This paper focuses on the exploitation of the response surface methodology (RSM) to determine optimum cutting conditions leading to minimum surface roughness and cutting force components. The technique of RSM helps to create an efficient statistical model for studying the evolution of surface roughness and cutting forces according to cutting parameters: cutting speed, feed rate and depth of cut. For this purpose, turning tests of hardened steel alloy (AISI 4140) (56 HRC) were carried out using PVD – coated ceramic insert under different cutting conditions. The equations of surface roughness and cutting forces were achieved by using the experimental data and the technique of the analysis of variance (ANOVA). The obtained results are presented in terms of mean values and confidence levels. It is shown that feed rate and depth of cut are the most influential factors on surface roughness and cutting forces, respectively. In addition, it is underlined that the surface roughness is mainly related to the cutting speed, whereas depth of cut has the greatest effect on the evolution of cutting forces. The optimal machining parameters obtained in this study represent reductions about 6.88%, 3.65%, 19.05% in cutting force components (Fa, Fr, Ft), respectively. The latters are compared with the results of initial cutting parameters for machining AISI 4140 steel in the hard turning process.