A Classic French Steak Sauce, 1000 Times Easier

August 29, 2018
Photo by Julia Gartland

It was yet another night of procrastination. Instead of writing and updating my blog, I found myself scrolling through the endless glut of YouTube cooking videos, clicking through one clickbait-y title after another, helplessly spiralling into the black hole that is the "Recommended for You" bar.

While binging on Binging With Babish, I somehow ended up on a 19-minute video of a chef cooking and talking in Dutch. (Fun fact: I don’t speak Dutch.)

The chef in question: Peter Goossens, owner of Hof van Cleve, a 3-Michelin-starred restaurant in Belgium that's regularly featured on the world’s best restaurants lists. In this particular video, Chef Goossens makes one of his signature dishes, turbot with lobster Béarnaise.

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Though seemingly extravagant at first, 9 minutes and 20 seconds in, I had the biggest culinary revelation of the year as I watched him make a much easier Béarnaise sauce that breaks all conventions.

A classic steak Béarnaise, one of my favorite ways to enjoy the velvety French sauce. Photo by Julia Gartland

Béarnaise is a close cousin to one of the five mother sauces of French cuisine: hollandaise. It's rich, tangy, and most importantly, fluffy.

Like hollandaise, Béarnaise is traditionally made with a base of egg yolks and butter that's whisked until it's doubled or tripled in volume. Kind of like a fluffy mayonnaise, if you will—only richer and decidedly more French. But unlike hollandaise, which has lemon juice in it, Béarnaise is perfumed with tarragon, shallots, and white wine vinegar, and is luxuriously divine when slathered onto steaks and seafood.

A base of shallots, tarragon, and white wine vinegar form the base of most Béarnaise sauces. Photo by Julia Gartland

In culinary school, I was taught the classical French way of making it: constantly whisking the yolks over a bain-marie or double boiler, while gently streaming in clarified butter until the sauce emulsifies. While this might sound simple in theory, Béarnaise really is one of the toughest French sauces to master. Whisk it too gently and it won’t get sufficiently fluffy. Heat it too quickly and the egg yolks will cook and the sauce will curdle. Stream in the butter too abruptly and you’ll get butter-soup instead of a velvety sauce.

Whisk, whisk, whisk! Photo by Julia Gartland

Even after nine months of culinary school and over a dozen tries, any attempt I make at cooking a Béarnaise sauce will seem more like a gamble than any application of actual culinary knowhow.

So when I saw Chef Goossens’s audaciously easy method for making Béarnaise, I was shell-shocked. Not only did it take a fraction of the time it takes me to make it, the resultant sauce was twice as fluffy and velvety as any Béarnaise I’d ever made.

How to Make a Much Easier Béarnaise Sauce

And all he did was put two egg yolks in a saucepan with some water and what I'm guessing was tarragon oil (I don't speak Dutch), and whisked it over the flattop stove until the eggs were aerated, no double boiler needed.

To finish it off, he just plopped some soft butter into the fluffy egg-sauce, and that was that! The whole thing took less than 5 minutes.

It's. So. Fluffy. Photo by Julia Gartland

In a daze from the sheer simplicity of this technique, I tried recreating it at home, and it totally worked! While I did have to do some guesswork in estimating the quantities of ingredients used in the video, I was in awe as each time I whisked one of my test batches, the lustrous sauce came together like magic.

Needless to say, Chef Goossens’s Béarnaise hack totally puts all my culinary school struggles to shame. And in doing so, he’s made the typically finicky, hard-to-master French steak sauce a feasible undertaking for any home cook.

What's your go-to steak sauce? Let us know in the comments below.

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[email protected] January 6, 2020
translated from Danish site, no oil.

4 egg yolks
3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
4.5 tablespoons of water
120 grams of cold butter
1 tablespoon choppedfresh tarragon
pepper and salt
Beat the egg yolks with the vinegar and the water in a cooking pot. Season with some pepper and salt.
Heat the pot over a soft to medium heat and beat until an airy mixture binds nicely. Don't let the preparation boil, your sauce will fail!
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lumps of cold butter. Stir well until the butter is completely melted.
Mix in the finely chopped tarragon and season to taste with pepper and / or salt. Serve immediately, tasty!
A common problem with self-made bearnaise is that the binding fails. Your sauce starts to sift, just as it can with mayonnaise. Therefore, make sure that you allow the egg yolk batter to heat up quietly and certainly not let it boil. You can also work with clarified butter, which gives less chance of a bad bond. If that happens, a little cold water or a freshly beaten egg yolk can sometimes save you. Finally, make sure that the sauce, if not served immediately, is kept warm without boiling, 60 ° is ideal.

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Mike B. August 29, 2018
How does one cook in Dutch? 🤔
foofaraw October 29, 2018
using oven of course ;)
M August 29, 2018
Would love to see the results of a blind taste test between both versions!