A Beef on Weck is a variety of steak sandwich found primarily in Western New York. It is made with roast beef on a Kummelweck Roll. The meat on the sandwich is traditionally served rare, thin cut, with the top bun getting a dip au jus. Accompaniments include horseradish, a dill pickle spear, and French Fries.
The kummelweck roll gives the sandwich its name and a distinctive taste. A kummelweck (sometimes pronounced “kimmelweck” or “kümmelweck”) is topped with kosher salt and caraway fruits. Kümmel is the German word for caraway, and weck means “roll” in the south-western German dialects of the Baden and Swabia areas (northern Germans generally say Brötchen), although the kind of weck used for this sandwich in America tends to be much softer and fluffier than a standard German Kümmelbrötchen or Kümmelweck. The sandwich has been introduced to new areas of the United States with population movement. In Austria, a similar type of small white-bread is known as Kümmelweckerl (diminutive from Wecken, which refers to a whole big bread, i.e. Brotwecken).
The origin and history of the beef on weck sandwich is not well established. It is believed that a German baker named William Wahr, who is thought to have emigrated from the Black Forest region of Germany, created the kummelweck roll while living in Buffalo, New York. A local pub owner is said to have used the roll to create the beef on weck, with the thought that the salty top of the roll would make his patrons purchase more drinks.
A typical beef on weck is made from slow-roasted rare roast beef that is hand carved in thin slices to provide about 13 mm of meat on the bottom half of the roll. The cut face of the top half of the roll may be dipped in the jus from the roast. Prepared horseradish is usually provided for the diner to spread on the top half of the roll to taste. The traditional side dishes for a beef on weck are french fries and a kosher dill pickle spear.
The beef on weck has long been popular regionally, and has gained a following in other areas of the United States where it has been introduced. Expatriates from Western New York have taken the dish and brought it to other areas after relocating. It has also been featured by chefs on cooking shows including the PBS special Sandwiches That You Will Like. Bobby Flay, Anthony Bourdain and other chefs have featured the beef on weck, or a variant, on their television programs.
The American restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings was started by former residents of the Western New York area and the original name of the restaurant was “Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck” or as “BW3”, the third W referring to weck. The chain no longer serves weck outside of the Western New York area and no longer uses the original name, but some still refer to the company with the extra “W” in its abbreviation.
For Kummelweck roll
- 2 tablespoons coarse salt
- 2 tablespoons caraway seed, whole
- 1 cup water
- ¾ tablespoon cornflour (cornstarch)
- ½ cup water, warmed
- 4 large hard rolls or Kaiser rolls
For Beef on Weck
- 1 cup au jus gravy, reserved from roasting the beef
- 600 g cooked roast beef, sliced thinly
- 90 g prepared horseradish
- Combine equal parts coarse salt and whole caraway seed. Store in clean jar. Heat 1 cup water to a boil. Dissolve cornflour in ½ cup warm water and add to boiled water. Return to a boil and thicken until it coats a spoon. Cool and store in refrigerator.
- Preheat oven to 175°C.
To make kummelweck rolls
- Take 12 rolls and place on baking sheet. Brush top of rolls with cornflour solution and sprinkle with seed mixture. Place in oven for 4 minutes or until kummelweck dries.
For the Beef on Weck
- Heat au jus in saucepan until simmering. Dip sliced roast beef in hot au jus and place on cut kummelweck roll. Top with a dollop of horseradish and dip the top of the roll in the au jus.
- Serve with a crisp dill pickle and potato chips.