For The Best Steak Au Poivre, Use Two Types Of Peppercorns

If you're looking for an elegant dinner that doesn't require a whole lot of prep time, you can't miss with steak au poivre. This classic French technique for cooking steak originates from the Normandy region of the country as far back as the 19th century. It was believed back then that peppercorns had aphrodisiacal properties, and there is even some scientific data to back that up today. So if you're trying to impress a date, all you need is a good quality steak, peppercorns, and a few extra ingredients to have a romantic dinner on the table in no time. If you really want to level up your dinner, however, try using at least two different types of peppercorns.

Steak au poivre is typically made with black peppercorns, or sometimes a combination of black and green peppercorns (which are not the same thing, by the way). There is no rule, however, that says you should only use black and green peppercorns for steak au poivre. If you have some pink, white, or even Szechuan peppercorns on hand, they're all fair game.

Black and green peppercorns are the standard

When you go to a French restaurant and order a steak au poivre, you probably have a pretty good idea of what's going to show up at the table. The most common cut of steak used for this dish is beef tenderloin cut into medallions (filet mignon), but any tender steak that can be cut into a round shape can be used. The meat is covered with crushed peppercorns and then seared, cooked to temperature, and served with a creamy pan sauce that's flecked with even more crushed peppercorns.

Black peppercorns are hard and dried, and have a lot of aroma and spice, so they're the best for making that signature spicy crust of the steak. Almost everyone has a jar of black peppercorns in the spice drawer, too, so they're an easy choice. Green peppercorns are also pretty common, plus they're typically sold preserved in brine so they're soft, which is a perfect texture for a silky au poivre sauce.

In most restaurants, you won't see much variation in peppercorns other than black and green. In fact, you'll be hard pressed to find a classic steak au poivre recipe from a French chef that recommends anything other than black or green varieties. But that doesn't mean you can't bend the rules a little bit at home.

Spice up your steak with different colored peppercorns

There are of course more than two kinds of peppercorns available to home cooks. White, pink, and Szechuan are probably the easiest to source, and they're all usable for your next steak au poivre. Just keep in mind that they all bring something a little different to the table.

White peppercorns are a little spicier than black peppercorns, so they'll give your steak some more kick. They're less aromatic than black peppercorns, however, so it's a good idea to use a mix of black and white peppercorns for your crust.

Pink peppercorns, which are sometimes also labeled as red peppercorns, taste sweet and floral, and more like juniper than pepper, so be sure you taste one or two before you crust an expensive steak with them because that flavor can be a little overpowering. It's best to mix a few pink peppercorns with some black peppercorns so that you get the essence of the flavor but don't miss out on the true steak au poivre experience.

Finally, for a tasty fusion-style steak au poivre, try adding some Szechuan peppercorns to your peppercorn crust mix, or add a few to the sauce. They have a distinctive hot, spicy flavor that will make your tongue and lips tingle, which certainly sounds a lot like the type of aphrodisiac that even old school French chefs could get behind.