Peppercorn Steak

Dinner’s instantly special when you make a classic steak au poivre, or peppercorn steak. This peppercorn steak recipe is quick and simple, but mightily impressive.

Steak peppercorn on a plate
Elise Bauer

A standard on the menu of any respectable steakhouse is peppercorn steak, or "steak au poivre" as the French call it.

What Is Peppercorn Steak?

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.

The Secret to This Steak au Poivre Recipe

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.

The Best Steak for Steak au Poivre

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
Elise Bauer

How Much Pepper to Use

This recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of peppercorns, cracked. If you're using whole peppercorns, measure them out first, then crack them. If you're using pre-cracked pepper, use 1 1/2 tablespoons.

Note that some peppercorns are hotter than others. While most peppercorns you find at the grocery store will work in this recipe splendidly, if you're unsure of the heat of your peppercorns, crack a few first and give them a taste.

How to Crack Peppercorns for Steak au Poivre

A pepper mill grinds peppercorns, but cracked peppercorns should be courser and larger than ground peppercorns. To crack peppercorns, use this easy technique. Place the desired amount of peppercorns in a zipper bag to keep them from flying around while being cracked. With a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy pot, smash the peppercorns in the bag until they're broken into the desired consistency.

What to Serve With Peppercorn Steak

More Steakhouse Favorite Recipes to Try

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Peppercorn Steak

Prep Time 8 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Salting the steak 30 mins
Total Time 63 mins
Servings 4 to 6 servings

What kind of steak? Any good quality cut of steak will work such as top sirloin, ribeye, filet mignon, porterhouse, T-bone, or New York strip. (Avoid chuck, that's best left for pot roasts.)

We used 1-inch thick steaks, but you could go as thin as 1/2-inch to as thick as 2 inches.

Ingredients

  • 4 good-sized (1/2- to 1-pound) steaks (allow for 1/2 pound per person)

  • Kosher 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

  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

Method

  1. Salt the steaks and let them 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.

    how to sear steaks for peppercorn steaks
    Elise Bauer
  3. Remove the steaks, then 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 to 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 for steak au poivre
    Elise Bauer
  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
    Elise Bauer

    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 to 5 minutes).

    add brandy and stock to shallots in pan for steak au poivre sauce
    Elise Bauer
    reduce peppercorn steak sauce in pan
    Elise Bauer

    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 tablespoon, the rest should have already been used to pepper the steaks). Taste for salt and add if needed.

    add cream to peppercorn steak sauce
    Elise Bauer
  5. Serve:

    Pour the sauce over the steaks right when you serve.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
848 Calories
57g Fat
4g Carbs
71g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 848
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 57g 73%
Saturated Fat 22g 111%
Cholesterol 269mg 90%
Sodium 320mg 14%
Total Carbohydrate 4g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 71g
Vitamin C 4mg 20%
Calcium 75mg 6%
Iron 5mg 30%
Potassium 1002mg 21%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.