Steak au Poivre

Steak au Poivre

Serves 4.
By Dennis W. Viau; modified from a friend’s recipe.

A friend of mine called to say he had four beef tenderloin steaks and we should make Steak au Poivre, a French preparation. He had the recipe, so I invited him to prepare the steaks while I prepared the vegetable side dishes. These steaks are crusted with cracked peppercorns before searing in a hot skillet. A Cognac reduction is used with heavy cream to make a sauce.


4 steaks, beef tenderloin or filet mignon, about 6 ounces (170g) each and about 1½ inches (4cm) thick
2 to 3 tablespoons whole peppercorns
1 tablespoon butter, preferably clarified
1 tablespoon pure olive oil, for frying
1/3 cup (80ml) Cognac or other brandy
1 cup (237ml) heavy cream


Allow the steaks to come up to room temperature, about 30 minutes, and then season on both sides with salt.

Place the peppercorns in a sturdy plastic bag and then pound with the smooth surface of a tenderizing mallet to break into a coarse crack. Arrange on a plate. Press each steak into the crushed peppercorns to coat both sides.

Heat the butter and oil in a skillet, bringing up to a temperature of about 375°F (191°C). Sear the steaks in the hot skillet and cook to the desired level of doneness. For medium-rare steaks, cook to an internal temperature (use a digital thermometer) of 125°F (52°C)*. Remove the skillet from the flame. Transfer the steaks to a plate and tent with foil. Letting the steaks rest will allow the surface heat to migrate into the center of the steaks, raising the temperature by 5 to 10 degrees.

While the steaks are resting, spoon off and discard most of the fat from the skillet. Add the brandy to the pan. Return to the flame and ignite carefully with a long match or by holding close to the flame. The brandy could flame up violently; so stand back. Allow the brandy to flame, gently shaking the skillet, until the flame goes out. Reduce the heat to medium and add the heavy cream. Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer 4 to 5 minutes until reduced and slightly thickened. Adjust for salt.

Arrange the steaks on plates and garnish with the Cognac reduction sauce. Serve with your favorite vegetable side dish.

*Although the USDA recommends cooking all cuts of meat to a minimum temperature of 145°F (63°C), many cooks will risk a slightly lower temperature to enjoy a more tender cut of beef.