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Meet (and Make!) Philly's Other Sandwich

Our recipe for Philadelphia Pork Sandwiches comes wit’ bold flavors, witout’ a trip to Philadelphia.
By Published May 18, 2018

You hear Philadelphia, you think cheesesteak. But it's time to shine the spotlight on the cheesesteak's porky counterpoint. A Philadelphia roast pork sandwich is a glorious beast: thinly sliced seasoned pork; bitter, garlicky greens; a rich, herby jus; and a fluffy roll topped with sharp provolone cheese (and optional hot peppers). It's not a shy sandwich, boasting a bold personality full of different flavors. It is a local triumph and a point of pride.

After executive food editor Bryan Roof and staff photographer Steve Klise traveled to Philadelphia to sample these sandwiches, we knew we had to re-create them at home. many of these sandwiches in Philadelphia, we wanted to re-create them at home. I made five different recipes, two of which were modeled after the famous sandwiches from DiNic's Roast Pork and John's Roast Pork, both located in Philly. One recipe called for braising a boneless pork butt roast in 2 cups of chicken broth. Not only was this pork tender and flavorful, but its juices mingled with the chicken broth as the roast cooked, creating an ultrasavory liquid base for my jus. (Read “Getting to Know: Essential Pork Cuts” to learn more about each pork cut's best cooking methods.)


Eating Our Way Through Philly

We visited Philadelphia and had a revelation in the form of the roast pork sandwich, the cheesesteak’s porky counterpoint. Learn more about what came of our recipe research after eating our way through Philly.
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Inspired, I seasoned a boneless pork butt with salt, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and fennel seeds and braised it in broth until it was almost fall-apart tender, about 3 hours. (Less braising time led to chewy pork that was difficult to bite through.) Creating thin slices, a hallmark of this sandwich, proved tricky without a deli slicer: The still-warm pork tended to shred. Instead, I tried letting the pork cool and then chilling it to let the fat set before slicing (see “Slicing Thin for the Win” at the bottom of the recipe). This, coupled with cutting the roasted pork into two manageable halves, made it much easier to slice.

[A Philadelphia roast pork sandwich] is not a shy sandwich, boasting a bold personality full of different flavors. It is a local triumph and a point of pride.
Carved Halved Roast
Bolling demonstrates how to thinly slice pork shoulder for easy-to-eat sandwiches.

As a bonus, chilling gave me a built-in make-ahead option. To reheat the pork, I simmered the jus and the sliced pork until the slices were warmed through.

Most Philly chefs pile garlicky broccoli rabe on these sandwiches, but a few swear by spinach. In a test kitchen showdown, we liked the more substantial texture and sharp flavor of broccoli rabe. For a final tasting, I topped the buns with slices of sharp provolone and toasted them before piling on the fillings. The melted cheese provided salty creaminess and a welcome subtle provolone tang. Now this sandwich didn't need anything else, but serving it with some extra pork jus brought it to a place of sandwich glory.


Philadelphia Pork Sandwiches

“Oh I love this one! The broccoli rabe is so delicious—it’s kind of bitter and salty which tastes so good with the fatty pork. It’s probably one of my favorite sandwiches and I never had one until I tried our recipe.” — Katie Leaird, senior editor
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If you happen to prefer a Philly cheesesteak, we’ve got you covered. Check out our must-try recipes below: