Steak au Poivre

updated Feb 12, 2024

Peppercorn-crusted steak served with Cognac-cream sauce is the ultimate fancy French meal to make at home.


Prep15 minutes

Cook20 minutes to 25 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Steak au poivre is a bistro mainstay for both lovers and drinkers. The origin story of the classic dish remains shrouded in mystery, yet many theories share a common thread. This dish of tender steak and its decadently boozy, creamy pan sauce began as a late-night indulgence. Some believed the peppercorns to be an aphrodisiac, while others claim that the pungent punch of pepper and rich cream was a balm after over-imbibing.

Fancy filet mignon might appear to be center stage, but make no mistake, this dish is all about the peppercorns and Cognac cream pan sauce. Here’s how to make bistro-style steak au poivre.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

What Steak Is Best for Steak au Poivre?

Traditionally, beef tenderloin — from which filet mignon steaks are cut — is used for steak au poivre. Interested in other steak options? Check in with your butcher or meat counter manager for help choosing a good-quality steak. New York strip, sirloin, and rib-eye steaks can all take the au poivre treatment, but the cook time may vary. Keep an instant read thermometer handy to monitor the steaks’ doneness.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

What Does au Poivre Mean?

Au poivre is French for preparing or serving with a generous amount of cracked pepper.

What Pepper is Best for Steak au Poivre?

There are many types of peppercorns out there, from red, pink, white, and green to Sichuan peppercorns, and Aleppo. We recommend a mixture of peppercorns for a well-rounded flavor. And remember, the key to this dish is using coarsely cracked pepper, never a fine grind.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

What to Serve with Steak au Poivre?

Steak au Poivre Recipe

Peppercorn-crusted steak served with Cognac-cream sauce is the ultimate fancy French meal to make at home.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes to 25 minutes

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 4

    (6-ounce) beef tenderloin steaks

  • 1

    small shallot

  • 2 tablespoons

    whole peppercorns, preferably a mix of black, white, pink, and red

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, divided

  • 1/4 cup

    Cognac or brandy

  • 1/2 cup

    beef stock

  • 1/2 cup

    heavy cream


  1. Remove any twine from 4 beef tenderloin steaks. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, finely mince 1 small shallot. Coarsely crush 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns in a mortar and pestle, or place the peppercorns in a kitchen towel and crush them with a meat tenderizer or cast iron pan.

  2. Season the steaks all over with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Use your hands to press the crushed pepper onto the top and bottom of the steaks.

  3. Heat a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet over high heat until it starts to smoke. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the unsalted butter, then add the steaks and cook until medium-rare and a brown crust forms, 2 to 3 minutes per side (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the steak should register about 130°F). Transfer the steaks to a plate or clean cutting board and cover with aluminum foil.

  4. Reduce the heat to medium. Add 1 tablespoon of the unsalted butter and shallot. Sauté until the shallot is translucent, about 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat. Add 1/4 cup Cognac. Return the pan to medium heat and simmer, scraping up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, until mostly evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.

  5. Add 1/2 cup beef stock, increase the heat to medium-high, and simmer until reduced slightly, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup heavy cream and the remaining 1 tablespoon unsalted butter. Stir until the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in accumulated juices on the steak plate or cutting board. Serve the steaks on a bed of the sauce, with more sauce spooned on top.

Recipe Notes

Substitutions: You can swap sherry, white wine, or whiskey for the Cognac or brandy.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.