I am a traditional guy when it comes to cooking steak. It has always been in a cast iron pan, or a heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan. Lots of oil to help get a good sear, and develop a rich flavorful crust. Baste with a little garlic butter and herbs at the end, and voila. perfect steak. But today I’m here to talk about cooking steak in an air fryer.
Basting is Key
My issue has always been the basting, you throw several dollars worth of ingredients in the pan, and don’t really get much flavor out of it. It always seemed like a waste.
Lately, I have been really exploring the possibilities of the air fryer. It occurred to me that I may be able to get more out of the baste using it.
My results were mixed for different reasons. I will explain as I go.
Fundamentals of Cooking Steaks
I always start the day before when I am cooking steaks by salting the steaks. This is sort of brine, but not. I coat my steaks liberally with kosher salt.
I am working with two steal house cut NY Strip steaks. These are both about 2 inches thick.
After I salt I double wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and keep them in the refrigerator overnight.
The salt pulls water out of the meat. The moisture dissolves the salt and most reabsorbs into the meat. This does two things. It gets salt to the interior of the steak, so it is not just seasoned on the outside. The salt also helps break down the connective tissues helping to tenderize them.
This first step I would do regardless of technique to cook the steak.
Next, an hour or two before cooking, I pull the steaks out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature.
Before Cooking Steak in an Air Fryer, However:
I do not recommend sitting them out for an hour or two when using an air fryer. In fact, the next time I do this I will be doing the opposite, and putting them in the freezer for 30 minutes or so. Not to freeze them completely, just to get them very cold.
My biggest issue with cooking steak in an air fryer was that I wasn’t able to develop much browning on them. The flavor that is developed by browning is one of my favorite things about steak. Without it, they may as well be boiled.
To be fair, I did get some brown, just not enough to really develop that crusty exterior that explodes with flavor.
I also was delighted by the way the fat rendered in the air fryer. Bits of it were actually crispy, like cracklings’. I never cared for a fatty cut of steak and always trimmed around it as I ate.
I found myself looking for crispy fatty bits as they were a completely new experience for me as I have never achieved a result like this in a pan or on a grill. Point to the air fryer
Butter Basting is The Secret Weapon to Cooking Steak in an Air Fryer
As I said earlier, I have always considered this process suspect. It seems to be flashy TV chef stuff that looks good on camera but does little to flavor the steaks.
This is where I believe the air fryer is superior. Generally, a chef would sear one side of the steak, then immediately after flipping, add a ton of butter, garlic, and herbs, and baste till the steak was cooked to the desired temperature.
Yes, the steak takes on a bit of the garlic and herbs flavor, as they burn in the pan, but not enough to justify the cost of what went into it. This of course is my opinion, If you love the results you get when you do it, fine. That is what matters.
As I said I believe the air fryer has an edge in this regard. It occurred to me that if I flipped and basted the steak every minute or two, I would be basting the steak much longer. It would be more like glazing than basting, but with the benefits of both.
I was right. The flavor of my baste really penetrated into the interior of the meat, in a way that was delicious.
Get On With The Recipe Already
If you are still reading. Not only do I thank you for your perseverance but you also have my deepest respect. Your culinary curiosity and love of a good steak are your superpower.
I’m not actually going to do a recipe today. When I master air frying a steak I will be excited to share. Till then I am sharing the results of an experiment, with fellow steak lovers, with the hope we can master this together.
Continuing The Experiment, My Recommendations
When using an air fryer to cook a steak, I recommend using a Steak House Style cut. Any cut will work fine. To date, I have tried both Ribeye and NY Strip. A thin-cut steak (1 inch or less) would be overcooked before you developed any browning at all.
I also recommend using a probe thermometer to get the desired results. You will not be able to touch or see your steak for the majority of the cooking time. Having the reading from the probe will be critical to achieving a perfect result.
Beware Carry Over Cooking
Carry overcooking is how much a piece of meat continues to cook after it is removed from the heat. With a pan-seared steak, you can expect a thick-cut steak to go up as much as 5 degrees but with the air fryer is way more severe.
My first steak I cooked at 450 (the max temp of my air fryer) It took about 11 minutes for my probe to read 130 degrees. I pulled out the steak and let it rest. To my horror, I watched the probe go from 130 to 140, then 153 is where it finally peaked! That’s over 20 degrees of carry-over cooking.
The second steak, shown above, I pulled at 115 degrees and peaked during the rest a 135.
Steak Temperature Guide
|Temp You Might Ask For||Temperature (F)||Temperature (Celsius)||Notes|
|Blue Steak||110 – 115° F||43 – 46° C||Cooler purplish center. Pull from heat when it reaches 108° F|
|Rare||120 – 125° F||49 – 52° C||Cooler red center Pull from heat when it reaches 115° F|
|Medium Rare||130 – 135° F||54 – 57° C||Most popular, warm red center. Pull from heat when it reaches 125° F|
|Medium||140 – 145° F||60 – 63° C||Warm pink center, less pink around the edges. Pull from heat when it reaches 135° F|
|Medium Well||150 – 160° F||65 – 71° C||Light pink center with little color on the edges. Pull from heat when it reaches 145° F|
|Well Done||160 – 170° F||71 – 77° C||Center has little to no pick. Pull from heat when it reaches 155° F|
I always recommend using a thermometer to temp a steak. You may have seen TV chefs do a thing where they touch different fingers together then they poke the ball of their hand at the base of their thumb. DO NOT ATTEMPT AT HOME! This does not work, as every steak is different, every cut of steak is different, and everyone’s hands are different.
I have been cooking in restaurants for most of my life so I have literally cooked 10’s of 1000’s of steaks. I can poke just about any steak and be reasonably certain what the temperature is inside. It took me a decade to learn to do this with any degree of accuracy.
Cooking Steak in an Air Fryer Conclusion
I still have more to learn when It comes to air frying a nice steak. I am, however, excited to try again and I discovered a few critical benefits of using the air fryer and only one drawback. The baste was amazing and the render on the fat was delightful.
The drawback is only the crazy carry-over cooking, and the difficulty I had with developing nice browning.
I believe I can out science these drawbacks and deliver a truly perfect air-fried steak.
When I do, you all will be the first I share the technique with.
Till then, happy cooking. – Chef Eric
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