Peppercorn sauce is a great steak sauce that is easy to make and tastes absolutely perfect on steaks as well as chicken. It’s a classic steakhouse sauce that will only take you 5 minutes to make and features crushed peppercorns, shallot, cognac, beef stock, and cream.
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The quickest way to dress up a steak or a piece of chicken is with a delicious sauce, but it doesn’t have to take hours of simmering on the stove. In fact, some of the best pan sauces will only take you about 5 minutes.
Just like this classic peppercorn sauce, which only needs a handful of ingredients, and it’s ready to serve in just 5 minutes. You will make it right in the pan where you cooked those beautiful steaks and take on even more flavor.
Depending on the temperature that you like your steaks, the whole dish can take you about 15 minutes to prepare. Just don’t forget to rest your steaks and let them warm up for 30 minutes before cooking them!
Ingredients for Peppercorn Sauce
Whole peppercorns – I highly recommend toasting whole spices before using them, since it enhances both the flavor and aroma of the recipe. Feel free to use multi-colored peppercorns if you are feeling adventurous, or try green peppercorns if you want it less spicy.
Shallot – A relative of onion and garlic, this bulb vegetable has a sweeter and more delicate overall taste.
Cognac – you can also use brandy.
Beef stock – Use your favorite brand or try my homemade version.
Heavy whipping cream – I do not recommend substituting this!
See recipe card for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
How To Make Peppercorn Sauce
Prepare the steaks: Make sure to take the steaks out of the refrigerator and out of the package 30-45 minutes before cooking. Let them rest on the cutting board. Dice shallot and measure out all other ingredients before starting to cook.
Toast whole peppercorns: First, preheat a dry skillet on the stove and add the whole spices. Give the pan a shake every so often to prevent burning and remove from heat once there’s a strong aroma.
Take the peppercorns out, let them cool, and place them into the pepper grinder or spice mill. Grind it in coarse setting and set aside.
Cook the steaks: Use the same pan to cook the steaks as you will to cook the pepper sauce, the drippings from the meat will make the sauce extra rich. Pat the steaks dry and generously season with salt and pepper on both sides right before adding them to the pan to cook!
Spread some oil in the pan and pan-sear the steaks until they reach the desired temperature and take them out of the pan. Take them out and set aside to rest while you prepare the sauce.
Sauté minced shallots: Add the shallots to the pan with steak drippings and cook until they start to soften and turn a golden brown color.
Deglaze the pan: Pour in the cognac slowly, since it will bubble up immediately.
Scrape up any bits that are stuck: This is where all of the flavor is, so be sure to run your spatula along the bottom of the entire pan and stir everything together.
Simmer with beef stock: Stir until everything is well combined, then simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half.
Add ground pepper and cream: Reduce the heat, then stir in the remaining ingredients until well combined.
Cook until thickened: Let it gently simmer over medium to medium-low heat for just about a minute or two. The pepper sauce is ready to serve when you can drag a spatula through the mixture and the space doesn’t close back up immediately.
Helpful Tips and Tricks
Cool the peppercorns first. Otherwise, the residual heat will create steam inside the grinder and cause the spice to clump.
Don’t have a spice grinder? Crush the pods with a rolling pin or mortar and pestle. I’ve even converted my small coffee grinder into a spice grinder.
Skip the drippings. If you’re not cooking steak in the pan first, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a clean pan before adding the shallots. Proceed with the rest of the sauce steps as it states in the recipe.
Use room temperature cream. When cold dairy is combined with hot ingredients, it could often curdle. Allowing it to warm on the counter first will result in a smoother consistency.
Don’t let the cream boil hard – this could also cause cream to curdle. So lower the heat before adding cream to the pan and let it gently simmer.
Cognac or brandy will add a lot of deep flavor to the sauce but if you absolutely have to, you can substitute non-alcoholic red wine or reduced beef stock mixed with 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce.
To reduce beef stock: simply simmer 1 cup of beef stock until it gets down to 1/4 cup. When beef stock is reduced, it has a much deeper and richer flavor, which will be good in the sauce.
Not only is this peppercorn sauce perfect on your favorite steak, but the rich flavors also complement chicken, stuffed pork, pork loin or lamb chops.
As far as side dishes, serve it with Portobello mushrooms, roasted vegetables, mashes potatoes, or fries.
As a rule of thumb, steak dishes go best with red wines. Think rich, bold, and full bodied wines like:
Storage and Reheating
Make sure to store leftover homemade peppercorn sauce in an air-tight container, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Allow it to cool first, before transferring to a container with an air-tight lid or a glass jar with a lid.
To reheat: Warm it on the stove, over medium-low heat and stirring frequently, to prevent any scalding or separation.
Some More Sauce Recipes to Try
While these are often mixed with pasta, you can easily spoon some over grilled meats, seafood, and roasted vegetables as well. Both taste great on pizza as well!
Or, try my homemade teriyaki to include some Asian flavors into your next meal. Use it as a marinade, for simmering, or as a tasty dip!
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Peppercorn Sauce Recipe
- 1 tbsp whole peppercorns you will use all or part of it
- 1 large shallot minced
- 1/4 cup cognac
- 3/4 cup beef stock
- 1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
- salt to taste
- Make sure to take the steaks out of the refrigerator and out of the package 30-45 minutes before cooking. Let them rest on the cutting board.
- Prepare and measure all your ingredients before starting to cook.
- Before starting to cook the meat, I highly recommend that you take a minute to toast the whole peppercorns. It will enhance the taste and aroma!
- Preheat a dry cooking pan that you will use to cook meat and sauce over medium heat.
- Add peppercorns and toast them for a few minutes until starts to lightly smoke and give out pleasant aroma. Make sure to gently shake the pan as peppercorns cook so they mix and don't burn.
- Transfer toasted peppercorns into a pepper grinder and grind them on a coarse setting. Set it aside. (You will use 2-3 teaspoons, depending on how much spice you'd like in your sauce.)
- Use the same pan to cook the steaks as you used to toast peppercorns and will use to cook the sauce, the drippings from the meat will make the sauce extra rich.
- Pat the steaks dry and generously season with salt and pepper on both sides right before adding them to the pan to cook!
- Spread some oil in the pan and pan-sear the steaks until they reach the desired temperature and take them out of the pan. Set them aside to rest while you prepare the sauce.
- Cook your favorite steaks to the temperature that you prefer and take them out of the pan. While the steaks are resting, prepare the sauce in the same pan! Make sure to use the same pan because so much flavor will come from the steak drippings left in the pan that will be incorporated into the sauce.
- After you take the steaks out, add minced shallot and sauté them over medium-high heat until softened and browned.
- Pour in cognac into the pan and let it simmer for about a minute.
- Pour in beef stock. Stir and let it simmer rapidly for up to 3 minutes, you're looking for the stock to reduce by about half.
- Turn the heat down to about medium (or lower), add 2 to 3 teaspoons of crushed black pepper that you have set aside, and pour in heavy whipping cream. Stir and let it gently simmer for another minute or so, until you notice that it's thickening. (When you run a spatula along the bottom of the pan, you'll notice that the sauce takes some time to spread back.)
- Take the sauce out of the pan and pour over your steaks.
- Steak – you can cook steaks in the pan the whole time or use the cooking steaks in the oven technique.
- No alcohol – if you have to avoid using alcohol, use extra beef stock instead and add 1 tsp. of Worcestershire sauce. If you can, reduce beef stock first for deeper, richer flavor. To reduce beef stock, simply simmer 1 cup of stock until it reduced to 1/4 cup.
- Other meats – this sauce is also great over chicken and pork.
- Sauce without meat drippings – start with 2 tbsp. of butter, melt it in the pan and add shallots. Proceed the same as the recipe above.