This slow cooker Chicago-style Italian Beef is the closest that I’ve had to real Chicago Italian beef since I moved almost two years ago. It has all the elements that I remember and crave: thinly sliced beef, savory beefy gravy, and spicy giardiniera (my favorite!).
I tried this recipe a few different ways to get the beef as close to authentic as I could get it. In Chicago, the roast is sliced paper thin before it’s placed back in the gravy to hold. Several versions that I tried at home cooked the roast in the gravy and ended with shredded beef instead. While that version is pretty good, it’s just not authentic to me. I prefer the thin-sliced beef.
Eventually I came across a suggestion on using thin sliced deli beef. While it’s not exactly Al’s Italian Beef, it comes close…when you’re 1,000 miles away.
So, the key to the gravy is making sure you have plenty of meat and veggies for flavor. I used stew meat and a soup bone. Start by browning the meat in butter, making sure to break it into at least three batches. While the meat is browning, place your carrots, celery, onion, and peppers in the slow cooker. As each batch of meat browns, drop it into the slow cooker on top of the veggies.
When the meat is done, deglaze the pan with a couple tablespoons of water and then add the liquid to the slow cooker. Then add remaining ingredients, except for the rolls and the giardiniera.
Cook on high for 8 hours. (I usually do this overnight.) Then taste the gravy and adjust the seasoning if needed. Once you’re happy with the taste, strain out the solids and return the liquid back to the slow cooker. Then add the deli roast beef to the slow cooker and cook until heated through, about 30 to 40 minutes.
At the same time, split each roll and wrap in foil. Then pop them in a 400-degree oven for at least 30 minutes.
And then you’re ready to serve! Use tongs to fill each roll with plenty of beef, dipping the entire sandwich in the gravy or drizzling plenty onto the sandwich itself. Top the beef with giardiniera. The giardiniera is key for the flavor of this sandwich! Don’t skip it!
I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love and crave these sandwiches. I hope you will as well!
The Recipe: Slow Cooker Chicago-Style Italian Beef
- 2 lbs deli roast beef, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 lbs beef stew meat
- 1 beef soup bone
- 2 carrots, rinsed and chopped into large pieces
- 2 celery stalks, rinsed and chopped into large pieces
- 1 onion, peeled, trimmed, and quartered
- 1 green pepper, rinsed, trimmed, and quartered
- 1 red pepper, rinsed, trimmed, and quartered
- ⅓ c. soy sauce
- 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 6 c. water
- 8 deli sandwich rolls (I used long steak rolls)
- Place carrots, celery, onion, and peppers in the bottom of slow cooker.
- Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Brown stew meat and soup bone, splitting into at least three batches. Do not crowd pan. Transfer each batch to slow cooker when browned.
- Deglaze pan with a few tablespoons of water. Then add the deglazing liquid to the slow cooker.
- Add soy sauce, Worcestershire, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and water.
- Cook on high for 8 hours. Taste broth and adjust seasoning as necessary.
- Strain slow cooker contents through a medium mesh strainer. Then return liquid to cooker. Discard solids or save for another use.
- Place roast beef in liquid and heat on warm for at least one hour until heated through.
- Split rolls, wrap in foil, and bake for at least 30 minutes at 400 degrees.
- Use tongs to pile meat inside rolls, allow the “gravy” to soak into the roll. If desired, use tongs to dip entire sandwich into gravy in slow cooker. Top with giardiniera.