Pepper Steak is tender and juicy slices of Steak mixed with peppers and lots of onion in a silky and flavorful sauce. In this post, you will learn how to cook pepper steak on a stovetop, in a crockpot, how to velvet Steak’s cheap cuts to make the perfect Chinese pepper steak, plus many tips to take this dish to the next level!
We more than often have pepper steak for dinner, and I’ll show you how to make it an unforgettable meal. I’m sure that you will enjoy this pepper steak recipe more than the takeout you order from your local Chinese restaurant. This dish can be served with noodles but mostly served with rice; therefore, it is called pepper steak and rice at some restaurants.
Pepper Steak Recipe
I used to think that pepper steak is a Chinese dish but searching for the authentic recipe, I realized that there is no Chinese dish with this name! It’s a Chinese American dish that’s modified a few times and has more than one version.
Let’s talk about the Steak. So, you have a favorite Steak cut, and you like it cooked either medium, medium-rare, or well done, right? I enjoy Steak too, and my favorite cuts are Rib Eye and Chuck, and I love my Steak juicy and tender, but also safe to store.
Let’s not fight over how to cook Steak; none of us will win; everyone likes his Steak prepared in a certain way. In the USA, Canada, Australia, and Europe, the Steak is cooked for few minutes and then consumed. But I also have an audience from different parts of the world where they prefer the steak/meat to cook until tender. I plan to please both sides!
In this post, I will share my way of making pepper steak, I cook the meat a little longer, but it stays tender even when reheated. I will also share how to cook pepper steak in minutes for those used to cooking Steak in a shorter time on high heat.
Pepper Steak is a delicious stir fry dinner that you will love to make for your family, and with all the tips and suggestions below, I’m sure that you can easily add your touch to it. Although it is called pepper steak, you can replace beef with chicken or fish; the only difference is cooking time, keep the measurements and ingredients the same.
More on how to cook this dish using white meat below!
Pepper steak recipe using white meat
If you are not fond of red meat, you can make this recipe with white meat and enjoy it just as much; you can also use tofu. The sauce used in this pepper steak recipe goes well with any meat.
When using chicken, boneless and skinless thighs are the best part to use. If you are using chicken breast, then make sure not to overcook it, or it’ll turn out dry and chewy.
I would like you to make this recipe as is and then add your touch to it. Cooking pepper steak as per the recipe card will give you an idea of how ingredients work together and how it tastes. Accordingly, you can add more ingredients (like vegetables) or omit some.
Pepper steak is quick to prepare dinner, and you don’t have to buy Steak’s expensive cuts to make it. The spices and the vegetables in this recipe are the right combinations developing a unique flavored sauce that wraps each slice of steak.
Pepper steak Ingredients
Chuck steak cut into medium slices; or cut it into thin slices to reduce cooking time. You can use flank steak or rib-eye steak. You can also choose economical cuts like rump steak or hanger steak. I will explain how to make these cuts tender in this post under How to Velvet (tenderize) the beef.
Large white onion cut into medium strips; the onion gives a great compliment to Steak’s cut, but if you prefer a sharper flavor, use red onion instead.
Green and red bell peppers. You can use yellow and orange bell peppers, but they are sweeter, softer in texture, and won’t have that crunch when cooked. Do not use frozen bell pepper to make pepper steak. The frozen pepper will turn soggy and will ruin the taste of the sauce. You need that crunch so please always use fresh peppers.
Water. Always add boiling water; warm or cold water will decrease the ingredients’ temperature and increase the cooking time.
Oil. It’s better to use flavorless oils like canola oil and sunflower oil to brown the Steak. Olive oil can be used (if you wish), but its flavor may not go well with the other ingredients.
Ingredients for the pepper steak sauce
Soy sauce. If possible, use low sodium to control the amount of salt in the pepper steak recipe.
Cornstarch. I prefer cornstarch to thicken the sauce, but you can also use flour. When using flour, keep the ratio the same as when using cornstarch.
Sugar. Brown sugar will enhance the flavor, but you can substitute it with white sugar or honey.
Onion, garlic, and ginger powder.
How to Velvet (tenderize) the beef?
You probably have wondered how come the beef in Chinese restaurants is so tender and almost melts in your mouth; well, they use a technique called velveting; this technique also speeds up the beef’s cooking time. If you want to make pepper steak similar to the one served in the restaurants, you can do so at home with simple ingredients.
Keep in mind that in Chinese restaurants, they use cheap cuts of meat. Hence, they tend to tenderize it to give it a better texture. You don’t have to velvet or tenderize the beef if you have a good cut like rib eye, tenderloin, or T- Bone.
There are two ways to tenderize the beef:
You can use baking soda (don’t use baking powder, it will not work) or use egg white. If you want to velvet the meat to use it in this recipe, then skip the step where you add water and cook the meat for 45 minutes.
Baking soda method: We are using 1lb/500gm chuck steak, so mix ½ teaspoon leveled of baking soda with 4 tablespoon water. Pour the mixture over the beef and mix well with your hand. Cover and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse the meat properly to remove the baking soda. Pat the meat dry using a kitchen towel. In case you want to use this method in other Chinese dishes, then remember not to use baking soda with a marinade, including vinegar or lemon juice; the baking soda will lose its effect to tenderize the meat when acid exists.
Egg white method: Add one egg white to the meat and mix well, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Rinse the meat and pat dry. Now it is ready for cooking.
Important Note: The methods mentioned above are for thin slices of meat and small cubes of meat used in making stews. Do not use these methods on full-size steak; the texture will be weird because the tenderizing ingredients will not go deep in a thick slice of meat; you will end up with two completely different textures from the outside and inside the Steak.
How to make pepper steak with onion?
What everyone looks for in a pepper steak stir fry is tender meat, peppers with a slight crunch, and flavorful sauce. In the pepper steak recipe, I’m sharing today, the cooking time might be a little longer, but the outcome is a fantastic dinner. It is also safer to store because the meat is thoroughly cooked. More on how to store the leftover coming up!
- In a frying pan, add the oil, and when hot, fry the steaks in batches. Make sure to brown both sides of the steak slices, cook on high heat. Crowding the pan will slow the process of browning the meat. When the meat slices touch the pan, the temperature decreases and force the meat to release the juices instead of capturing it inside.
- Remove the meat after browning and cover it with foil properly; this step will allow the meat to rest and continue cooking using the heat in the juices captured inside it.
- In the same pan, add the onion and fry on high until translucent. Remove from the pan and keep aside.
- Fry the bell peppers for a few seconds and remove from the pan and keep aside.
- Return the meat to the pan and season with salt and black pepper, stir for a minute and then add the boiling water and cook for 45 minutes until the meat is tender.
- Now add the onion and bell pepper and stir for a minute.
- Mix the sauce ingredients and pour over the Steak. Stir the mixture until the sauce thickens.
I cook the meat for 45 minutes to make sure of two things:
- The meat is tender and thoroughly cooked.
- If I store it in the fridge or freezer, I know for sure that it’s safe to reheat it.
If you want a faster version of cooking the meat, then do the following:
- In a frying pan, add oil, keep the heat on high.
- Add the meat, don’t crowd the pan with the meat.
- Do not touch the meat at all for 1 minute. Flip the meat and cook for another minute on the other side. Remove from heat and cover for 10 minutes, and then follow the recipe skipping the step where you add water to cook the meat for 45 minutes.
How to make Crockpot Pepper Steak?
Making pepper steak in a crockpot saves time, and you get to have the same flavor but with less work. It will take you 10 minutes to prepare your ingredients when you make crockpot pepper steak, and it includes cutting the vegetables, slicing the Steak, and mixing the sauce.
- Place the Steak at the bottom of the crockpot, then add the rest of the vegetables and seasoning. Pour the sauce mixture and close the lid.
- Cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or on high for 4 hours.
- If you want the bell peppers to stay a little crisp, then add them an hour before the cooking time is up.
Notes on cooking pepper steak in a crockpot:
- For more flavor, brown the meat in a frying pan and then add it to the crockpot.
- Fry the onion until translucent and add it to the crockpot with the rest of the ingredients.
- Do not velvet or tenderize the meat for cooking in a crockpot. The meat should be tender since it is cooking on low heat for a longer time.
- To further thicken the sauce, an hour before the dish is ready, mix half a cup from the sauce with 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, then add it to the crockpot and mix gently. Close the lid and continue cooking.
How to cut the Steak against the grain
There is another way to enjoy a tender cut of steak, and it’s by cutting the Steak against the grain. The grains in the meat are the muscle fibers; you will find thin lines running across the beef when you look closely.
If you cut the meat parallel to those thin lines, you will end up with a very chewy piece of meat. You must cut against the muscle fibers, and you do this if you are cutting raw or cooked Steak; in both cases cutting against the grain will give you a tender slice.
To make cutting a raw steak easy and fast, you should use a sharp knife. Another tip to make the slicing of a raw steak easy is by freezing the Steak for 30 minutes and then cut it into thin slices.
How to store pepper steak leftover?
The pepper steak leftover can last up to 4 days in the fridge if stored in an airtight container. Reheat by either microwaving it or heating on the stovetop in a pan.
You can freeze the leftover after putting it in an airtight container for 3 months. Thaw the pepper steak in the fridge for 6 to 7 hours and then heat it in the microwave or stovetop.
Note: Although you can freeze the pepper steak, keep in mind that the bell peppers will come out a little mushy!
Pepper Steak with Onions
- 1 lbs chuck steak cut into medium slices
- 1 large onion cut into medium strips
- ½ green bell pepper cut into medium strips
- ½ red bell pepper cut into medium strips
- 1 leveled teaspoon black pepper
- Salt to taste
- 2 cup Boiling water
- 3 tablespoon oil
- FOR THE SAUCE
- 3 tablespoon soy sauce I used low sodium
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup warm water
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon ginger powder you can use fresh
- In a pan, add three tablespoon oil and fry the chuck in two batches until brown on both sides. Remove and keep aside. Don't crowd the pan when browning.
- In the same oil fry the onion until translucent. Remove and keep aside.
- In the same pan, fry the bell peppers for few seconds and keep aside.
- Add the fried chuck back to the pan, Season the chuck with salt and black pepper. Add two cups boiling water and let it cook on medium heat for 45 minutes or until the meat is tender. Add water if the meat is still tough and continue cooking.
- When the meat is cooked add the onion and bell pepper.
- Mix the sauce ingredients and pour over the steak, stir until the sauce thickens.
- Serve hot.
- You can use other cuts of meat, like T-Bone, Rib Eye, and Tenderloin.
- How to cut the Steak against the grain in the post above.
- The crockpot pepper steak recipe is in the post above.
- Tips on tenderizing and velveting the beef in the post above.
- You can add more vegetables to the pepper steak, like mushrooms, carrots, and zucchini.
- This post was originally posted in 2017, updated in November 2020.
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