Peppercorn Steak

DinnerLow CarbSteak

Classic Steak au Poivre, or steak with a creamy peppercorn sauce

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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.

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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.

Peppercorn Steak

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

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Salting the steak time: 30 minutes
  • 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.


  • 4 good-sized steaks (1/2 pound to a pound each, allow for 1/2 pound per person)
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons 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


1 Salt the steak and let sit at room temp: Sprinkle salt generously over both sides of the steaks and let them come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

2 Sear the steaks: 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 hard 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.

sear steaks for peppercorn steaks

3 When done, remove steaks from pan, sprinkle with crushed peppercorns: 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, for medium 140°F, and medium well 155°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.

sprinkle steaks with crushed peppercorns

4 Make the sauce: Add the shallots to the pan 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.

cook shallots for peppercorn steak sauce

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).

add brandy and stock to shallots in pan reduce peppercorn steak sauce in pan

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.

add cream to peppercorn steak sauce

5 Serve: Pour the sauce over the steaks right when you serve.

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Steak Diane here on Simply Recipes

Hanger Steak with Shallots here on Simply Recipes

Steak au poivre with porta bella mushrooms from Andrea Meyers

Steak au poivre pepper steak, with video from Food Wishes

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

More from Elise

23 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Helen

    Very much enjoyed this….and the pictures help re: the sauce. I still struggle with the AMOUNT of meat…basically I had two huge steaks of a pound each. Same as the lbs. recommended, but I think I would want to “and a smidge more” every ingredient of the sauce. BE GENEROUS.

    Oh, and I’m glad no on saw me using a hammer to crack the peppercorns. Might play with green-in-brine next time.


  2. James

    I make this with dried green peppercorns pressed into both sides of the steak, less heat than black pepper and more flavor. use Cognac for richer flavor, beef stock, not broth, high quality heavy cream, shallots, not onions. I also sear the meat on high heat on both sides, then finish in pre-heated oven at 450 degrees for 9 minutes.

  3. Shelly Hurley

    Made this recipe yesterday for my roommate myself and it was so good I was afraid it was going to be super salty but to my surprise it was not and the gravy was delicious and I don’t like gravy, but I love this one. I did to add mushrooms to my gravy finely Chopped ,it was a nice addition.


  4. Paul

    Did today, a bit too much pepper, next time I use 1/2 the pepper.

  5. Sophie

    Have made this sauce twice now and both times my guests were super impressed with this tasty sauce! I did make one variation and added roughly chopped mushrooms after softening the onions, this made a supper yummy mushroom and pepper sauce. We are mushroom obsessed in this house. This has definatley become my go to sauce when I cook steak, love it


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