Slow Cooker Italian Beef sandwiches are a perfect summer sandwich. The meat cooks all day (leaving you free to play outside), and the results are tasty, filling and in this case, plentiful. You’ll end up with a bit more than 3 pounds of cooked beef and about a quart of tasty cooking liquid to enhance your sandwiches! If you don’t have a big group to feed, freeze some of the cooked meat filling and cooking liquid for another day.
You may not have tried Italian Beef sandwiches if you’re not from the midwest, and I confess, I didn’t have them until several years ago, when one of my Chicago-based sisters prepared them for our family reunion one summer. I wish I’d known about them sooner!
Italian Beef sandwiches are believed to have originated in Chicago in the 1930s and apparently have been a hit ever since. From what I’ve read, my version differs from the original in a few ways: I use chuck roast (instead of top or bottom round roast) and I shred the beef instead of thinly slicing it.Also, I’ve seen some recipes that call for adding sweet peppers to the sandwiches, which I think my sister did as well (red ones made for a pretty sandwich); feel free to add in some peppers during the last hour or so of cooking time if you want.
And of course, using gluten-free rolls (or bread of some kind) is not original to the recipe, either, but oh well! And actually, a fairly sturdy roll, such as many gluten-free rolls are, is perfect for this sandwich—especially if one wants to dunk. Speaking of dunking, Italian Beef Sandwiches are often completely dunked into the cooking liquid just before serving (basically making them a wet, sort of soggy and messy affair). I prefer not to do that, opting instead of ladle some of the cooking liquid over my sandwich instead, which helps soften the roll/bread, but doesn’t completely wet it. The choice is yours.
As for garnishes, giardinieria—a pickled combo of cauliflower, carrots, celery, onions and peppers—is the traditional garnish for Italian Beef sandwiches. Some recipes also call for pepperoncini, so feel free to load up your sandwich with peppers if you like. I stuck with just the giardinieria (my husband wished for pepperoncini) and chopped it up a little to it fit onto the sandwich a little better.