A classic cheesesteak or Philly cheesesteak uses thinly shaved beef as the filling, with a generous topping of rich cheese, caramelized onions, peppers, and more ingredients.
Meat is the star of this dish, but the cheesy topping is important for adding flavor.
Commercial outlets typically use American cheese, Provolone, or melted Cheese Whiz on Philly cheesesteaks.
However, these are not the only options. Let’s look at the different varieties of cheese that can go on a cheesesteak.
Which Cheese Go Best on Philly Cheesesteak?
Brothers Pat and Harry of Philadelphia invented the cheesesteak as an alternative to the hot dogs they sold.
The original version was a “steak sandwich” without any cheese.
However, it didn’t take too long for the cheese to become a part of the recipe.
While the original versions of cheesesteaks used Cheese Whiz, other types of cheese are also often used on a cheesesteak.
Let’s find out what they are.
1. Cheese Whiz
Cheese Whiz was first added to the Philly cheesesteak in the 1950s.
The main reason for using it was that it was easy to add processed cheese to the recipe.
The orangish-yellow color also contrasts well with the brown color of the meat, making the sandwich look more luscious.
Cheese Whiz is made by Kraft, and it comes in an easily-spreadable form in a bottle.
Apart from American cheese, Cheese Whiz also contains water, milk solids, whey protein concentrate, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and many other ingredients.
There are different versions of Cheese Whiz now, with various flavoring agents added to deliver a unique taste.
All these versions go well with Philly cheesesteak, and you can vary the topping based on your preferences.
2. American Cheese
Some Philly cheesesteak outlets prefer American cheese over Cheese Whiz on their cheesesteaks.
American cheese is also a processed form of cheese, like Cheese Whiz.
It was developed as early as the 1910s from a mix of cheeses, like Colby, cheddar, and other common cheese varieties.
It’s usually available as slices that you can easily add to various recipes like burgers and sandwiches.
It melts easily and hence works with pasta and pizzas too.
American cheese is typically yellow or white.
The yellow versions are usually seasoned with annatto, which gives it the characteristic yellow hue.
This cheese isn’t too soft. It melts easily and can coat meat, bread, or any other ingredient.
Various brands produce American cheese, and all of them taste good on Philly cheesesteak.
This cheese has a distinct saltiness that enhances the flavor of the beef used to make cheesesteak.
Provolone is an Italian cheese made from full-fat cow’s milk.
It’s semi-hard, and you can easily grate it or add shavings to pasta, sandwiches, and other dishes.
The color and flavor of Provolone will depend on how long it has been aged.
If the cheese has been aged for at least four months, it develops a sharp taste. This cheese is naturally salty too.
Provolone’s strong saltiness and sharpness contrast well with the rich lusciousness of the meat used in Philly cheesesteak.
So, the pairing works well.
This cheese also melts and coats the onions and peppers used in the sandwich filling, making it extra-luscious and more delicious.
Provolone cheese slices may also be used as a topping for Philly cheesesteaks.
In this case, the cheese melts slightly and forms a flourish over the meat.
In variations of the recipe, cheese sauce made with Provolone cheese may also be used in Philly cheesesteak to make it more indulgent.
Mozzarella and meat may not seem like a classic combination, but it goes very well together.
This Southern Italian cheese is made from buffalo milk, and it has a characteristic soft texture due to its high moisture content.
Since mozzarella isn’t aged for too long, it’s necessary to use it quickly.
It’s widely used in various Italian dishes like pasta and pizza.
However, it also finds a lot of use in various recipes from all over the world.
Mozzarella cheese is usually available as a ball, in grated form, or as mozzarella sticks.
Any of these three forms will work well in Philly cheesesteak.
However, the best choice would be low-moisture, shredded mozzarella cheese.
Unlike most cheeses, mozzarella doesn’t melt completely.
Hence, it will not coat the entire meat like Cheese Whiz or American cheese.
Nevertheless, it adds a distinct saltiness and creaminess to the entire dish.
The subtle flavors of the cheese also allow the spices and rich flavors of the meat to shine through.
5. Swiss Cheese
Swiss cheese refers to the many varieties of cheese that resemble yellow Emmental cheese from Switzerland.
They’re characterized by a unique round shape with holes or eyes throughout the block.
These eyes or holes result from the release of carbon dioxide in the cheese during the manufacturing process.
So, Swiss cheese with larger holes will be more flavorful because it has undergone a longer fermentation process.
The delicious nuttiness and distinct salty flavor of Swiss cheese add unique and rich flavors to Philly cheesesteak.
It’s not as strong as Cheese Whiz or American cheese and lets the flavors of the meat shine.
However, it adds a lusciousness to the entire recipe, which makes the cheesesteak more indulgent.
Although cheddar cheese isn’t standard fare on a Philly cheesesteak, the texture and flavor of cheddar work well with beef steak.
Cheddar is a hard, natural cheese with an off-white or orange color.
It has a sharp and tangy taste and is distinctly salty.
The flavor of cheddar cheese changes as it ages. Young cheddar cheese will usually be milder than aged cheddar.
Strong and mature cheddar is usually aged for at least fifteen months or more to develop a characteristic tangy and pungent flavor.
Sharp white cheddar cheese goes very well on Philly cheesesteak.
The salty and tangy flavors of this cheese melt into the meat and add more depth of flavor to the cheesesteak.
However, the strong flavor of this cheese can sometimes overpower the flavors of the meat.
So, it can affect the authenticity of the taste.
7. Monterey Jack
Monterey Jack is an American semi-hard cheese made from cow’s milk. It’s salty with a delicate hint of sweetness.
Unlike Cheese Whiz and American cheese, which are not technically natural cheese, this is an original American cheese.
It melts when heated and hence is perfect for coating the meat and caramelized onions in a Philly cheesesteak.
Depending on how long the cheese has aged, it can have a mild or strong flavor.
Young, milder flavored Monterey Jack cheese will not overpower the flavors of meat but will add subtle saltiness and creaminess.
Mature varieties will have stronger flavors that compete with the meat.
Monterey Jack cheese is also available in various flavors, like Pepper Jack, Dry Jack, and Colby Jack.
These variants have additional seasoning agents for added flavor.
You can experiment with these varieties if you wish to add more flavor to your Philly cheesesteak.
Related Reading: Can You Pan-Fry Hot Dogs?
8. Cheese Sauce
Some of the most famous Philly cheesesteak joints use cheese sauce instead of shredded, sliced, or grated cheese in their cheesesteaks.
There are many benefits to choosing this option.
Firstly, it gives you the flexibility of mixing a variety of cheeses instead of using just one for your recipe.
This enhances the flavor and makes the cheesesteak more indulgent.
Secondly, using a cheese sauce ensures that the meat is fully coated with the cheese.
This makes the filling more spreadable and eliminates the problem of dry meaty bits in different places.
There are various recipes for cheese sauce for Philly cheesesteaks.
However, the common aspect is that they’re all thick, creamy, and white or yellow.