April 20, 2024

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Steak au Poivre (Pepper Steak Recipe) with Cognac Cream Sauce

Steak au Poivre (Pepper Steak Recipe) with Cognac Cream Sauce

French Steak au Poivre Recipe – This classic dish features tenderloin steaks seared with a peppercorn crust and finished with a decadent cognac cream sauce.

Spoon pouring cognac cream sauce over steak au poivre on a plate.

What is Steak au Poivre

Meat fans, prepare to fall in love… These thick, tender, peppery, and juicy steaks are what carnivore dreams are made of!

Steak au Poivre is the original French version of what we often call a pepper steak recipe in the United States. It consists of thick-cut steaks, usually tenderloin filets, pressed into very coarsely ground cracked black pepper, and then seared in a skillet.

As the steaks cook, some of the peppercorns fall into the skillet and are used to flavor the silky cognac cream sauce made quickly after.

Since cognac is the primary flavor, alongside black pepper, it’s important to use a decent amount. However, you should burn off the largest amount before you add the cream, then add a little nip at the end to give the sauce a touch of boozy kick.

Top down view peppercorn steak with cream sauce on a plate.

What Does it Taste Like

A well-cooked Steak au Poivre is a perfect medium-rare, and melts in your mouth with a crunchy and spicy peppercorn crust. It’s an addictive combination of textures!

The cognac cream steak sauce is rich and velvety, and delightfully boozy. There is a hint of caramel-y sweetness from the alcohol. And because there are also peppercorns in the sauce, it has a bite of spice to compliment the crusted steak.

The Difference Between Steak au Poivre and Steak Diane

Both dishes are made with steak and a cognac cream sauce. Steak Diane does not include peppercorns but does have mushrooms. So instead of being savory and peppery, Steak Diane’s sauce is more sweet and earthy.

Close view of steak with bite removed, showing medium rare cook on the inside.

Ingredients You Need

  • Thick steaks – like tenderloin or ribeye
  • Peppercornswhole black peppercorns are best
  • Olive oil – or other preferred high-heat oil, like canola or avocado oil
  • Butter – unsalted
  • Cognac – see below for other options, including how to make Steak au Poivre without alcohol
  • Heavy cream – for the most decadent and delicious sauce
  • Garlic – minced
  • Dried thyme – for an earthy flavor that brings out the spice and savoriness of the pepper steak
  • Beef base – adds great savoriness to balance all of the peppery and sweet flavors.
  • Salt – to taste
Container of heavy whipping cream and bottle of cognac.

How to Make Pepper Steak with Cream Sauce

Pull the steaks out of the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before cooking. (This will ensure that the meat cooks evenly and to the proper internal temperature.) Sprinkle generously with salt on all sides.

I highly suggest hand-grinding whole black peppercorns for the most flavorful dish. To do so, set the pepper grinder on the largest setting. Grind the pepper into very coarse pieces. If you find your pepper grinder settings are small, you can pour the peppercorns into a mortar and pestle and crush them into large coarse pieces.

Pour the cracked peppercorns on a plate. Press the steaks into the peppercorns on both sides. Shake the plate in between to make sure they coat evenly.

Uncooked steak being crusted in coarse black ground peppercorns on a plate.

Set a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once hot, place the olive oil and butter into the skillet. Once the butter melts, add the steaks to the skillet and sear for 4 to 5 minutes per side. (Four minutes for 1 ½-inch steaks, five minutes for 2-inch steaks.) 

Get the Complete Steak au Poivre Recipe Below. Enjoy!

French Steak au Poivre Recipe - This classic dish features tenderloin steaks seared with a peppercorn crust and finished with a decadent cognac cream sauce.

Move the steaks to a holding plate and cover with foil.

Carefully pour ½ cup cognac into the hot skillet. Slightly tip the pan so the cognac catches the flame. Allow the alcohol to burn off, shaking the pan as needed until the flame dies. 

Pro Tip: If you like a bit more boozy flavor in your sauce, add a few extra drops of the cognac to the pan before adding the cream.

Pour the heavy cream into the skillet, followed by the minced garlic, dried thyme, and beef base. Whisk well and allow the cream to come to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes until the sauce slightly thickens. Taste, then add 1 to 4 more tablespoons of cognac, to taste. (I usually add 2 tablespoons.) Salt as needed.

Cream sauce cooking in a cast iron skillet.

Place each seared and rested steak on a plate to serve.

Peppercorn steak seared and resting on a plate.

Then pour a generous tablespoon of the sauce over the top of each steak.

Hand spooning cognac steak sauce over the meat on a plate.

Serving Suggestions

Serve the Steak au Poivre immediately with the warm peppercorn sauce.

It pairs beautifully with starchy sides that soak up the cream sauce! Pair with Best Mashed Potatoes or low carb Creamy Cauliflower “Mashed Potatoes,” or fancy Duchess Potatoes. You can even serve it with fluffy white rice or thick egg noodles.

Lighten the meal up just a tad with a veggie side dish, too. Here are a few of our favorite vegetable recipes to complement this pepper steak recipe:

Close view Steak au Poivre with cognac cream sauce on a plate.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Steak Diane and Steak au Poivre?

Both dishes are made with steak and a cognac cream sauce. Steak Diane does not include peppercorns, but does have mushrooms. So instead of being savory and peppery Steak Diane’s sauce is more sweet and earthy.

How long does beef tenderloin take to cook?

Thick-cut tenderloin steaks cook in only about 8-10 minutes total (4 to 5 minutes on each side). This is for a perfect medium rare to medium temperature.

Add another 1 minute per side for more of a true medium cook.

What can I substitute for cognac to make the cream sauce?

White wine, brandy, and bourbon are all great substitutes if cognac isn’t available.

If you prefer to make this Steak au Poivre recipe without alcohol you can swap it with beef broth.

How do you thicken peppercorn sauce?

Continue to cook and stir the sauce until it reaches the thickness you want. This can take up to 5 minutes or slightly more.

But be careful to not over-thicken the sauce… It should be easy to pour with a spoon. If needed you can add a splash more heavy cream as you cook the sauce to thin it back out.

Steak on plate with cream sauce, bite taken to show medium rare cook on the inside.

Looking for More Decadent Dinner Recipes? Be Sure to Also Try

Steak au Poivre (Pepper Steak) with Cognac Cream

This classic French dish features tenderloin steaks seared with a peppercorn crust and finished with a decadent cognac cream sauce.

Servings: 4 servings

  • 4 tenderloin steaks 1 ½ – 2 inches thick (8 oz each)
  • ¼ cup peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ¾ cup cognac divided
  • 1 ¼ cup heavy cream
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon beef base
  • Salt
  • Pull the steaks out of the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking. Sprinkle generously with salt on all sides.

  • Set the pepper grinder on the largest setting. Grind the pepper into very coarse pieces. If you find your pepper grinder settings are small, you can pour the peppercorns into a mortar and pestle and crush them into large coarse pieces.

  • Pour the cracked peppercorns on a plate. Press the steaks into the peppercorns on both sides. Shake the plate in between to make sure they coat evenly.

  • Set a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once hot, place the olive oil and butter into the skillet. Once the butter melts, add the steaks to the skillet and sear for 4 to 5 minutes per side. (Four minutes for 1 ½-inch steaks, five minutes for 2-inch steaks.)

  • Move the steaks to a holding plate and cover with foil. Carefully pour ½ cup cognac into the hot skillet. Slightly tip the pan so the cognac catches the flame. Allow the alcohol to burn off, shaking the pan as needed until the flame dies.

  • Pour the heavy cream into the skillet, followed by the minced garlic, dried thyme, and beef base. Whisk well and allow the cream to come to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 4 to 5 minutes until the sauce slightly thickens. Taste, then add 1 to 4 more tablespoons of cognac, to taste. (I usually add 2 tablespoons.) Salt as needed.

  • Serve the steaks warm with a hearty spoonful of peppery cognac sauce over the top.

Also try with Ribeye steaks.
Since cognac is the primary flavor, alongside black pepper, it’s important to use a decent amount. However, you should burn off the largest amount before you add the cream, then add a little nip at the end to give the sauce a touch of boozy kick.

Serving: 1pc, Calories: 787kcal, Carbohydrates: 12g, Protein: 54g, Fat: 47g, Saturated Fat: 25g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 16g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 236mg, Sodium: 231mg, Potassium: 1075mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 1271IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 171mg, Iron: 5mg

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