Stocks & Sauces

Béarnaise sauce

bernaise sauce in a bowl and served with steak and chips

Serves 2-3



  1. To make a béarnaise sauce, you must first make a white wine vinegar reduction. Put the vinegar, peppercorns, shallot, bay leaf, thyme, and 4 sprigs of tarragon into a small saucepan and place over a medium heat. Allow the vinegar to simmer away and reduce by about two-thirds. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  2. Set a pan, half filled with water over a medium heat and bring to a simmer.
  3. In another pan, melt the butter. It is important that the butter is completely melted but not, and this is important, too hot. If the temperature of the butter isn’t right, then the bearnaise will likely split.
  4. Tip the egg yolks into a heat-proof bowl that fits over the pan of water, along with a pinch of salt, 1 ½ tablespoons of the white wine vinegar reduction, and a tablespoon of water.
  5. Whisk all of this together vigorously. Then set the bowl over the simmering water to create a bain marie. Do not stop whisking from now until the end of this process — you may want to enlist some help!
  6. When whisking be sure to venture into every corner of the bowl to ensure that nowhere is the yolk mixture allowed to catch on the bowl — if it does it will essentially scramble and result in a lumpy bearnaise.
  7. As the yolks cook and you incorporate more and more air into them, you will notice it stiffen and grow significantly. Once the yolks have reached the soft peaks stage, then you are ready to whisk in your butter.
  8. Pour in the butter in a slow steady stream whilst whisking continuously. The golden clarified butter should all be incorporated first and then a little of the milk solids which will have sunk to the bottom of the pan go in at the end. These will loosen the bearnaise a little so only add as much as you need for the desired consistency.
  9. Strip the leaves off 4 sprigs of tarragon and finely chop them with a very sharp knife. Fold these through the bearnaise and squeeze in a touch of lemon juice.
  10. Check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.