A Philly cheese steak is made up of thinly sliced steak served on a long sandwich roll. Philadelphia natives Pat and Harry Olivieri are credited with creating this regional favorite in the 1930s. The type of cheese that is used to make a cheese steak is often a topic of debate among foodies and those who live in the Philadelphia area. Cheese Whiz is often used, but other cheeses such as provolone, American and cheddar are also acceptable.
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Cheese Whiz is a popular choice for topping a steak sandwich because it is flavorful and easy to use. It was not originally used as a topping for steak sandwiches as it wasn't marketed by Kraft Foods until the 1950s, nearly 20 years after the advent of the cheese steak. Cheese Whiz is a thick processed cheese with emulsifiers and stabilizing agents like xanthan gum and carrageenan added in. Additives are also used to give it the signature orange coloring.
Provolone is an Italian cheese that is produced primarily in northern Italy. It is a semi-hard cheese that is produced from full-fat cow's milk. Provolone is made in a variety of shapes, but it is most commonly round. To top a steak sandwich, slices of provolone are usually melted over the steak while it is still being cooked on the griddle.
American cheese was originally made from a blend of cheddar and Colby cheeses. Currently, American cheese is a processed cheese made from ingredients like milk, whey, milk fat, milk protein concentrate, whey protein concentrate and salt. The cheese is orange, yellow or white in color and it is often square in shape. It is often chosen for making steak sandwiches because it melts easily. Like provolone, American cheese is often melted on top of the steak while it is still on the griddle.
Cheddar cheese is a hard cheese that is yellow or white in color. Cheddar cheese is produced the world over, but it was originally made in the English village of Cheddar in Somerset. Cheddar cheese is available in flavors that are mild and sharp. To make a cheese steak with cheddar, square slices or shredded cheese are used. Cheddar can be melted and poured over a cheese steak or slices can be placed directly on top of the steak to be melted while it is still on the grill.