Pan-Seared, Oven-Finished New York Strips with Balsamic Caramel

New York Strip

It’s a rare occasion that a New York strip steak needs anything more than a little salt and pepper. That said, in the spirit of special-occasion dining, a good sauce does make a meal feel a wee more special. And when a good sauce mixes with the juices of a good steak and that fusion pools around the edges of a good creamy purée and the dregs of that sauce-infiltrated purée get mopped up by a piece of good bread, well, it just doesn’t get much more special than that.

This balsamic caramel is another three-ingredient sauce that tastes as though much more effort went into its creation than actually did. Like the port wine reduction, the flavor from this sauce is attained by slowly reducing the liquids into a super concentrated syrup: a half cup of madeira reduces to a tablespoon; a cup of balsamic vinegar gets reduced by three quarters. The resulting flavor of this balsamic caramel resembles that of expensive Italian barrel-aged balsamics, fit for drizzling over anything ranging from prosciutto-wrapped figs to vanilla ice cream to pan-seared steaks. This recipe doesn’t yield a lot, but a little goes a long way, and as noted above, there’s no reason to smother a New York strip.

With Valentine’s Day a week away, I’m starting to finalize my menu. We’ll be starting with Delice de Bourgone (if there is any left) and homemade walnut bread (if I get around to making it) followed by these steaks alongside a turnip and apple purée — same as last year, boring I know, but we have a ton of turnips on hand — and a green salad with breadcrumbs and citrus vinaigrette. There’s no chance there will be any torta caprese remaining, so I’ll have to think of something else for dessert. For those of you planning a dinner at home next Thursday, here are a few other thoughts:

Images link to posts: pan-seared duck breasts with port wine reduction; turnip and apple purée; greens with homemade breadcrumbs and citrus vinaigrette; Jean-Georges nearly flourless chocolate torte; homemade Valentine’s Day card (inside); homemade Valentine’s Day card (outside)

seared duck breast with port wine reductionVenison Backstrap with Apple & Turnip Purée and wilted WatercressGreens with Homemade BreadcrumbsJean Georges chocolate cakecard insidecard front

New York Strip with balsamic caramel

steak marinating with olive oil, garlic, shallots and rosemary:
marinating New York Strip steak

seared steak ready for the oven:
seared New York Strip

balsamic caramel ingredients:
balsamic caramel ingredients

balsamic caramel:
balsamic caramel

New York Strip with balsamic caramel

Balsamic caramel

Source: Sally Schneider’s The Improvisational Cook

Notes: This balsamic caramel is wonderful drizzled on countless foods ranging from prosciutto to Parmigiano Reggiano to fresh strawberries. If you have any leftover, which you likely will, try drizzling it over vanilla ice cream — very different experience than hot fudge sauce but really good!

½ cup Rainwater Madeira
1 cup commercial balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar

1. Place Madeira in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until reduced to about 1 tablespoon. Add the balsamic vinegar and boil until the vinegar has reduced to about ¼ cup and is very syrupy and big shiny bubbles are forming at the surface. Watch the mixture very closely at this point — it will burn very easily. If it appears too thin, be assured that it will thicken upon cooling. Remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar until dissolved. Pour into a clean jar and cool before using.

Pan-Seared, Oven-Finished New York Strips

optional marinade:

olive oil to cover the steak
sliced shallots
a couple cloves of garlic, minced
a sprig or two of rosemary

Place steaks in a ziplock bag or a shallow dish or whatever vessel you like to use to marinate meat. Drizzle with olive oil, cover with shallots, rub with minced garlic, nestle with rosemary. Place in fridge if you plan on marinating for more than a couple of hours, otherwise set aside until you are ready to cook.


There are countless variables that factor into the final doneness of a cooked steak — thickness of the steak, oven temperature, temperature of the meat (room temperature or chilled) before being cooked, etc. This is a method I have been using that consistently gives me a medium-rare steak. Once you try it once or twice, you will be able to make adjustments depending on your preferences for doneness:

1. Buy steaks or have butcher cut steaks about 1½ inches thick.

2. Marinate steaks (or don’t) for an hour or as long as overnight. Bring steaks to room temperature at least one hour (two is better) before you plan on cooking them.

3. Preheat oven to 450ºF.

4. Prepare a low-rimmed baking sheet (like a jelly roll pan) with a piece of parchment paper.

5. Remove steaks from marinade, scraping off big slices of shallots and garlic. Season steaks generously on both sides with kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.

6. Heat a large (or small, depending on how many steaks you plan on searing at one time) skillet over high heat for two to three minutes. When you place your hand over it, you should feel considerable heat. Pour two teaspoons olive or vegetable oil (or whatever oil you prefer to sear meat with) into the skillet, then immediately place steaks into skillet. Let the steaks sear for 1½ to 2 minutes a side, or until they are nicely browned. Transfer steaks to prepared pan. My reason for transferring the steaks to a baking sheet versus just placing the pan in the oven is this: I find the steak always cooks unevenly — that the side touching the pan cooks more than the other — when I place the skillet in the oven. On the other hand, when I sear each side of the steak for about the same amount of time and then place it on a room temperature baking sheet, I know the steak will cook more or less evenly in the oven. Perhaps this is fussy, and I won’t argue with you if you have a better method — this is just what I like to do. This method moreover works well if you are cooking a bunch of steaks for company. It also allows you to sear the steaks ahead of time and let them rest for as long as necessary until you are ready to finish them off in the oven. For Valentine’s Day, for example, you could sear the steaks before you start tucking into the cheese and bread, and when it comes time for the main course, all you have to do is stick the steaks in the oven. Simps.

7. Place sheet pan with seared steaks into the oven for five minutes. Note: depending on how long you seard the steaks — the full 2 min on each side ormorse like 1.5 min each — you might need more or less time in the oven to achieve the medium rare doneness. You might want to poke the steak with your finger at minute 4 to evaluate doneness.

8. Remove pan from oven and transfer steaks to a cutting board. Let steaks rest for at least six or seven minutes before slicing.

9. Slice and serve. If using the balsamic caramel, make sure sauce is slightly warm (pop in the microwave briefly or if it’s still in the skillet, just warm it up a bit) and drizzle just the smallest amount overtop. Or, spoon a little onto the plate before topping with the meat.

balsamic caramel in jar


  1. says

    Valentine’s dinner=DONE. I’m going with the NY strip, citrusy salad with breadcrumbs and torta caprese. A few details to be added, but the stars of the show are all Ali specials. :) A question on the reductions of the Madeira/balsamic — do you have an estimated time for those? I’m prone to burning reductions because I always doubt whether it is truly reduced or not!
    PS – my mom made cheese sticks for the superbowl last week – she sends rave reviews!

    • says

      Lindsay — hello! You’ll have to report back on how the evening goes. I hope you like everything! Ok, I am now kicking myself for not timing myself while making the reduction. I am just estimating here, but I would say the Madeira reduces for about 10 to 15 min, and the balsamic reduces for about 15 min as well. The Madeira I kind of just eye in the pan — when it starts to look syrupy, I add the balsamic. Once I add the balsamic, I do start pouring it into a liquid Pyrex measuring cup every so often to see how far from a quarter cup I am. You do want to be very careful at the end bc as soon as it burns, it truly is ruined. This is what I would do: make the sauce a couple of days in advance and err on the side of under reducing — take the pan off the heat when there is slightly more than a quarter cup left. You can add the brown sugar at this point, too. Let it cool — it will reduce a little bit more as it cools, and taste it once it is completely cool. Once you taste it and evaluate its consistency in its cooled state, you will know if it needs to be reduced further. When you are ready to reduce it further for serving, place it in a shallow skillet and let it reduce gently over medium heat or lower — you’ll still need to keep an eye on it, but it will be easier to judge. Hope that helps! So glad your mama liked the cheese sticks!

  2. Marcia Renert says

    I think those photos could make vegetarians reconsider!

    I’m not a huge meat-eater but seriously, balsamic caramel? Hello lover!

    • says

      Marcia — you are funny. Sometimes I think I could give up meat — as long as I have cheese, Im usually pretty content, but sometimes, there is just nothing like a good steak.

    • says

      Becky — made a loaf of walnut bread today — it was so good! I need to tweak the recipe a little bit, but I’m hoping to do that over the weekend, and to blog about it early next week. And, I basically polished off half of our little wheel of Delice de Bourgogne while tucking into the walnut bread tonight — it is such a great pairing! Will report back soon. Have a great weekend!

  3. says

    Excellent post! I agree with you that a great steak doesn’t need much, but it’s nice to have a few tricks to make it special

    I also agree on the method to change pans when placing in the oven, and had the exact same experience as you, particularly when using a cast iron pan – I happened to overcook my steak. And that is a crime. 😉

  4. says

    That has literally made my mouth water! Love the idea of balsamic caramel – total genius! I agree with Marcia – Vegetarian will be converting across the globe!

  5. Trish says

    Oh my goodness, that looks so good! Mouth watering photo. That steak is perfectly cooked. I think I will make this tonight and just have to come up with something else for Valentine’s Day (like a reservation). Thanks for sharing!

  6. Laurie Fraser says

    Alexandra, I’m going to make this for Valentine’s day…can’t resist those amazing photos…one question? Is there any particular brand of Madeira that I should look for? Thanks….Laurie :)

    • says

      Laurie — I so hope you like this! The sauce can be made in advanced, too, in case you are going to be pressed for time on Valentine’s Day. You can even pop it in the microwave to warm it up just before serving (provided it has been sufficiently reduced). Ok, I would buy a cheap bottle — my Wegman’s carries a brand called Taylor, and I think it cost $6 for the bottle, and it’s a pretty big bottle. There’s no reason to buy an expensive bottle for this sauce.

  7. says

    Wow. That steak looks good, my mouth is watering. I usually give steaks to my husband to season and grill, but I’ve been wanting to try pan sear, oven finish since I saw a ‘Good Eats’ episode about it. I think you’ve convinced me to give it a try and your sauce sounds to die for.

    • says

      Joybee — oh do try it! It is so easy, both the sauce and the steak cooking method. I always worry about giving instructions for cooking meat, because, as I note in the recipe, so many factors can affect the final doneness. But, once you try the method once or twice, you’ll know how long the steaks need in the oven (maybe mire than five min, maybe less) to achieve your desired doneness.

  8. says

    This idea is pretty fantastic! I am from the salt and pepper school of steaks, but there are certain condiments that do add a ton to the final dish. Can´t wait to try this, and I have the impression I will be reducing whatever I can from now on. Happy Valentine´s!

  9. Katelyn says

    If I am unable to find Maneira, is there something I could substitute for it? This is totally on the Valentine’s menu!

  10. Laurie Fraser says

    Well girl, it’s a late Valentine dinner but the steaks are marinating and the balsamic is reducing….can’t stay away from the stove for too long……much thanks again and again for this blog, you are my favorite place to look for delish everything!! LOVE YOUR BLOG!! We’re starting a ‘do it yourself’ kitchen remodel with concrete floors and big comfy chairs next to the window to look out at the herb garden. Thinking of your blog makes me smile….

    • says

      Oh Laurie, I so hope these turned out well for you. Yes…don’t stray too far from that stove! And a late Valentine’s Day is better than no Valentine’s Day…we ended up celebrating with my mother. It was very romantic :) Your kitchen remodel sounds lovely. I love the ideas of big comfy chairs next to a window overlooking an herb garden — beautiful! Thank you for your kind words. It’s always so nice hearing from you.

  11. Laurie F says

    Alexandra, I made the Valentine dinner and the steaks were wonderful…I’ve never tried to finish them in the oven, and it worked perfectly. I had trouble with the caramel but I’m sure I know what I did wrong…I had it reducing at about 1/2 cup and it got super sticky and based on my past efforts with caramels I think I was reducing it too fast…I rescued some of it by adding a little water and reducing it again and it was pretty great but next time I will go SLOWER!!! lol! I tasted it again after it completely cooled and it was sooooo good. I’ve Never been able to successfully make a ‘regular’ caramel….maybe I have bad caramel Karma…;)

    • says

      Laurie — Ohhhh, I know, these reductions really can be tricky! I’m sorry it gave you some trouble…that’s no fun. I’m glad to hear that the steaks came out well, however, and that you were able to rescue some of the caramel. It’s hard to know when it’s exactly done. I’ve had the best luck making it a day in advance and removing it from the heat when it’s clearly not quite done. The reason is (and I should note this in the recipe) is that it always thickens up a bit as it cools, so if I make it in advance, for whatever reason, when I do to “finish” it by reducing it further, it is easier to eyeball when it is done. Hope that makes sense. Anyway, it’s always so nice to hear from you, hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

  12. Laurie says

    Okay, one year later and I have to make this again for Valentine’s Day!! I’m going to practice with the balsamic reduction ahead of time this year! This was like the first thing I made from the blog! I still remember how good it was!!

  13. Laurie says

    I hate to admit it duckie but I went out last night and bought a 100 dollar all clad 1.5 qt saucepan just to make this….and other things of course (gulp)….last year, I was working with a little kitchenaid one that had a thin bottom….I dumped some balsamic in that pan last night Ali and put it on really low, didn’t even have the Madeira….in 30 minutes or so I had the most amazing sauce! We put it on sweet potatoes with butter…omg….my husband was raving about it! There are those that would say that buying pricey cookware isn’t worth it but I’m not one of them… I have to learn how to make ‘regular’ caramel! XO!

    • says

      Amazing! Oh Laurie, that sounds good. And I couldn’t agree with you more in regard to expensive cookware — it makes all the difference in the world and always pays in the end. I can hear my mother ranting about cheap pots and pans: It’s false economy! Haha, I love it. xo

  14. Beth says

    I tried the balsamic caramel tonight. A great way to save the $10 waste of money on not so good grocery balsamic. I was truly amazed! I plan on trying the steak this weekend!

  15. Carli says

    My husband’s birthday is today so I’m making this for dinner tonight! I’ve never cooked steaks before, so we will see how it goes, but I feel pretty confident with your great recipe. It looks amazing and I can’t wait to surprise him! I will let you know how it turns out =)

      • Carli says

        It was absolutely delicious! I served the steak over a bed of garlic mashed with the sauce drizzled over it and green beans on the side. It was a beautiful presentation and the steaks were cooked PERFECTLY. Thank you so much for this recipe! Can’t wait to impress with it again. =)

  16. Neil says

    Aaack! I live in an ass-backwards part of the midwest where liquor shops are closed on Sundays. Can I sub sherry or red wine for the madeira? Help!

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