When my Sis & I were kids back in Iowa and way back about 40 to 45 years ago, Hamburgers au Poivre was a huge favorite at our house. My Mom had this recipe on rotation for a while, and there’s good reason!
These big, plump, juicy burgers have all the deep, flavorful umami taste of a real Steak au Poivre without the high price tag of filet mignon or the tricky timing involved in cooking steak at home to just the right temperature.
About Hamburgers au Poivre:
If you’re stumped and faced with making another meal out of your ground beef and lacking some inspiration, these burgers are for you! Hamburgers au Poivre are such a nice change-up from your everyday fare!
The burger feels just a little fancy, and with its simple pan sauce, I think it fits right in with any trendy pub burger. Maybe you’ll want to add some mushrooms or caramelized onions to the mix to bring this recipe right into today.
I think, though, this burger is best served just as shown, just like my Mom made it! She served her Hamburgers au Poivre with toasted French or Italian bread and a simple side salad. That toasted bread gets soaked with some of the luscious pan sauce, and that alone is almost better than the burger itself! If you’re into Bleu Cheese Dressing, the flavors of this recipe stand up nicely to that assertiveness!
Making Hamburgers au Poivre:
When I was a teenager, I learned so many smart little tricks from this recipe! I smile to think how many people I’ve made these for who’ve copied some of those tricks!
First of all, use a good cracked black pepper. If you don’t have a pepper grinder that will do that for you, crush between two small pans, in a mortar and pestle, in a blender or a spice grinder. Using a finer ground pepper just makes the pepper taste too strong. By the way, if you’re cooking for kids who might find the pepper overwhelming, you can leave the pepper off of their burgers.
Use a good, fatty ground beef for your burgers and after you form the burgers, set them aside for half an hour. This helps bring them to just the right temp to cook them so they’ll give off that fat in the skillet and that helps with a good crust on of the burger.
Do use a heavy pan (cast iron is great) and salt the pan liberally – when that salt starts to brown, and only then, you’ll know the pan is ready. Plop in the burgers and let them sit (use a spatter screen if you have one and turn on the kitchen fan). That salt flavors the burgers and also acts like little ball bearings, keeping the burger off the pan for the critical first minute or so. I cook almost all my indoor skillet burgers with salt in the pan. Here’s another example, my Juicy Lucy Burger.
Don’t move those burgers until you see the dark sear on the bottom and the cooked color moving up towards the center of the burger on the sides. Then it’s ready to flip and continue cooking to the desired stage. I like to turn the heat down once the burger is seared on the second side, cover, and let cook to desired doneness.
Making the Sauce for Hamburgers au Poivre:
This burger has got to be one of the original butter burgers, but Culver’s has nothin’ on this! Since this is best with a fatty ground beef like a 75/25, I usually remove the burgers quickly, drain off the excess grease in the pan trying to keep as much of the flavorful browned bits (the fond) in the pan.
On to the burgers goes a pat of butter, about a teaspoon on each burger, a good squeeze of lemon, a few dashes of Worcestershire, and a dash or two of your fave hot sauce. Don’t put any of those items away!
Working quickly, add a tablespoon of butter to the pan and repeat those seasonings. The kicker, here, though is a good shot of a fortified liquor. The original recipe calls for cognac, but I’ve made these with tawny port and like it even better. Be sure to pour your alcohol into a small cup; don’t pour it out of the bottle – you don’t want a fire. Let everything reduce – it takes about a minute – until syrupy. That pan sauce gets drizzled over the burgers. Heaven!
Adjusting the Flavor & Seasoning:
This recipe came from the New York Times cookbook, copyright 1961 and edited by Craig Claiborne, and having made them for some 40-plus years I’ve riffed off this recipe over and over. I have adjusted the recipe to pour off most of the grease and make just a bit more of the sauce. (Here’s another absolute fave Craig Claiborne recipe from the same book if you’re interested: Chicken Bordeaux.)
The burgers can be seasoned however you’d like as you make them. You can choose to make the pan sauce as is, using any or all of the ingredients, or vary it. If you have a special Steak au Poivre recipe, you can make the sauce from it after removing the burgers. There are so many recipes for au Poivre to choose from.
And like I said above, I like Tawny Port just as well if not better than the more traditional cognac (and then you’ll have Tawny Port to use in the Biltmore House’s Tawny Ham), but I’ve also made this recipe with Marsala (and mushrooms along with a little provolone cheese) before.
If you decide to add in mushrooms or onions, use a large enough skillet (these are big burgers) and toss them in when you turn the burgers. Stir them often. They should be just about right when you’re ready to make the sauce.
How to Store:
Store any leftover burgers in the fridge for two to three days. A reheated burger will never be quite the same, but these are better than some! I’m guessing it’s the sheer amount of butter that helps!
Reheat in the microwave on low (I often use the defrost setting) until just warm turning once. You want to be careful not to overcook and a long, slow reheat seems to work better to bring the burger up to serving temp than a higher temperature.
Saving Money on Hamburgers au Poivre:
Ground Beef freezes extremely well and it goes on sale often. There’s really no reason to pay full price. Keep tabs on the pricing in your area so you know what a good price is and what is the rock bottom sales price (usually about once a quarter) and stock up then. Generally, the larger family packs are less per pound. Divide up in portions before freezing. Most recipes will call for a pound of ground beef, even though this calls for two!
Any condiments are best bought during the great summer sales. If you miss those, keep an eye out around the Superbowl. Stock up on pantry items when the prices are at a low.
Check out Aldi if you have one nearby for the bread and the butter and check out your Buyer’s Club for the butter. If you don’t have those options, watch for holiday sale prices on the butter and buy enough to last to the next big food holiday. Butter is almost always half price before a major holiday at the grocery and it’s easy enough to toss in your freezer.
Holidays, especially Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s are a great time to buy any of the specialty fortified liquors. Watch your ads at your fave stores, and sign up for emails. Sale prices will make a significant difference in pricing.
If you’d like to see what might be on sale during any major holiday, check out my post Win at the Grocers. It has links to what to look out for broken down by holiday.
I know for some of you, summer is half over! This recipe is a great one when you don’t want to do your burgers on the grill, standing out in the dead heat. I think it’s been a hot summer almost everywhere.
I miss my Minnesota lake, but Chance & I have been having fun finding dog-friendly beaches on beautiful Lake Lanier here in Georgia. A big shock to me? The water is warm, unlike the icy Minnesota Lakes!! 🙂 Chance has a tennis ball…I just thought the pic was so cute!
Take care all, stay cool!
Hamburgers au Poivre
- Prep Time: 35 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 4 burgers 1x
- Category: main dish
- Cuisine: French
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 4 teaspoons coarsely ground black peppercorns
- 4 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon butter
- lemon juice to taste
- Tabasco to taste
- Worcestershire to taste
- 3 tablespoon cognac
- chopped parsley for garnish
- chopped green onion or chives for garnish
Lightly shape ground beef into 4 patties. Sprinkle each side with pepper and press down with the heel of hand. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Sprinkle a light layer of salt in bottom of heavy skilled, place over high heat and when the salt begins to brown, add the burgers. Cook, until well browned on one side and until the color reaches halfway up the burger.
Turn and sear the other side. When seared, turn down the heat, and cook about a minute longer for rare, adjusting the time for a more well-done burger.
Remove burgers from pan and drain most of the grease, keeping the well-browned drippings and bits behind in the pan. Working quickly, add a teaspoon of butter to each burger and add the lemon, Worcestershire sauce, and tabasco sauce to taste.
Add the same ingredients to the pan, this time the tablespoon of butter, a good squeeze of lemon (about two to three tablespoons), and then the Worcesterhire sauce and tabasco to taste. (Several dashes of Worcestershire and a dash or two of Tabasco.) Add about four tablespoons cognac. Swirl so the butter will melt and continue to stir over the heat until sauce becomes slightly syrupy (this will happen in seconds) then pour sauce over the plated burgers.
Top with garnish of parsley and chives or green onions as desired.
Keywords: Beef, Burgers, Family Recipe, Ground Beef, hot sauce, new york times