Steak au Poivre Flambé

James Beard

Author and Educator

As one of the culinary world’s ultimate entertainers, James Beard knew a thing or two about setting a table for a crowd. Make this the centerpiece of your meal and you’ll see that cooking an unforgettable dinner in only an hour truly is possible. Beard’s combination of good planning and deft execution lets you sit down with your guests in a flash. 


  • Porterhouse or sirloin steak, about 2 inches thick (about 32 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon freshly cracked peppercorns
  • Beef fat for greasing
  • ⅓ cup Cognac
  • Salt to taste


Prepare the steak: choose a good porterhouse or sirloin steak about 2 inches thick. Trim excess fat from steak and score remaining fat. 

About 20 minutes before cooking the steak, press 1 tablespoon cracked pepper into the meat with the heel of your hand. The pepper must be freshly cracked or ground to provide proper flavor. To crack, use a rolling pin or a meat pounder, or give it a brief whirl in the blender. 

The steak may either be pan-broiled in a heavy skillet or broiled in the oven, but I suggest pan-broiling as the better method for this, although it is a smoky process.

To pan-broil: rub a heated skillet with a little beef fat. Allow the pan to become very hot, then place the steak in the pan and sear for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Reduce the heat slightly and continue cooking, turning once or twice, until the meat is done to your taste (10 to 12 minutes for rare). Test by cutting near the bone with a sharp knife.

Just before removing the steak to a hot platter, pour ⅓ cup Cognac over steak and flame. Pour pan juices over meat and serve, carved in slices.


serves 4