Dutch Oven Chicago Italian Beef Recipe

Famous all over Chicago, Italian beef is the zesty, hearty sandwich recipe you’ll want for game day, graduation parties and family gatherings. Plus, since it’s cooked in a dutch oven, this Chicago Italian beef is a great make ahead recipe. A recipe inspired by living and eating lots of Italian beef in Chicago for over 35 years!

Stacked Italian beef sandwich halves wrapped in parchment

Having lived in Chicago for 35 plus years, I love the fact that you can drive down any main thoroughfare in Chicago and the ‘burbs and you’ll find a shop proudly serving Italian beef sandwiches. Italian beef is one of those iconic Chicago foods and just like Philly cheesesteaks, everyone has their favorite Italian beef stand like Mr. Beef, Portillo’s or any place along North Avenue.

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What is Chicago-style Italian beef?

French rolls (oftentimes dipped or dunked in au jus) are packed with thinly sliced beef and served “with hot or sweet” peppers.

This Chicago-style Italian beef recipe is made in a dutch oven topped with a unique cooking technique for the most beautifully tender meat chock full of zesty flavor.

You might have to hang a sign outside. It’s that good.

The method

Dutch oven with seasoned broth and beef

For this Italian beef recipe, you’ll need two key pieces of equipment:

  • Dutch oven. I use a Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart dutch oven. Need to double or triple the recipe? Use a larger dutch oven, like a 9 or 13 1/4 quart.
  • Parchment paper. We are going create something called a “cartouche” which is a parchment paper lid that allows the au jus to reduce but still allow the meat to stay nice and juicy.

Don’t have a dutch oven?

You can use a slow cooker instead and cook the beef on high for 4 hours. I’d check it after 3 hours to see how tender it is since every slow cooker is different.

You also can try using a wide stock pot (but not a tall pasta one) as well.


What is the best cut of meat for Italian beef?

Bottom round roast. Trim off a little bit of the fat cap and discard before browning and cooking.


Ingredient Rundown

ingredients to make Chicago Italian beef

To make the best Italian beef sandwich, we are heaping layers of flavor on our roast.

  • Browned seasoned beef. Browning the bottom round roast in oil before roasting creates fond. Fond is all those yummy crispy, browned bits that happen as the meat browns. You’re going to scrape all those up at the bottom of the pan.
  • Broth. Beef broth and bouillon add a richness and saltiness and helps deglaze the pan, loosening the fond.
  • Spice blend. Our Chicago-style Italian beef is taking its cue from Chicago hot dogs with a blend that uses celery salt. Smoked paprika and crushed red pepper add big warmth and heat rounding out Italian classics like oregano and thyme.

Step by step instructions

four pieces of beef on parchment paper with a bowl of seasoning
bottom round roast cut in four equal pieces
salted quarters of beef on parchment paper
sprinkle roast with kosher salt
Dutch oven with browned pieces of beef
Brown meat in oil on all sides.
  • Cut the roast in equal pieces so they fit comfortably side by side in the Dutch oven [left].
  • Season with kosher salt [middle].
  • Brown meat in oil on all sides over high heat. Remove meat to plate and add 1 T fennel seeds to toast them.
fennel seeds being stirred and toasted in Dutch oven
fennel seeds toasting in pan
Dutch oven with beef stock and fennel being stirred by wooden paddle
pour in stock, bouillon and water
wooden paddle adding Italian beef seasoning in Dutch oven
Italian beef seasoning blend in broth
  • Remove meat to plate and toast fennel seeds in pan drippings [left].
  • Add water and stock to toasted fennel [middle]
  • Sprinkle in Italian beef spice blend and stir until combined

Braising School: The Cartouche

Dutch oven topped with parchment cartouche
A cartouche is parchment lid that covers braised meat and creates a rich au jus,.

In order to make a really great au jus for Italian beef, we are going to borrow a French braising technique called a cartouche, which is basically a parchment “lid”. A cartouche allows meat to cook evenly and pretty quickly while creating a rich au jus for the Italian beef.

How to make a cartouche

Trace the bottom of the Dutch oven on a piece of parchment paper and cut it out. Place the cartouche on top of the submerged beef.

Cooking Instructions

open faced Italian beef sandwich topped with giardiniera

Add beef back to Dutch oven in the spices and broth.

Braise the beef for 3 hours at 300˚. .

The best way to thinly slice beef without a meat slicer

ribeye steak sliced thin on a piece of parchment and a cutting board with a knife and sharpening steel in an x to the left.
Look for the long lines of muscle in the meat (not the white marbling) and cut across (usually the short side) the meat in thin slices after briefly freezing.
  • Immediately wrap meat in plastic wrap and place on a plate in the freezer for about 30 minutes or so if you are eating the same day. If you aren’t planning to serve right away, place the wrapped beef in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months.
  • Remove the beef from the freezer and using a very sharp slicing knife, slice the beef into paper thin pieces. If you have a meat slicer, all the better!


TIP

Cutting beef across the grain means cutting perpendicular (or across) to the muscle lines in a piece of meat.

-Josie + Nina


Chicago-style Italian Beef Lingo

Italian beef sandwiches wrapped in parchment and stacked on top of each other
Chicago Italian beef sandwich “without

After slicing, pour the au jus back into the Dutch oven and heat over medium heat until hot. Add the sliced beef and toss in the au jus for about 3 minutes to warm it through.

Slice long loaf of French bread into sandwich size segments and cut to open on one side. Don’t cut all the way through.

Pile the thinly sliced beef into the French bread and top with giardiniera or sweet or hot peppers

Order Up!

Dipped: The inside of the French roll is dipped (heavy or light) in the au jus before piling with beef.

Dunked: The entire sandwich is dunked in au jus before wrapping in parchment

With: Sweet or hot peppers

Without: sweet or hot peppers

Storing, Reheating and Freezing

Storage

Separate the meat from the au jus and store any leftover meat in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Store the au jus in an airtight container or storage bag.

Reheating Tips

On the stove. Add the au jus to a sauce pan and heat until hot. Gently add the refrigerated meat to the saucepan and simmer until the meat is heated through, 5 minutes or so.

Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!

Italian beef sandwiches wrapped in parchment and stacked on top of each other
5 from 3 votes

Chicago Style Italian Beef (Dutch oven recipe)

Famous all over Chicago, Italian beef is the zesty, hearty sandwich recipe you'll want for game day, graduation parties and family gatherings. Plus, since it's cooked in a dutch oven, it's a set and forget recipe you'll serve over and over again.
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Ingredients
 

  • 4 lbs top round roast, quartered
  • 3 T veg oil
  • 1 Tablespoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1 qt beef stock
  • 1 ½ qt water
  • 1 T Better Than Bouillon

Spice Blend (1 Tablespoon each):

Optional toppings

Instructions

  • Trace the bottom of the dutch oven on a piece of parchment paper. Cut out the circle and set aside. You have just made a cartouche (parchment "lid) that fits inside the dutch oven but still allows evaporation

Prep the beef

  • Cut the bottom round roast in 2 equal pieces so they fit comfortably side by side in the Dutch oven.
  • Brown meat in oil on all sides over high heat. Remove meat to plate and add 1 T fennel seeds to toast.
    4 lbs top round roast, 3 T veg oil, 1 Tablespoon whole fennel seeds
  • Mix the fennel seeds and remaining spices in a small bowl.
    garlic powder, onion powder, celery salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper
  • Deglaze pan with beef stock.
    1 qt beef stock
  • Add water, stock paste and the spice blend.
    1 1/2 qt water, 1 T Better Than Bouillon
  • Braise meat at 300 degrees for 3 hours.
  • Remove meat from the au jus and immediately wrap each piece of meat individually in plastic wrap and place on a plate in the freezer for about 30 minutes (or so) if you are eating the same day.
    If you aren't planning to serve right away, place the wrapped beef in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months.
  • Remove the beef from the freezer and using a very sharp slicing knife, cut the beef into very thin almost shave slices. If you have a meat slicer, all the better!

For the au jus

  • Meanwhile, set a strainer in a bowl and pour the juice from the beef, pressing on the solids to extract as much beef au jus as possible.
  • Next, pour the strained au jus back into the Dutch oven and heat over medium heat until hot. Add the thinly sliced beef and toss in the au jus for about 3 minutes or until warmed through.
  • Slice long loaf of French bread into sandwich size segments and cut to open on one side. Don't cut all the way through.
  • Pile thinly sliced beef into the loaf French bread and top with optional giardiniera or sweet and/or hot peppers.

Notes

Storage / Reheating

Separate the meat from the au jus and store any leftover meat in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Store the au jus in an airtight container or storage bag.
Reheating Tips. Add the au jus to a sauce pan and heat until hot. Gently add the refrigerated meat to the saucepan and simmer until the meat is heated through, 5 minutes or so.
Freezer Notes. Freeze the meat and au jus in separate airtight containers/storage bags for up to 3 months. Defrost before reheating following the method above.

Serve your Italian beef Chicago-style:

  • Dip the inside or dunk the whole French bread roll in the au jus before topping with meat
  • hot or sweet peppers
  • giardiniera
  • shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese (for a beef and cheddar)
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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4 Comments

  1. Hi! Looking forward to making this recipe. Question: Do I wait until the meat has cooled off before wrapping it up and freezing it? Or wrap it up hot?
    Thanks for your time!

    1. Hi Mary! Wrap each piece right up while it’s hot! It works it’s magic and seals in the moisture.And you are welcome – thanks so much for taking the time to ask and if you have any more questions, please let me know. Can’t wait to hear how you like the Italian beef!😊

  2. This was the first time I made Italian beef. It was so easy I will definitely make it again. The recipe gave great step by step instructions and the freezing tip helped slice the beef nice and thin. I made this for a friend who had surgery. She and her family loved it and of course I saved some for me and my husband and we both loved it too!!5 stars

    1. that makes me so happy!! And I’m glad the slicing technique for beef worked because that can be frustrating. Thanks so much for trying my recipe!😊