The Secret to a Great Steak Sauce Is Butter, and Lots of It

Unhand the A1 and ready thy apron, good sir!

April 21, 2017 9:00 am

Don’t ever let someone tell you that the secret to a good steak is sauce (looking at you, El Prez). The secret to a good steak is quality meat and proper cooking technique. Only then can you think about sauce, and when you do, it should be Béarnaise.

“I’m not a big sauce-on-steak person,” writes chef John Tesar in Knife: Texas Steakhouse Meals at Home, his first ever cookbook on steak, which might as well be the be-all, end-all book on the matter. “But the original time I tasted properly made béarnaise sauce at Club Pierre, when Pierre first made it for me, a light went on.”

Tesar began his culinary career at Club Pierre in Westhampton, New York, where he’d go on to open his acclaimed chef-driven chophouse Dallas, garnering all kinds of accolades along the way. In short: the man knows steak.

Simply put, béarnaise sauce is fortified hollandaise, one of France’s “mother sauces” and the stuff you love to pour over your eggs Benedict. They key here is herbs and acidic balance. Tesar writes to “use a decent white wine, not some sort of designated ‘cooking wine’ from a grocery store.” The result is a creamy, fatty and delicious sauce you can pour over steak, fish, vegetables and just about everything else.

Béarnaise Sauce
Serves 6-8


1 pound butter
¼ cup finely chopped shallots
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons plus 1½ teaspoons chopped tarragon
¹/8 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, or 2 black peppercorns
3 egg yolks

1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons finely chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1½ teaspoons finely chopped parsley
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon Tabasco
¼–½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice


In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. As the butter melts, carefully skim off the white foam that rises to the top. When the butter is melted and all the foam has been skimmed off, there will be a layer of white sediment (milk solids) at the bottom of the pan. Carefully pour the clarified butter through a strainer lined with cheesecloth into a measuring cup and keep warm.

Place the shallots, wine, vinegar, tarragon, and pepper or peppercorns in a nonreactive saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and cook the mixture, uncovered, until almost all the liquid is gone; you should have a little less than 2 teaspoons left. It will smell almost unpleasantly pungent.

Place the hot mixture in the bowl of a food processor. Add the egg yolks and start the machine. With the machine running, add 2 cups of the warm butter, ¼ cup at time, and process until the mixture is smooth and emulsified. Turn off the machine; the sauce should coat the back of a metal spoon.

Pour the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl and discard the solids left in the strainer. Stir in the finely chopped tarragon, chives, parsley, salt, Tabasco, and lemon juice.

Excerpted from the book Knife by John Tesar and Jordan Mackay. Copyright © 2017 by John Tesar. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photography by Kevin Marple.


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