Steak au Poivre (A Picture-Perfect Filet)

filet cooked medium-rare

The Magic Of Proper Presentation

     Many times in magazines I’ve seen advertisements picturing a perfectly cooked filet nicely seared on the outside and uniformly pink on the inside. I used to wonder what tricks were used to get that result and if it would be possible for me to create such a masterpiece. 

     Well, it actually can be done. The way I’ve found to achieve such a feat is to first sear the filet in a skillet, and then finish it in the oven. 

     When I want to serve a picture-perfect filet, my favorite recipe is steak au poivre, also called peppercorn steak. It’s considered a standard, and it’s found on most respectable steakhouse menus. 

     There are lots of variations. Traditionally what is done is to crack peppercorns and lightly press them into the filets. I also like to apply a rub to one side of the filet. At this point many recipes suggest basting the filets with oil. But I’ve found this adds a small grey band or layer between the sear and the pink during the cooking process. The filets are then rewrapped and stored overnight. This allows the seasonings to infuse into the meat. 


Don’t Forget The Pizazz

     Some cooks prefer to sear the filet as the initial step and then finish cooking in the oven. Others like to cook first and sear at the end.  My preference is to sear first.  This way I can prepare a delicious pan sauce while the filets are in the oven.

     One further note: Pepper purportedly has aphrodisiac properties. It stimulates the nerves and raises the pulse. Keep this in mind when you are in the mood for a very intimate and romantic dinner for two.

Special Culinary Equipment: 12” Skillet All Clad

Steak au Poivre With Pan Sauce

yields: 2 Servings prep time: 60 Minutes cook time: 20 Minutes
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2 4 Tbsp 5 Tbsp 1/3 Cup 1 Cup 2 Tbsp 1 Tbsp 1 tsp Salt and pepper
Filets 6-8 ounces (2 inches thick) Peppercorns (cracked) Vegetable Oil Cognac Beef Stock Cognac Butter Cognac To taste
  • 2
    Filets 6-8 ounces (2 inches thick)
  • 4 Tbsp
    Peppercorns (cracked)
  • 5 Tbsp
    Vegetable Oil
  • 1/3 Cup
  • 1 Cup
    Beef Stock
  • 2 Tbsp
  • 1 Tbsp
  • 1 tsp
  • Salt and pepper
    To taste


The day before add the peppercorns to a plastic bag and crack with a mallet. Press the cracked peppercorns into each side of the filets and add salt. Apply rub to one side of each filet. Rewrap and store overnight in the refrigerator.

Time: ____________ (60 minutes prior to target time)

  1. Remove filets from refrigerator.

Time: ____________ (20 minutes prior to target time)

  1. Adjust rack to middle of oven, and set at 425 degrees.

  2. Heat vegetable oil in heavy skillet or sauté pan over med-high heat until faint smoke appears. Place filets in the skillet and sear for about 2 minutes per side allowing the peppercorns to form a crust. When the time is up, remove the skillet immediately from the heat or the roasted bits left in the pan will burn.

  3. Place steaks in a foil-lined rimmed cookie sheet. I also place a baking rack in the pan to elevate the filets so all sides can cook evenly.

  4. Put in oven and cook (see cooking table listed below). Gauge heat and thickness of meat. Don’t overcook!!!

  5. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.

  6. In the meantime, while filets are cooking and then resting, prepare the pan sauce.

  7. Change burner heat to medium.

  8. Pour off excess oil from the skillet.

  9. With a spatula loosen the little roasted bits (called fond) at the bottom of the skillet.

  10. Remove skillet from stove, add the Cognac, and carefully igniteIt will immediately flare up. Allow the alcohol to burn off, and then return the skillet to the stove.

  11. Add stock and reduce by about one half or more (about 4 minutes).

  12. Add a teaspoonful of Cognac and the butter (or see options below). Add salt (if needed) to taste. Cook until consistency is such that it coats the back of a spoon.

  13. When ready spoon sauce over the steaks. Put the rest in a small gravy bowl and serve at the table if your guests would like more sauce.

Some options: For a different flavor add ½ cup cream instead of butter at the end of the stock reduction. You could also add sautéed shallots, and/or a dab of Dijon mustard according to your tastes.

A Great Presentation:  Dress arugula with 2 parts EVOO, 1 part lemon juice, dollop of Dijon mustard, garlic powder, and salt & pepper. Place filets on top and add sauce.

Added information:  When finishing a filet or steak in the oven, there are lots of variables, but generally the table below should hold true. First of all, the filet needs a good sear over medium-high heat usually about 2 minutes per side, then cook in oven at 425 degrees according to the table below (the times may vary from oven to oven):

SizeOven TempRareMed-RareMedium
1 inch425 degrees4 min5 min6 min
1 1/2 inch5 min7 min9 min
2 inches8 min10 min14 min
A steak less than 1 inch probably won't need to be finished in the oven
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