Italian beef stands started popping up all over Chicago.
The components of a classic Italian Beef sandwich
A classic Italian beef sandwich is made by slow roasting beef above a pan of seasoned beef stock. The cooked meat is then sliced super thin, soaked briefly in the broth, and then layered (while still quite wet from the juice) into crusty lengths of Italian bread.
It is classic for the meat to be topped with green peppers and/or giardiniera, a spicy mix of pickled vegetables. More juice is ladled over the top of the sandwich, just to make sure everything is good and moist.
It isn’t a dainty sandwich. No, it’s quite a mess. But’s it’s a tasty mess. And isn’t that what really matters?
Shredded Italian Beef?
Now, Italian Beef purists might look at this version of the sandwich and turn up their nose. True Italian Beef always contains super thinly sliced roast beef, not shredded beef. However, it is nearly impossible to get deli-quality, sliced roast beef at home unless you have a lot of time on your hands and professional meat slicing equipment.
So, we make do!
If you can get over the fact that this sandwich is piled with shredded beef, rather than waves of thin slices, for long enough to grab a bite, we’re pretty sure you’ll agree that the flavor of this beef is spot on. And the ability to have Italian beef sandwiches at home or to bring them to a party is definitely worth the slight change in the cut of the meat.
Homemade Italian Beef: Great for a crowd
If you have many mouths to feed, this is a great recipe to double and feed the masses. Using a 6 lb roast, we have fed 12-15 people sandwiches for a great lunch. If used for smaller slider sandwiches as a part of a party spread, 6 lbs does a good job feeding 20-25.
Just don’t forget the Giardiniera!
The classic Italian Beef sandwich without the hassle and made easy for a crowd with the slow cooker!
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp basil
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- ¼ tsp ground black pepper
- 3 lbs boneless beef roast (round or sirloin are best for slicing, chuck is best for shredding)
- 1 onions, halved and sliced
- 1 c beef stock (we prefer low sodium)
- ¼ c dry red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot)
- In a small bowl, mix together the rub ingredients. Set the mixture aside.
- Using a small paring knife, make a number of 2 inch deep incisions in the beef roast, roughly 2 inches apart. Rub the roast with the seasoning mix, pushing some of the seasoning into the incisions.
- Add the sliced onions, broth, and wine to the bottom of your crock pot bowl. Place place the seasoned beef roast into the bowl over the onions.
- Set the crock pot to cook on low for 8-10 hours, until the beef is fork-tender.
Remove the meat from the crock pot and shred it using two forks (or, slice it thinly against the grain). Return the meat to the crock pot and mix it with the juices and onions. At this point the meat can be kept warm over low heat for 1-2 hours, or it can simply be heated for an additional 10-15 minutes to heat through and serve immediately.
- Serve the Italian beef on Italian hoagie buns. Top the shredded meat with Giardiniera.
**When choosing how much meat to make, remember that the roast will lose nearly half of its weight as it cooks.