Today, we're making Pittsburgh Salad!
When I first learned about this salad, I learned a few things via my internet research. 1. Like most famous meals, there's some controversy and folklore over who first invented the salad, but the most popular story seems to involve a man that ordered a bunless burger with fries and his wife that ordered the same but put it on top of a salad. 2. People that grew up in Pittsburgh don't know that nobody else puts french fries on their salads.
Can anyone confirm or deny either of those two statements?
Anyways, the rules for a Pittsburgh salad are simple: take a basic salad, top it with grilled steak of chicken, top it with french fries, then drizzle it with ranch dressing. Easy peasy!
Since the original is a simple yet classic idea, that's exactly how we're going to approach our salad.
Let's talk salad. Our base salad will be similar to what most people know as a house salad. We just need some chopped lettuce (I prefer romaine), some cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, and cheese. Toss them in a bowl, and step one is finished!
Now, let's talk protein. In my research, I learned that steak is more traditional for this salad, though many places offer it with grilled chicken. In the name of authenticity, I went with steak for this recipe. And, it was the right move. Now, here's the thing about steak. We all prefer different cuts and cook temperatures, so this is not a lesson on how to cook steak. I prefer my steak way more cooked than most people find acceptable, and that's ok. That's my choice! So, cook your protein for this salad the way you like it. That's the only direction here.
The next item for our salad is the french fries. I chose to use a store bought, frozen french fry for this one. All of the work is already done for us, and that's in tune with the rest of the simplicity of this salad. So, you have have some authority with this ingredient too. I chose to use a thin “fast food” style fry that I cooked in my air fryer. But, a crinkle fry would be nice here. And, a curly fry would be fun too! Bake, air fry, or deep fry...your choice.
The last element that we need to finish our salad is the dressing. The thing that seemed to be the same across the board when I was researching this salad is that it's always dressed with ranch dressing. So, we're going to make a quick and delicious ranch dressing with some mayo, sour cream, milk, and dried herbs. Stir, chill, done!
Let me tell you...for a salad that is so simple and made with the most basic ingredients, it's freaking delicious! The warm steak and fries compared with the cool veggies and dressing provide this interesting temperature contrast that really feels nice in the mouth. And, the fresh ranch dressing just makes everything taste better. The fries are crisp. The steak is hearty. The vegetables remind us of simpler times. The whole situation is just so darn good!
This is one of those meals that I'd call humble and fancy all at the same time. And, those meals are always the best kind.
I may hate your Steelers and your terrible towels; but I sure love your salads, Pittsburgh!
Tell me all about the foods that are special where you're from. Introduce me to something new!
For now, enjoy! And, let's eat!
For the Ranch Dressing
- ½ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp milk (I used 1%)
- ¼ tsp dried chives
- ¼ tsp dried parsley
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- 1/8 tsp dill weed
- 1/8 tsp onion powder
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 1/8 tsp paprika
For the Salad
- 6 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
- 1 cup cucumbers, sliced
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- ¼ cup shallot or red onion, thinly sliced
- ½ cup shredded cheddar
- 1 lb steak, cooked to your desired doneness, sliced
- 2 cups french fries, cooked according to package directions
- Make the Ranch Dressing: To a mixing bowl, add sour cream, mayo, milk, chives, parsley, garlic powder, salt, dill, onion powder, pepper, and paprika. Stir to combine. Set aside in the fridge to chill at least 1 hour.
- Assemble the Salad: Divide lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, shallot, cheddar, steak, and french fries between 4 bowls. Top with ranch dressing. Serve!
- Steak preparation is a really personal thing. There are so many different cuts, preferred internal temps, and way to prepare it. You can grill it, pan sear it, reverse sear it, sous vide it...there are lots of different possibilities. So, cook the steak the way you like the best to the internal temp you like the best, and keep the seasoning on the steak simple. I prefer a higher temperature on my steak (don't judge), and that's ok. My preferred way to cook steak, no matter the temp, is sous vide. It's the best way to have total control over the internal temp of the steak. I used NY strip steak, seasoned both sides with salt and pepper and added 1 smashed garlic clove and one sprig of thyme to the sous vide bag. I wanted a medium well temp, so I cooked at 145 for 2 hours. You can adjust the water temp based on your preference. Then, I pan seared the steak to give it a little color over high heat in a cast iron skillet coated in a thin layer of canola oil for about 45 seconds per side.
- You can forget the steak all together and use grilled or roasted chicken as the protein in this salad instead.
- Use your favorite store bought frozen french fry for this salad to save time. Any cut will work, but I like the thin and crispy fries the best for this salad. I cooked mine in the air fryer to get them perfectly crisp.