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Ozzy's Baltimore Pit Beef


Pit beef, Baltimore’s signature sandwich, starts as a massive spice-rubbed roast beef grilled over a hot fire. The meat is sliced paper thin, piled on a big squishy bun, and topped with a few rings of raw onion. But could we recreate this sloppy, spicy, savory mess of a sandwich in our own kitchen? Here’s what we discovered:

Test Kitchen Discoveries

Traditional Baltimore pit beef usually starts with whole top or bottom rounds. While flavorful, these monstrous cuts are also notoriously tough when cooked medium rare. We turned to top sirloin roast for affordable, tender, and flavorful sandwich meat that performed better than the round roasts in a side-by-side test on the grill.

After getting the ratios right in our paprika-based rub, we found that even with the savory exterior, the meat’s interior was still undeniably bland. To fix this, we cut our roast in half—the seasonings permeated the two smaller roasts more quickly and now we had twice the smoky, spicy crust.

To char the roasts while avoiding a band of overcooked gray meat just below the surface, we wrapped our roasts in aluminum foil until they reached about 100 degrees. Then we cranked the grill, gave the roasts another dusting of seasoning, and seared them on the hot grill for about 15 minutes. They emerged charred on the outside and uniformly rosy within.

To top our sandwiches, we put together a simple version of traditional Tiger Sauce with a combination of mayonnaise, horseradish, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper.

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  • Buy brined (not creamy) prepared horseradish and, if necessary, drain it.
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup hot prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove , minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon Hungarian Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 1 (4- to 5-pound) boneless top sirloin beef roast , trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 10 kaiser rolls
  • 1 onion , sliced thin


Servings 10
Preparation time 15mins
Cooking time 1475mins
Adapted from


Step 1

1. For the tiger sauce: Whisk mayonnaise, horseradish, lemon juice, and garlic together in bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

2. For the pit beef: Combine seasonings in bowl. Pat roasts dry with paper towels and rub with 2 tablespoons seasoning mixture. Wrap meat tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 6 to 48 hours.

3A. For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

3B. For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s).

4. Clean and oil cooking grate. Unwrap roast and sear 5-7 minutes.Move roast over to side of grill without charcoal. Cover (positioning lid vents over meat if using charcoal) and cook until meat registers 135 degrees, 45 minutes.

5. Transfer roasts to plate. Turn all burners to high if using gas. If using charcoal, carefully remove cooking grate and light large chimney starter three-quarters full with charcoal briquettes (4 1/2 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over spent coals. Set cooking grate in place and cover. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

6. Transfer meat to carving board, tent loosely with foil, and rest 15 minutes. Slice meat thin against the grain. Transfer sliced beef to buns, top with onions, and drizzle with sauce. Serve.

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