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The Real Distinction: Regular Steak vs. Steak Au Poivre

The real difference between a regular steak and a steak au poivre

Are you a steak lover looking to expand your culinary repertoire? If you want to impress your friends and family with an impossibly fancy-sounding dish that isn’t as complicated as it seems, look no further than steak au poivre. In this article, we’ll explore the origins of this delicious dish, discuss the key differences between regular steak and steak au poivre, and give you a step-by-step guide to preparing this mouthwatering treat.

The origins of steak au poivre

The exact origin of steak au poivre is shrouded in mystery and culinary folklore. Some claim it was first served in the bistros of 19th-century Normandy, while others attribute its creation to chef Émile Lerch, who claimed to have invented it in 1930 while working at the famed Albert Restaurant in Paris. Lerch’s inspiration allegedly came from a shipment of lackluster frozen American beef, which he coated in peppercorns to enhance the flavor. Lerch’s claim was met with skepticism, however, as many other Parisian chefs also laid claim to the dish. To this day, the true origin of steak au poivre remains unclear.

The basics of steak au poivre

So what exactly makes steak au poivre different from a regular steak? At its core, steak au poivre is a steak that has been crusted with cracked peppercorns and seared to perfection. The peppercorn crust not only adds a delicious crunch, but also gives the meat a bold and pungent flavor. While the classic cut for this dish is filet mignon, you can use any boneless steak, such as ribeye, strip steak, or sirloin.

The Peppercorn Crust

The secret to a perfect peppercorn crust is in the preparation. According to Food Network’s Alton Brown, it’s best to lightly crush the peppercorns, leaving them in large pieces. You can use a mallet or a mortar and pestle, but avoid using a pepper grinder. Once the peppercorns are crushed, spread them out on a plate. Season the steaks generously with kosher or sea salt and press them into the peppercorns, making sure they are evenly coated on both sides.

Sautéing and Sauce Preparation

Once you’ve created the peppercorn crust, it’s time to sauté the steaks. Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the steaks to your desired doneness. For the classic steak au poivre experience, serve the steaks straight from the pan. You can also keep them warm and prepare a delicious au poivre sauce.
To make the sauce, pour off excess fat from the pan and deglaze with cognac, brandy, bourbon or red wine. The choice of liquor may vary according to personal preference. Once deglazed, add the cream to the pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Whisk the sauce until thick enough to coat a spoon. There are several variations of the sauce, including the addition of shallots, butter, thyme, or garlic, depending on the desired flavor profile.

Exploring Flavor Variations

While the classic steak au poivre is a culinary masterpiece in its own right, there are many ways to experiment and add a personal touch to the dish. For example, Allen Schumann of the former Lobster Bar Sea Grille in Miami Beach, Florida, uses a combination of black, pink and green peppercorns to enhance the flavor profile. Delia Smith eschews cream in favor of adding wine to the pan and reducing it to create a rich and flavorful sauce. Feel free to get creative and make the dish your own.

Final Thoughts

Steak au poivre is a dish that exudes elegance and sophistication, yet is surprisingly easy to prepare. By crusting your steak with cracked peppercorns and searing it to perfection, you can create a culinary masterpiece that will impress your guests and elevate your steak game to new heights. Whether you stick to the classic recipe or experiment with variations, steak au poivre is sure to delight your taste buds and leave you wanting more. So why not give it a try and experience the real difference between regular steak and steak au poivre?


The main difference is in preparation and flavor. Regular steak is usually cooked without any special crust or seasoning, while steak au poivre is crusted with cracked peppercorns, giving the meat a bold and pungent flavor.

Can any cut of steak be used for steak au poivre?

Yes, while the classic cut for this dish is filet mignon, you can use any boneless steak, such as ribeye, strip steak, or sirloin, to make a delicious steak au poivre.

What is the peppercorn crust?

The peppercorn crust adds both texture and flavor to the steak. It creates a delicious crunch and imparts a robust and aromatic flavor that complements the meat perfectly.

Is it necessary to use cream in the au poivre sauce?

No, it is not necessary to use cream in the sauce. While a classic au poivre sauce often includes cream, there are variations that omit it, opting for the addition of wine or other ingredients to create a flavorful sauce.

Can I customize the flavors of steak au poivre?

Absolutely! Steak au poivre offers a lot of room for customization. You can experiment with different types of peppercorns, add additional herbs or spices to the crust, or incorporate different ingredients into the sauce to tailor the flavors to your liking.

Are there any recommended side dishes or accompaniments for steak au poivre?

Steak au poivre pairs well with a variety of sides and accompaniments. Classic options include roasted potatoes, sautéed vegetables or a fresh green salad. You can also serve it with a side of creamy mashed potatoes or a crusty baguette to soak up the delicious sauce.

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