Chopped Cheese Vs Philly Cheesesteak: What's The Difference?

If you've spent any time at all in the Northeastern United States, you've likely encountered quite a variety of delicious submarine sandwich options. Many of these can be attributed to their city of origin for their massive regional popularity. The Philly cheesesteak, for instance, draws crowds the world over to the historic Pennsylvania city in search of an authentic taste of the beefy, cheesy delight. Conversely, the chopped cheese sandwich, which originated in New York City, is currently having a massive movement online from chefs who cite the delicious sandwich for its easy-to-make recipe and highly customizable format.

Though the Philly cheesesteak and the chopped cheese both feature beef and cheese on a roll, the two sandwiches are worlds apart in terms of ingredients, structure, and flavor profile, making them distinct for a number of reasons. The number-one difference separating the sandwiches lies in the meat they use. For an authentic Philly cheesesteak, you'll need beef steak strips or thinly sliced ribeye while a chopped cheese simply uses ground beef, such as the kind you would use to form a burger patty or as taco meat.

Where does the chopped cheese come from?

Unlike the Philly cheesesteak, whose origins are clear and present in the sandwich's name alone, the chopped cheese can be attributed to a number of vendors who claim to have invented the recipe. They hail from Upper Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. The sandwich has become a bodega staple in the Big Apple due to its simple recipe and delicious flavors.

In recent years, the chopped cheese has become a cultural touchstone for New Yorkers, appearing in a number of pop culture institutions such as documentaries, YouTube videos for First We Feast, and hip-hop music videos. Hip-hop icon Cam'ron, who is a Harlem native, even filmed a music video for his hit song "Child of the Ghetto" inside Hajji's Deli, which is one of the more prominent locations rumored to have invented the sandwich.

Once the ground beef has been browned, the chopped cheese is layered with cheddar or American cheese and, as the name suggests, chopped and mixed into a gooey, cheesy mixture before a number of other toppings are added as desired. Unlike the chopped cheese, a Philly Cheesesteak does not require the chef to thoroughly mix the meat and cheese into a single gooey amalgamation and instead allows the cheese to melt in a uniform layer over the top of the meat.

What makes a Philly cheesesteak so special?

As any Philadelphia native will tell you, a sandwich requires a great deal more than simply steak and cheese to qualify as an authentic Philly cheesesteak. Broadly speaking, a Philly cheesesteak uses American or provolone cheese, often uses Cheez Whiz and additional toppings, and is served on a long soft roll. Some sub-regions of the city have even made minor tweaks to the recipe, including the addition of peppers and onions, mushrooms, and pizza sauce for a sweet and flavorful kick.

Though the Philly cheesesteak isn't currently undergoing a renaissance like that of the chopped cheese, the delicious sandwich has been prominently featured in a number of significant pop culture outings, including the "Rocky" and "Creed" film franchises, and perhaps most notably in the hit NBC sitcom "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." The regional take on the classic steak and cheese recipe dates back to the 1930s and rapidly took over the sandwich and street food market shortly after its invention.

If you haven't yet had the pleasure of trying both of these iconic American sandwiches, be sure to give them a spin soon! Though the Philly cheesesteak and the chopped cheese rely on different constructions and flavor profiles, the sandwiches have a significant overlap in their markets, meaning that if you enjoy one you're likely to enjoy the other.