Quickly-seared strips of flank steak, red bell pepper and onion are flavored with soy sauce, ginger, garlic, brown sugar, and rice wine vinegar. Instead of opting for takeout, make your own at home! You control the ingredients, so you can feel really good about what you’re eating. Serve on top of some rice with a veggie on the side, and One Pan Pepper Steak makes for one of the easiest and well-rounded weeknight dinners.
What exactly is One Pan Pepper Steak?
Pepper steak is an Americanized version of a Chinese stir-fry dish. Traditionally, it contains beef and red bell pepper, flavored with ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and other traditional Asian flavorings. There are lots of variations of this recipe, as several adaptations have been taken over time. Really, this is just another word for a beef stir-fry.
What you’ll need to make One Pan Pepper Steak
The ingredient list for this recipe is pretty short. You don’t need a ton of ingredients, but you will need some items from the International Food aisle of your supermarket. You might not already have them on hand; but don’t worry, once you buy these ingredients, you can use them for a multitude of other Asian-inspired dishes.
- flank steak (some stores call this London Broil)
- any lean cut of beef will work for this recipe, but I don’t suggest using chuck or other fattier cuts used for stews
- corn starch
- cooking spray
- for stir-fry recipes or searing over high heat, I suggest using flavorless cooking sprays (i.e. canola oil) or grapeseed oil sprays because they have a high smoke point
- this means that when you are cooking at a high temperature, the pan won’t smoke up your entire house
- red bell pepper
- reduced sodium soy sauce
- ginger (I use the one in the squeeze tube, like this one)
- brown sugar
- rice wine vinegar
- sesame seeds
How to prep the beef
First, let’s prep the beef. This is what 1.5 lbs of flank steak looks like when you bring it home from the store. Before I do anything, I make sure to trim all of the fat off of the meat to make it as lean as possible. That’s why it looks like there are some chunks missing.
To slice the steak into strips, we want to cut across the grain of the beef.
So what exactly does this mean? You’ll see there are lines that run horizontally across the cut of beef. This is called the grain of the beef.
When we cut with the grain, the beef becomes stringy. Instead, cut against the grain – meaning, cut vertically into the beef. This keeps the beef tender when it is cooked.
This rule is the same for cutting cooked steak; make sure you always cut against the grain to ensure a tender bite, and not stringy beef.
For this recipe, cut the strips as thin as humanly possible; I’m talking, not even 1/4″ inch… thinner, if you can!
After the beef is thinly sliced, place it in a large bowl with the cornstarch, and toss to coat. This will allow the steak to become crisp on the outside, and it will help thicken the sauce later on.
Cooking the peppers and onions and making the stir fry sauce
While the steak hangs out, let’s prep and start cooking the peppers and onions. First, thinly slice the pepper and onion. Then, heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat and add cooking spray. Add the vegetables and cook them for 10 minutes, tossing frequently with tongs. They should develop a charred look in some spots, and overall, they should begin to caramelize and get tender, but not soft and mushy. Cooking them over high heat like this allows for this to happen.
While the peppers and onions cook, let’s make the stir fry sauce. This is so simple.
Combine the soy sauce, garlic cloves, rive wine vinegar, brown sugar, and ginger. Whisk everything together and set aside until we are ready for it at the end.
After cooking the peppers and onions for 10 minutes, remove them from the pan and place them in a bowl. This is the color and texture we are looking for in order to achieve ultimate flavor.
Cooking the steak
Lastly, let’s cook the steak. This is going to go fast, so pay attention!
Ok, so the steak has been tossed in the corn starch. Now, in the same pan you cooked the peppers and onions in, add some more cooking spray, and turn the heat back on to high.
Working in batches (how many batches will depend on how large your pan is), we are going to sear the meat.
Why do we cook the meat in batches?
It might be tempting to just dump the entire bowl of steak into the pan to cook it all at once. DON’T DO THIS!! Sorry for yelling, but please, don’t do this.
When you put that much protein in a pan to cook, it overcrowds. And when it overcrowds, it begins to steam. If you’ve ever cooked meat and had that abundance of liquid form in the pan (you’re not entirely sure where all that liquid came from), the meat never really browns on the outside, it just turn kind of a weird white-ish gray color? Yeah, you overcrowded the pan.
When you accidentally steam your meat, you then typically continue cooking it to try and get that golden color on the outside; so now, you’re overcooking it. Take my word for it, cook this meat in batches. Depending on the size of your pan, this can mean two batches, or even up to four (I did four batches).
But fear not, the cook time of each batch is only 2 minutes (less than 1 minute per side). The meat is so paper thin, that it cooks in no time. So, sear the meat in batches, one minute per side, and then remove and place in a bowl to the side until we are ready to put it all together.
Putting One Pan Pepper Steak together and serving
Now that each individual component is prepared, it’s time to throw it all together! When your last batch of beef is done cooking, add the other cooked beef and the peppers and onions all into the pan. Keep the pan on high heat. Toss the beef, peppers and onions together. Then add your stir fry sauce and cook allow the flavors to combine for about 1-2 minutes. Garnish with scallions and sesame seeds. You’ll notice the sauce thickens a bit; this is from the cornstarch we dredged the beef in before cooking.
To serve this dish, pair it with some rice (or cauliflower rice for low carb or keto). I also like to add an extra vegetable on the side, like broccoli. One serving is 1 cup.
One Pan Pepper Steak
- large frying pan or wok
- 1.5 lbs flank steak, lean, trimmed
- 1 tablespoon corn starch
- cooking spray, I suggest using a canola-based or grapeseed oil based spray, which both have high smoke points.
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 onion
- 1/4 c reduced sodium soy sauce
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp ginger, I use the one in the squeeze tube
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 2 scallions
- sesame seeds
- Mince the garlic cloves. Whisk together the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar and vinegar in a small bowl to form the sauce. Set aside for later.
- Thinly slice the flank steak in strips. Toss in a bowl with the corn starch. Set aside.
- Thinly slice the red bell pepper and onion.
- Heat a wok (or large frying pan) over super high heat.
- Once the pan is heated, add cooking spray.
- Add the the pepper and onion strips and sauté them until they are blistered-looking and begin to cook down. They should be slightly soft, but not mushy. This should take around 10 minutes.
- Remove the peppers and onions from the pan once they are cooked.
- Add more cooking spray to the pan.
- Add half of the coated beef strips to the pan, making sure the beef is spaced apart. This allows it to sear, rather than overcrowd in the pan and steam.
- Remove the first batch from the pan.
- Spray the pan again and cook the second batch of beef.
- Once the second batch is done, return all of the beef and veggies to the pan.
- Add the sauce you made in step 1.
- Cook together for a few minutes for the flavors to blend.
- Top with chopped scallions and sesame seeds to taste.
- 6 WW points per cup on all plans