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Steak au Poivre

Steak au Poivre

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Season both sides of each steak with a sprinkle of kosher salt. Bring steaks to room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour before cooking.
  2. Pour peppercorns and fennel into a storage bag and gently smash the seasoning using the blade of a knife, a rock or the bottom of a small saucepan. Transfer seasoning onto a large plate or platter.
  3. Place the steaks onto the plate or platter, pushing them down into the seasoning. Flip and repeat.
  4. Heat a medium-size skillet over moderate heat. When the pan is hot, add oil and butter. When butter is melted, add the steaks to the pan and cook for 4 minutes. Flip the steaks over and cook for an additional 4 minutes.
  5. Transfer cooked steaks to a plate or platter, leaving them to rest for 5 - 10 minutes, uncovered.
  6. Prepare sauce: Strain excess fat away from the skillet. Return skillet to moderate-high heat. Slowly add the cognac and scrape up any seasoned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cream, reduce the temperature to moderate-low and cook the sauce, stirring frequently until it thickens. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  7. Serve: Place steaks onto dinner plates. Divide the sauce between the steaks, spooning some onto each. Garnish with a favourite fresh herb such as thyme, tarragon, chives or parsley. Serve with favourite sides.
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Steak au Poivre

5 / 5. 1

Sirloin steaks coated with cracked peppercorns and fennel seeds, pan-cooked and served with a cognac cream sauce…

  • clock icon
    25 MIN
  • 2 SERVINGS
How To Make Steak au Poivre

For those special occasions when your main course needs to exceed expectations, make this perfectly prepared STEAK AU POIVRE.

I had friends up to the cottage a few months back, and as often happens, the conversation turned to food. We specifically zeroed in on essential recipes; the tried and true, famously delicious, always requested again and again. I wasn’t surprised that perfectly prepared STEAK AU POIVRE ranked on our list; it’s long been one of my favourite main courses to both prepare and enjoy.

Here are a few reasons why this classic steak recipe is so famous:

  • This recipe is made on the stovetop, so it’s ideal during cold winter months when cooking on the grill or barbecue is less appealing.
  • The beef is cooked in a coating of crushed peppercorns, giving it a rich, robust flavouring.
  • Pan-cooking the steaks produces meat that is done to a perfect medium.
  • The dish is finished with a luxurious and flavourful cognac cream pan sauce.

We know you’ll look at this essential recipe as we do; it’s a keeper. Make sure to PIN the recipe on a favourite Pinterest board and SHARE it with friends. We’d also appreciate seeing pics of the main course when you make it. Use #weekendatthecottage when you post on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks!

Here’s why this recipe for STEAK AU POIVRE gets five stars, every time:

The ingredients needed to make steak au poivre.
Choice steak cuts plus seasoning, cognac and cream; sounds like a plan!

INGREDIENTS

The various ingredients needed to make STEAK AU POIVRE, sometimes referred to as pepper steak, are easy to find. Beyond the steaks themselves, you’ll also need peppercorns and fennel seeds, kosher salt and black pepper, plus 35% cream and cognac for the sauce.

Two strip steaks sprinkled with a bit of kosher salt.
Leave a little fat along the edge of the steaks for more flavour.

THE STEAKS

Although purists maintain this recipe should only be prepared using filet mignon or beef tenderloin, nowadays at-home chef wannabes often pick sirloin steak before all others. Sirloin steak, sometimes referred to as a strip steak or New York strip steak, is a tender cut with lots of flavour. Strip steaks also have a nice bit of fat on them that renders into the skillet as the steaks cook, providing a rich fond that adds layers of flavour to the sauce.

Bowls containing whole black, red, white and green peppercorns and fennel seeds.
Look for peppercorns and fennel seeds at a bulk store or vendor of spices.

SEASONING

Every time I serve this dish, my guests take their first few bites and invariably give the dish a solid “wow!”. I always rack it up to the seasoning. Of course, adding pepper to a recipe is nothing new, yet it’s the intensity of the flavour that comes from freshly cracked peppercorns that is the hallmark of STEAK AU POIVRE.

A bowl containing all of the peppercorns and fennel seeds, ready to be crushed.
Make sure to smell the seasoning after crushing them; so wonderfully fragrant.

Well, that and the fact that we’re using whole black peppercorns as well as white, red and green too. Look for these varieties at a bulk food store or spice purveyor. The last point on seasoning is our inclusion of fennel seeds in this mix. The light liquorice notes with the cognac and cream is sublime, you’ll see.

Two sirloin steaks seasoned with crushed peppercorns and fennel seeds.
Don’t be shy when applying the seasoning to the steaks.

PEPPERCORN COATED

My word of advice on the peppercorn coating; don’t be shy. Add the peppercorns to both sides of the meat, pressing the steaks down firmly into the crushed seasoning. The goal is to cover the meat evenly. You can even pat the seasoning on to make sure it’s sticking. I love the way this WIKI POST explains it: “The peppercorns form a crust on the steak when cooked and provide a pungent counterpoint to the beef.” Hmmm, “a pungent counterpoint to the beef”. That’s exactly where this recipe is going.

The sirloin strip steaks sizzling in a hot skillet on stovetop.
The steaks brown perfectly in the hot skillet.

PAN COOKED

As mentioned in the preamble to this recipe, the steaks are cooked in a hot pan or iron skillet as opposed to the grill or barbecue. This makes this recipe especially ideal for times when you need a tasty meal in a hurry with minimal fuss. Two pro tips on how to panfry steak – first, heat your skillet or cast iron frying pan over moderate heat, adding the butter and oil once the pan is fully heated.

Close up of the fragrant seasoning clinging to the seared, browned steaks.
The peppercorns and fennel impart a rich flavour to the steaks as they cook.

The second tip is to leave the steaks to cook undisturbed for the first four minutes, and then once again after the flip to the second side. This creates a gloriously browned, seasoned finish on the steaks. For this recipe, we cooked our steaks to medium doneness where an instant-read thermometer registered 140°F (60°C).

The two pan-fried steaks resting on a plate.
Leave the steaks to rest, uncovered for 5 – 10 minutes.

REST PERIOD

After cooking, transfer the steaks to a plate or platter and leave them to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. This all-important step is similar to when we prepared our GRILLED BEEF TENDERLOIN, our famous BRINED TURKEY and our exceptionally delicious RACK OF LAMB, giving the juices a chance to settle and the meat itself time to relax from the heat of the cooking process. No need to tent the steaks with foil, just leave them to rest.

Salt, pepper, cognac and heavy cream ready to be incorporated to create the sauce for the steaks.
The elements for a classic cognac-cream sauce.

COGNAC CREAM SAUCE

Making the sauce for STEAK AU POIVRE is surprisingly simple. There are three little tips on making this classic cream sauce. First, strain the excess fat off the pan. Then add the cognac slowly, remembering that sometimes alcohol ignites when meeting a hot pan. If it does flare up, simply move the pan gently remaining over the heat until the flames dissipate, then scape up the fond, those browned bits, to release them into the cognac. If you don’t have cognac handy you can also substitute it with brandy. Finally, reduce the heat after adding the heavy cream (35% whipping cream). Stir and leave the sauce to simmer until it reduces slightly before adding it to the finished steaks. 

Steak au Poivre with a cognac and cream sauce.
It’s a shame to cut into this steak, said no one, ever!

SERVE

Serving this delicious meal doesn’t need to be complicated. We presented it for this story with our BUTTERED SPRING VEGETABLES and our PARMESAN MASHED POTATOES. Other sides that go well with it include our OVEN-ROASTED VEGETABLES, these GARLIC SMASHED POTATOES and our OVEN-ROASTED ASPARAGUS. Additionally, keep a favourite red wine in mind like a cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir. 

The steak cut open revealing a perfect medium doneness.
Perfectly prepared!

This perfectly prepared STEAK AU POIVRE is just that, perfect anytime!

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Steak au Poivre

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Steak au Poivre

Ingredients

  • 2 10-ounce strip steaks (3/4 pound each, 1 to 1-1/4-inch thick)
  • sprinkle kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon green peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon white peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon red peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¼ cup cognac
  • cup 35% cream
  • sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • For garnish:
  • fresh herbs (thyme, tarragon, chives, parsley)

Directions

  1. Season both sides of each steak with a sprinkle of kosher salt. Bring steaks to room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour before cooking.
  2. Pour peppercorns and fennel into a storage bag and gently smash the seasoning using the blade of a knife, a rock or the bottom of a small saucepan. Transfer seasoning onto a large plate or platter.
  3. Place the steaks onto the plate or platter, pushing them down into the seasoning. Flip and repeat.
  4. Heat a medium-size skillet over moderate heat. When the pan is hot, add oil and butter. When butter is melted, add the steaks to the pan and cook for 4 minutes. Flip the steaks over and cook for an additional 4 minutes.
  5. Transfer cooked steaks to a plate or platter, leaving them to rest for 5 - 10 minutes, uncovered.
  6. Prepare sauce: Strain excess fat away from the skillet. Return skillet to moderate-high heat. Slowly add the cognac and scrape up any seasoned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the cream, reduce the temperature to moderate-low and cook the sauce, stirring frequently until it thickens. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper, if desired.
  7. Serve: Place steaks onto dinner plates. Divide the sauce between the steaks, spooning some onto each. Garnish with a favourite fresh herb such as thyme, tarragon, chives or parsley. Serve with favourite sides.

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