There’s nothing quite like a great steak. Just thinking about them conjures up images of backyard grilling and dark, wood paneled steakhouses.
In this recipe video, I make a pepper steak, actually a couple pepper steaks – both a New York Strip and a filet. I also use a pan roasting technique, rather than grilling outdoors. To be honest, I probably use this technique more often than grilling, because it’s so great to use the pan drippings to make a sauce. Here, we make a creamy peppercorn sauce that makes our pepper steak – or Steak Au Poivre.
Ingredients for a Pepper Steak (Steak au Poivre)
- Steak(s) – Filet Mignon or New York Strip
- Fresh Thyme – a few large sprigs
- 3 – 4 tablespoons of butter
- Brandy or cognac – about a quarter cup
- Cream – about a quarter cup
- Beef or chicken stock – about a third cup
Recipe Overview & Keys to Success
The most important aspect of this recipe is getting a good sear on the outside of the steak, while getting to the preferred doneness on the inside. The best way to get that good sear is to use a smoking hot pan, and once you put the steak in, leave it alone to cook – as opposed to fiddling with it. Every time you “just check to make sure it’s not burning” you’re making it harder to get a nice crust on the outside, so leave it alone for at least a few minutes before flipping.
The first few times you cook a steak I suggest you use a meat thermometer to gauge the doneness. But as you cook the steak, use your finger to test the firmness of the meat by pressing on the outside. As meat gets more well done, it becomes firmer, and once you get some experience you’ll be able to use the feel test to determine doneness and you won’t need the thermometer.
Selecting your steaks
- In this pepper steak recipe, I like to use a Filet or New York strip, but ribeye also work very well
- Thicker is better. The thicker the meat, the longer you can let the outside sear (and get that tasty crust) without over cooking the inside. If the steak is thinner than an inch, I’d take a pass and not buy it. Look for steaks thicker than 2 inches
- Look for good marbling – that’s the fat running through the meat (not the fat on the outside edges). Visible marbling is good, as the fat brings the flavor.
Searing the steaks
- Take the steaks out of the fridge 30 minutes to an hour before cooking them to allow them to come up to room temp, and season both sides of the steak with salt and fresh ground pepper. Be generous with the pepper, as this is pepper steak.
- Put a frying pan (I don’t like to use non-stick pans, I want a little sticking) on high heat let it get very hot – it should start smoking slightly
- Put a few tablespoons of oil in your hot pan (I use olive oil because that’s what I always have around, but vegetable oil works great), it should lightly smoke
- Lay the steaks in the pan, and you should hear a loud sizzle. If you don’t, the pan is not hot enough, remove the steaks, and let the pan get hotter
- Once the steaks are in the pan, leave them alone for at least 3 minutes (up to 5 if the steaks are 2+ inches thick), then you can check the sear by lifting the steak with tongs (don’t piece them with a fork or knife). The cooked side should be nicely browned, and crusty. If not, put the steak back and let it go a bit longer.
- Note: It’s very hard to burn (ie turn black) a steak in less than 5 minutes…you won’t over do it. It’s generally time on the heat not the amount of heat itself that will overcook a steak.
- After about 5 minutes on the first side, a good crust should be developed. Turn the steak over and sear the other side for about 3 minutes for a medium rare steak. We always cook for less time on the second side, because the meat already hot for cooking the first side.
- Optionally, you can add a few tablespoons of butter and the thyme now. Once melted, baste the steaks with the melted butter. This will speed up the cooking time, and add more flavor to the crusty outside of the steak.
- After a minute or so on the second side, you can insert a thermometer to test doneness. Rather than taking the thermometer it in and out several times, just leave it in. I’d take the steak off when the temp reads 125 for a med rare.
- Wrap the steaks loosely in foil, and let them rest while you make the peppercorn sauce
- Remove the excess oil from the pan you just cooked the steaks in
- Add the brandy (or cognac) carefully, as it’s likely to flame up. That’s normal, don’t panic. Just add the liquid carefully without splashing. After about 30 seconds the flame will subside (if they don’t cover with a pot lid to cut off the air supply and that should put the flame out).
- Let the brandy reduce by half, and add several grinds of fresh black pepper
- Add the stock and again, let the liquid reduce by half
- Add the cream, stir to combine and once again reduce until the sauce is the consistency you’d like. If it becomes too thick, just add some water or more stock to thin it out.
By this time the steaks have rested, and are ready to serve. You can remove them from the foil. I like to serve them on a warmed plate with the sauce either directly over the top, or alternatively serving sauce under the steak or even on the side can be nice. For a garnish, some finely chopped chive is great.
Hope you enjoy!!