Steak au Poivre is an incredibly impressive dish—steak, crushed peppercorns, cream sauce, and cognac!—that deserves a regular spot in your repertoire.
What Is Steak Au Poivre?
First things first. Steak au Poivre (pronounced “oh PAWHV-rh”) technically means pepper steak—a steak encrusted in coarsely ground peppercorns and then pan-seared or broiled. And I have to tell you, that in itself is pretty special.
But nine times out of ten, Steak au Poivre is served with an amazingly creamy and delicious pan sauce, one that’s infused with Cognac (or brandy can be used since they’re essentially the same thing but from different regions). And make no mistake—this dish all about the sauce. That’s what makes Steak au Poivre over-the-top indulgent.
Hopefully, you didn’t freak out just now when I said “pan sauce.” Because a pan sauce is one of the easiest things in the world to make.
How To Make A Pan Sauce
Basically, after you cook your steak (or chicken breast or fish fillet or really anything in a pan that you want to make a sauce for), you set the steak aside. If the steak is nicely browned, your pan should be, too, and all those browned bits are sauce-making gold.
You return your pan to the heat, add a little liquid (in the case of Steak au Poivre, cream and cognac), and then use a straight-edged spoon or spatula to gently scrape up those bits. They’ll release, adding flavor to the liquid while it concentrates.
A pan sauce is typically finished with a little butter, to thicken it up and give it a silkier texture, and seasoned with salt and pepper. And that’s all it takes to make a pan sauce!
Enhancing Your Sauce
You’ll see recipes for pan sauces, including ones for the sauce for Steak au Poivre, that include sautéing some shallots or garlic in the pan before adding the liquid. You’ll also see ones that add ingredients like herbs or a dab of mustard. And some might even replace the butter with a similarly creamy ingredient, like crème fraiche.
But for this recipe, I’m keeping it simple and sublime—cream, cognac, and butter. When the cognac cooks down, mixing with the bits in the pan and then the cream, the resulting sauce almost tastes like coffee with cream. I’m telling you, it’s absolutely divine.
Don’t Forget A Great Steak
As they say, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. So as great as this sauce is, make sure you marry it with a great steak. Look for well-marbled fat, bright color, and a moist, but not wet, surface. For more on what to look for in a great steak, check out this article from Better Homes & Gardens.
What kind of steak? Filet mignon is traditional, so that’s what I’m using here. But you can use whatever you like best. You can even cut your own steaks from beef tenderloin to save some money.
To cook the steak, I’m using my method for how to cook steak perfectly. It has three simple steps—season the steak in advance, sear it in a sizzling hot pan, and finish it in the oven. (I use a similar method for cooking steaks from frozen.) While the steaks rest, you make the pan sauce on the stovetop.
And even though I’ve done my best to convince you that a pan sauce is easy and this pan sauce is amazing, should you decide to forgo it, you totally can make Steak au Poivre without it. Just do the peppercorn crust and then cook the steaks as described below, omitting the sauce. Or you could also grill or broil your sauce-less Steak au Poivre. Enjoy! – Christine xoPrint
Steak au Poivre
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Bring to Temp: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minute
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Entrée
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: American
Steak au Poivre is an incredibly impressive dish—steak, crushed peppercorns, cream sauce, and brandy!—that deserves a regular spot in your repertoire.
- 4 (7-8 oz.) filet mignon steaks, 1 1/4-inch thick
- 2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
- 2 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/2 cup Cognac or brandy
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 Tbsp. butter, cut into 2–3 pieces
- Remove the steaks from the refrigerator and pat dry. Season all sides of the steaks with the salt. Allow to sit for 30-40 minutes to come to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, put the peppercorns in a resealable bag and use a meat pounder or the bottom of a heavy skillet to very coarsely crush them. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Press the peppercorns into both sides of the steaks.
- Heat a heavy, oven-safe skillet (large enough to hold the steaks without crowding) over high heat on the stove. When it is smoking hot, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the steaks and sear for 2 minutes per side.
- Place the skillet in the oven and cook the steaks to 5°F (3°C) below your desired doneness (use an instant read thermometer to check). For a medium (135°F) doneness, my 1 1/4-inch-thick steaks were in the oven for 8 minutes.
- Put the steaks on plates or a platter to rest, loosely covered with foil.
- Return the skillet to the stovetop and, before turning on the flame (because the Cognac could ignite), add the Cognac. Put the skillet over medium heat and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring and scraping up the bits in the bottom of the skillet, until the brandy is reduced to a thin layer, 1 1/2-2 minutes.
- Add the cream, bring to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until nicely thickened, 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Add salt to taste.
- Serve the steaks with the sauce spooned on top.
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