East meets West in the restaurant version of Chinese Black Pepper Steak. There’s no doubt that this dish is a popular restaurant item and for good reason. First of all, it’s all about the beef with only an accent of familiar veggies for balance. That gives it a great appeal for many diners.
Then there’s the flavor, outstanding but with just a bit of smoldering heat from the black pepper sauce. It’s downright addictive! But best of all, it’s easy to make at home and, you’re likely to find all the ingredients at your grocery and you can customize the heat level to your taste, which is great if you’re serving the fam!
About Chinese Black Pepper Steak:
I rarely order this dish at a restaurant because it’s so easy to make, so when I’m out I’d prefer to order something more exotic and save this dish for home. There are just a few ingredients (unlike some Chinese recipes) it preps and cooks quickly, and the results are outstanding. It’s easy to pull off a restaurant-quality dish when you’re making Chinese Black Pepper Steak.
The beef turns out luscious and tender, wrapped in a silky sauce fragrant with ginger, spiced with black pepper, and full of umami goodness. The onions and bell pepper and green onion add a little freshness to the party, cooked till crisp-tender, accenting all the flavors.
The Black Pepper Sauce:
While the black pepper sauce adds heat for sure, you can control it, and since the sauce itself is added at the end, you can taste and adjust it, making it just a little hot or a lot, depending on who you’re serving.
There are a few things to keep in mind. The recipe calls for freshly cracked black pepper, which is a courser grind (larger pieces of pepper) than regular old ground pepper you’d fill your shaker with. So the 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of coarsely ground cracked pepper will be less pepper than the same amount of ground pepper. Don’t make the mistake of using the same amount of regular old grocery store ground pepper in this sauce as you would coarsely ground – if you do, the recipe will likely be so hot it will be all but inedible.
If you don’t have a pepper grinder, you can grind peppercorns in your blender, spice grinder, between two pans, or in a mortar and pestle. Go for a grind a little larger than the pepper shown below.
If you are serving this for the family, especially the littles, you can add just a little cracked black pepper to the sauce, serve those who won’t be able to handle much heat, then add a little more of the pepper to the finished stir-fry and/or pass a little of the black pepper to sprinkle over for those who wish to add it.
The Steak for Stir-Fries:
The most important thing to know about cooking with steak in any stir-fry, more important than the type of beef, is to know how to treat it so it turns out beautifully colored, rich with flavor, and tender & luscious.
- Always cut across the grain and cut the directed width for your recipe. This recipe is all about the beef, so it’s cut thicker than it is for many stir-fries, not quite half an inch; about 3/8ths of an inch is perfect.
- To make the cutting easier, choose a steak about an inch thick and freeze for 20 minutes until it’s stiff but still bendable. If your steak is thinner, cut across the grain at an angle and the strips will be wider.
Marinate the Beef:
- A marinade doesn’t really “tenderize” beef; that’s a myth. What it does is adds a thin coating that helps protect the beef as it cooks keeping it soft and luscious.
- The marinade, especially one like this with a bit of sugar, will add flavor and help the beef attain an attractive color without overcooking.
Cook Quickly and Don’t Overcook:
- Unless using a wok, use a pan larger than you might think you need, preheat it first and cook in batches if necessary. You want to avoid a situation where the beef is stewing in its own juices.
- Remove the beef early, when it is still slightly pinkish. Overcooking any steak for a stir-fry will make it tough. It will cook a bit longer when added back to the skillet with the sauce ingredients.
- If you have to choose between a beautiful brown color or slightly pinkish still in the middle beef, choose the slightly pink. It’s more important the beef not be overcooked than it is to have beautiful color on the outside.
Chinese Black Pepper Steak is all about the beef, so keep in mind, the better the cut, the better the final dish. I prefer sirloin, but you’ll see recipes calling for skirt or hanger; both have big beefy flavor but can be pricey and can easily toughen with cooking. I have used round in dishes like this, which is cheap, but also prone to be tough. But be especially careful to not overcook when cooking any of the tougher cuts.
Making Chinese Black Pepper Steak:
The recipe comes together very quickly when cooking, so like many Chinese dishes, it’s all about the prep. Have everything prepared and ready (and start your rice before you start cooking) so you can move it along without stalling out in the process.
The marinade and the sauce use some of the same ingredients, so do they double duty. Make the sauce at the same time you add ingredients to the beef to marinade, then it’s done and ready to go.
Prep the rest of the ingredients and set everything near the stove in the order you’ll cook. Since you’ll work in batches, make sure to have a large bowl to hold the cooked ingredients.
How to Store Chinese Black Pepper Steak:
This recipe stores and reheats beautifully since all the veggies are sturdy. Store in an airtight container for three to five days.
Don’t freeze; recipes with cornstarch do not freeze well.
I talked about the beef, above. While I prefer sirloin, it’s pricier than round steak, and both hangar and skirt, which in the past were budget cuts have soared in price with their recent popularity.
For either sirloin or round, you might find small roasts on sale for less than the price of steaks (even on sale) and they can be cut into steaks at home and then cut into strips. Since that’s likely more beef than you’d need for this recipe, a great solution is to prepare it all and divide it into packs to freeze and have ready for your next stir fry.
Watch for beef to be on sale in the fall and around holidays, especially Christmas through New Year, and the lesser steaks and roasts (like round) to be at a great low in January. Something has to be done with the rest of the beef after all the fancy Holiday roasts are sold! Stock up and freeze.
While you can usually pick up the Chinese ingredients at a well-stocked grocery, you’ll likely find them for far less at an Asian market. Watch for sales around the Chinese New Year, too, often unadvertised and stock up on items you’ll use throughout the year.
Ginger is rarely on sale and most recipes call for a small amount. Keep it in your freezer and you can slice or grate right from the frozen state, depending on how frozen it gets. You may need to thaw for just a few minutes.
Well, I have big news, guys! I’m back in Minnesota, finally settling all my affairs and house and so on. There’s nothing like Minnesota in the fall and it’s so nice to walk down to the beach every day with Chance, the sun shining and the leaves crunching!
I’ll be returning to Georgia, though with new living arrangements. I’ll no longer be with my daughter and six grandbabies. I’m gonna miss them so, but on the plus side, it frees up a room.
So here’s to new adventures!
Chinese Black Pepper Steak
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
- Category: main dish
- Cuisine: Asian
For the Marinade/Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
- 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry, divided
- 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) water or chicken broth
- 1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper, coarsely ground (save a small amount to sprinkle on finished dish)
For the Stir-Fry
- 1 pound sirloin steak cut into strips about 3/8ths inch thick and two inches wide
- 4 tablespoons oil, divided
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/2 inch squares
- 1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch strips from pole to pole, then into 1/2 inch squares
- 2 medium cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon minced ginger
- 1 to 2 green onions, cut into 1/2” lengths
Marinate beef, prepare sauce, prep ingredients:
Combine beef, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine or dry sherry, and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a bowl and toss to coat. Let marinate for at least 20 minutes at room temperature and up to 3 hours in the fridge.
Meanwhile, add corn starch to a cup and combine with remaining soy sauce stirring with a fork to form a slurry. Add remaining Shaoxing wine or dry sherry, chicken stock, oyster sauce, sesame oil, remaining sugar, and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Combine bell peppers and onions in a bowl and set aside.
Combine garlic, ginger, and green onions in a bowl and set aside.
Work with 1/2 of the ingredients at a time to maintain heat in skillet or wok.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or skillet over high heat until smoking. Add half of beef and cook while stirring and tossing until lightly seared but still pink in spots, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon of oil and remaining beef, adding beef to same bowl.
Wipe out wok or skillet if needed. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon oil and half of peppers and onions, cooking until the onion is softened and vegetables are crisp-tender. Transfer to bowl with beef. Repeat with remaining oil and peppers and onions.
Return to high heat and add the contents of bowl back to the wok or skillet, along with the garlic/ginger/scallion mixture. Cook about 30 seconds, tossing, until fragrant. Stir the sauce and add, stirring until just thickened, about a minute or so.
Transfer to a platter to serve.
Keywords: Alcohol, Bargain Meal of the Week, Beef, Bell Peppers, Chinese, Green Onion, Oyster Sauce, sesame oil, Shaoxing wine, sherry, Wine