Peppercorn Steak

A standard on the menu of any respectable steak house is peppercorn steak, or “steak au poivre” as the French call it. There is some debate over the exact origins of this recipe (which French chef, or French king, and what era), but a thick juicy steak served with a peppercorn sauce has been popular in American homes and restaurants for at least 50 years. The steak is usually crusted with cracked black or green peppercorns, and served with a sauce with cognac, and cream or demi-glace. The following recipe uses crushed black peppercorns, brandy, beef stock, and cream. In many recipes the peppercorns are pressed into the steak before cooking. In this recipe (adapted from the Joy of Cooking, same ingredients, slightly different method), the steak is seared first, so you can get good flavorful browning without burning a bunch of peppercorns. After searing, then a peppercorn sauce is made and served over the steak.

By the way, as an experiment, we made this recipe with both boneless ribeye (a rather expensive cut) and top sirloin (half the price). The ribeye was predictably more tender (more fat marbling), but the top sirloin was also excellent. So I would say that with this sauce, you can get away with a less expensive cut of meat.

Peppercorn Steak Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4-6, depending on how big the steaks, and how hungry the eaters.

What kind of steak? Any good quality cut of steak will work, for example top sirloin, ribeye, filet mignon, porterhouse, T-bone, or New York strip. (Avoid chuck, that's best left for pot roasts.) We used inch-thick steaks, but you could go as thin as half-inch to as thick as 2-inches.

Ingredients

  • 4 good-sized steaks (1/2 pound to a pound each, allow for 1/2 pound per person)
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, canola oil, or other high smoke-point oil
  • 3 Tbsp black peppercorns, cracked
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots or onions
  • 1/4 cup cognac or other brandy
  • 1 cup beef broth or stock (for gluten-free version use gluten-free stock)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Method

1 Sprinkle salt generously over both sides of the steaks and let them come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

2 Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over high heat. (Use a pan that can handle high heat. Cast iron works well for this, or anodized aluminum.) When the oil begins to smoke, take the pan off the heat. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels (steaks brown better if they are patted dry first) and place in the hot pan. Return the pan to the heat and turn the heat down to medium-high. Sear, without moving the steaks, for at least 4 minutes. Try to pick up a steak with tongs, and if it comes clean, flip it and turn the heat down to medium. If it sticks to the pan, let it cook for another minute or two on that side.

For this recipe, we sear on one side on high heat, and cook on lower heat on the other side. This way you get great flavor from the seared side, and better control over how done you want your steak by cooking the other side more slowly.

peppercorn-steak-1.jpgpeppercorn-steak-2.jpg

3 Use the finger test for doneness or a meat thermometer. For rare, remove the meat from the pan when the inside reaches 120°F, for medium rare 125-130°F. Once the steak is done to your liking remove the meat to a baking sheet and sprinkle on a generous portion of crushed black peppercorns on both sides of each steak. Tent with aluminum foil and let the steak rest while you are preparing the sauce.

peppercorn-steak-3.jpgpeppercorn-steak-4.jpg

4 Make the sauce. Add the shallots and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the brandy and as it boils, deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon (helps to have one with a straight edge) to dislodge all the browned bits. Once the brandy is almost cooked away, add the beef stock and turn the heat to high. Boil the sauce down until there's a noticeable trail when you drag a wooden spoon through the center of it (4-5 minutes).

peppercorn-steak-5.jpgpeppercorn-steak-6.jpg

Pour in the heavy cream and resume boiling. Again, boil down until you can make that telltale trail from the wooden spoon. Turn off the heat and add the parsley and any remaining black pepper (no more than 1 Tbsp, the rest should have already been used to pepper the steaks). Taste for salt and add if needed.

Pour the sauce over the steaks right when you serve.

Hello! All photos and content are copyright protected. Please do not use our photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this recipe, please rewrite the recipe in your own unique words and link back to the source recipe here on Simply Recipes. Thank you!

Follow on Bloglovin

Links:
Buffalo ribeye steak au poivre from Seduction Meals
Steak au poivre with porta bella mushrooms from Andrea Meyers
Steak au poivre pepper steak, with video from Food Wishes

18 Comments

  1. Domesticated

    I don’t drink alcohol – whats a good alternative to the cognac/brandy?

    Just use beef stock to deglaze the pan. ~Elise

    • JM Paris

      In the deglazing process, when you have scraped all the bits from the botom of the pan, bring a flame close to the pan and flambée whatever alcohol vapour might remain. If there is no flame, all the alcohol has evaporated. However, if you don’t drink alcohol for religious reason, you should probably skip the brandy or other alcohol altogether.

  2. John

    Now that’s a great looking steak you got there! Thanks so much for the link! btw – I can’t believe how primitive my old videos look. That was one of my first ever. :-)

  3. Lana from Never Enough Thyme

    Great classic dish! I like your technique of searing on one side and slower cooking on the other. I’ve never thought of doing that but it makes so much sense.

  4. FLAVIA

    Wonderful recipe, a suggestion though, cook the sauce immediately after cooking the steak, if you cook the steaks in advance and wrap in foil, the heat inside the meat will cook it further, so if you want a medium steak, keep it a little on the rare side, it will be a perfect medium by the time your sauce is cooked and ready to serve.
    the sauce will also get a wonderful flavor if you add some pink and green peppercorns, which is quite easily available.

  5. Lauren OT

    Love the au poivre style for pork chops also.

  6. Carrie

    Hi Elise, We thought the pepper over-powered the steak so next time we will use half the amount.

  7. John

    Hey Elise!, I have made this many times and always salt add pepper both sides of the steak before, not after. Every recipe I have read states to do it that way. This reduces the heat of the pepper. Curious on doing it both ways.

  8. candace jurado

    My husband and I made this recipe the other night and boy was it peppery…is 1/4 cup the right measurement? The sauce was fantastic until I added all the crushed peppercorns, then the pepper flavor became so overwhelming we had to scrape it off the meat before we ate it. Despite our first experience we will make this recipe again, we will just cut back on the amount of pepper drastically…say maybe 2 or 3 tablespoons at the most.

    Hi Candace, well when we made it we had 4 huge steaks, so there were a lot of steaks to cover with the cracked pepper before we even got to the sauce. Also I think it may be better to start with the measurement of the whole peppercorns, then crack them in a mortar or in a spice grinder. Since you are the 2nd commenter to suggest that there was too much pepper, I’ve cut the amount down and rather than measuring the cracked peppercorns, I’m suggesting that you measure the whole peppercorns and then crack them. If you are working with already cracked pepper, then you will want to reduce the amount even more. Thanks for your comment! ~Elise

  9. Andre' Siedentopf

    I made this tonight. I had the butcher slice up a rump roast into steaks. Flavor of meat was great but a little tough, I will choose another cut next time. Was trying to save a buck. The other alteration I did was to slice mushrooms and a couple garlic cloves. My wife went crazy and was very disappointed I did not have more sauce.
    Thanks Elise, Once again a great recipe to add to my repertoire.

    Yep, we usually make roast beef with rump roast, cooking it at a fairly low temp for a long period so that the connective tissue has a chance to melt. Would be rather tough as a steak. Glad you liked it though! ~Elise

  10. Nellie

    I have to agree with the too-much-pepper comments (and I am a devout pepper freak). I did measure out whole peppercorns before cracking, so this wasn’t the problem.

    I did like the sear-on-one-side technique, however – the steaks were nicely done.

  11. tazzytee

    wow! My husband and I made this last night for us, our daughter and a friend; and we were all so impressed!!

    My husband wanted a peppercorn steak like we had at local brewery pub. It was a “Merlot” peppercorn sauce. He loves pepper, and this recipe was just the right amount of pepper for him. He said it was spot on–better actually.

    For me & everyone else, we liked the amount of pepper in the sauce but not as much on the steak. So our steaks had alot less cracked peppercorn on it, and it was well crushed.
    We substituted Merlot for the cognac/brandy since that is what we were after.

    It was amazing! Thank you!

  12. Jessica

    I made this for dinner yesterday. My boyfriend and I LOVED it. It tasted so good and was so easy to make. Thanks Elise!

  13. melissa

    just wanted to let you know I made this last night and it was great. The sauce was amazing!

  14. ALETHIA

    Just made this meal and it was a huge hit, I didn’t use all the pepper called for in the recipe and it was AMAZING, even my very picky eater loved it.

    Thanks Elise

  15. Paul

    Variation to the recipe, to add significant flavor:
    After deglazing the pan with the Cognac or Brandy, add a heaping teaspoon of finely chopped shallots, cook for 2 minutes and add 1 heaping teaspoon of dijon mustard, along with 1 teaspoon of tarragon leaves. Stir & cook the sausce a little longer until it begins gently bubbling.
    Serve over the steaks – Delish!!

  16. Jodie

    I made this last night, and it was a huge hit, the sauce especially!! I substituted white wine for the cognac. Also, while letting the meat reach room temperature I combined it with all of the peppercorns and salt. The result was by the end the peppercorns were all cooked and tasty, and not to hot.
    Delicious recipe!!! Love all of your recipes in fact!

  17. JM Paris

    Dear Elise,
    Sorry to be a bit late with my comment. Your Peppercorn Steak recipe is well balanced and it works fine. Adding parsley at the end detracts from the original form of this dish and would probably not be missed by anyone (except perhaps in California ;-).
    Adding and melting a finely sliced shallot in a bit of butter when you start making the sauce would be a great addition as mentioned by one of your fans.
    Best regards

Post a comment

Your comment may need to be approved before it will appear on the site. Thanks for waiting. First time commenting? Please review the Comment Policy.

Some HTML is OK. URLs are automatically converted to links. Line breaks are automatically converted to paragraphs. The following HTML tags are allowed: a, abbr, acronym, b, blockquote, cite, code, del, em, i, q, strike, strong