One of the greatest culinary contributions to come out of Western New York is the ‘Roast Beef on Kummelweck Roll Sandwich’ often referred to as the ‘Beef on Weck’. The contents of the sandwich are straight forward, stand on their own and leave little room for interpretation: Thinly sliced roast beef, kissed with au jus and adorned with horseradish. A side ramekin of au jus may appear for your dunking pleasure and traditionally the beef on weck is served with a pickle. But what sets this sandwich apart from the myriad of otherwise forgetful sandwiches is the roll on which it is served.
The Kümmelweck Roll
Large salt crystals, like that found on a pretzel, along with caraway seeds are baked onto a kaiser roll. The combination of salt, caraway seeds, juicy roast beef and horseradish combine to bring a welcome experience to all senses. The sandwich is a pile of thinly sliced roast beef atop a salt and caraway roll and is pleasure as much for the eyes as for the palate. The salt and caraway seeds themselves layer a distinct texture into the experience that amplify each bite.
The Buffalo News proclaimed in February 2016 that eating a beef on weck is one of the 100 things all Western New Yorkers should do. In the article they break down the curious name of the German based roll itself illustrating that ‘Kümmel’ is German for caraway. it is pronounced ‘kimmel’, which has prompted an alternative spelling of the roll: ‘kimmelweck.’
Kimmelweck, Kummelweck, Kümmelweck
There is no wrong way to spell it and this is why the roll is often referred to in its short and friendlier moniker “weck”.
The method in making a beef on weck sandwich focuses on the roast beef and the roll separately and building when it’s time to eat.
Reverse searing a lightly seasoned roast provides an excellent option for a beef on weck.
- ~ 3 pound roast. For best results choose an eye round roast or a top round roast with good color and marbling. A bottom round roast can also be used if an eye round or top round isn’t an option.
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion power
Set up the grill for an indirect cook with the cooking grid atop the platesetter and preheat to 240°. Add a few chunks of hickory wood for smoke.
Combine the salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder and give the roast a light dusting on all sides. When seasoning it is important to remember that less is more. More seasoning can always be added but it cannot be removed.
Place the roast on the grill and allow to smoke until the internal temperature of the roast reaches 115°. This will put the roast on a roadmap towards a recommended doneness of medium. This can be adjusted to achieve different doneness levels. If looking for a final roast that is more well done continue to smoke until the internal temperature is closer to 120°. A rarer roast can be pulled at 110°.
Once the roast has reached the ideal internal temperature wrap in aluminum foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
While the roast is resting reconfigure the grill for a direct cook and open up the vents to allow the air flow to increase the temperature. Bring the grill up to 600°.
Carefully unwrap the roast ensuring to reserve any of the au jus that has collected in the foil. Return the roast to the hot grill and sear 1 minute per side. Re-wrap in the foil and allow to rest another 20 minutes.
Once again carefully unwrap the roast reserving all of the au jus. Thinly slice the roast.
Kummelweck rolls can be purchased in the bakery sections of grocery stores in the Western New York area. If you find yourself in the outskirts of Buffalo, NY and happen to be passing a Wegman’s, TOPS or Quality markets then chances are good there are weck rolls available to purchase.
However if kummelweck rolls are not available at your location there is still hope. For this method we are adapting the kaiser roll treatment as found in Bobby Flay’s Roast Beef on Weck recipe. A cornstarch mixture is used to adhere the salt and caraway seeds to a kaiser roll and baked a few minutes to dry.
- 6 kaiser rolls
- 1 cup of water
- 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
- 1/2 cup of water warmed
- 1 tablespoon of coarse (pretzel) salt
- 1 tablespoon of caraway seeds
Bring the 1 cup of water to boil on the stovetop. combine the cornstarch and the 1/2 cup of warmed water and wisk until well blended. Add the cornstarch mixture to the boiling water and continue to boil until the mixture has reduced and thickened a little bit. It should still be fairly soupy but spreadable on a roll without dripping all over the floor.
Arrange the rolls on a cookie sheet and coat the tops of each roll with the cornstarch mixture. Sprinkle the salt and caraway seeds evenly over all of the rolls.
Bake the rolls at 350° for 4 minutes or until the rolls are dry.
Build the Sandwich
Take a roll and layer in a generous portion of the sliced roast beef. Pour a little au jus over the meat and dollop with horseradish. Serve with a pickle. Enjoy!