Can You Cook Steak in an Air Fryer?

And more importantly, should you?

Charcoal Grilled Ribeye Steak Medium Rare Plated With A Side Of Sauteed Green Beans With Bacon And Garlic
Photo: grandriver/Getty Images

Air frying is all the rage these days, and for good reason. These convenient countertop devices heat up quickly, blasting food with fast-moving hot air from all angles. This convection-style heat flow gets lots of foods super crispy without using nearly the amount of oil that other cooking techniques — like frying, sautéing, or even old-school roasting — require. Given air frying's rapid and unyielding popularity, it seems like just about every food item in the kitchen is getting shoved into that little air fryer drawer, whether it belongs there or not. Take, for example, steak.

While, yes, you can absolutely cook steak in an air fryer, doing so is not necessarily your clearest path to a juicy, medium-rare piece of meat. There are numerous factors to consider when deciding if you should cook your steak in the air fryer. Here's what you need to chew on before air frying your next steak.

Pros of Air Frying Steak

cut up flank steak on cutting board

Hands-Off Cooking

This is probably the most obvious advantage to cooking a steak in an air fryer. While traditional stove-top searing requires you to be present, to flip and to baste the steak, an air fryer offers a set-it-and-forget-it approach. The whole process only takes ten minutes either way, but the ease of not having to stand over the stove is appealing to plenty of cooks, especially if you're also cooking side dishes.

Air Fryer Steak Recipes to Try:

Less Mess

Depending on the cut of meat, steaks can sometimes produce a lot of fat, which splatters at high heat and can create a mess on kitchen surfaces. The closed-off basket of an air fryer prevents this from happening, so you only have to clean your air fryer, not your stove and countertops. On the other hand, if you have the option to grill a steak outside, you'll also be able to avoid mess.

Low Intimidation Factor

Cooking a steak in a skillet on the stovetop can be intimidating. It requires high heat, which many home cooks prefer to stay away from. If you only feel comfortable cooking steak in an air fryer or using another hands-off method, that's the way you should go. It may not be the irrefutably best way to do it, but it will get the job done. Every cook is different, and sometimes the goal is getting good food on the table, not producing a life-changing entree.

Cons of Air Frying Steak

an overhead view of three raw steaks well seasoned with a dry rub mix of herbs and spices.
Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

Less Flavor

The flip-side of the fact that air frying is a relatively hands-free cooking method is that you won't be able to take advantage of flavor building techniques, like spooning a little melted butter over the steak while it cooks. This technique, called basting, helps create an exceptionally succulent steak with nicely browned flavor bits – you'll never get that effect with an air fryer. Because of this, steaks cooked in air fryers typically don't have that rich, caramelized flavor and exterior texture that so many people love.

Size Restraints

When cooking steak in an air fryer, you're inherently limited by the machine's size. Larger cuts, like ribeyes or even a family-sized sirloin, won't fit well in the basket of most air fryers, which are usually not huge. Instead, you'll need to go with smaller cuts like filet mignon and other more petite boneless cuts of meat. Take this into consideration when deciding how to cook your steak and what kind of steak to buy: Bone-in cuts are often more flavorful and harder to overcook, but you'll have a more difficult time getting them into your air fryer.

Temperature Limitations

The top temperature most air fryers reach is 450 degrees F, which is a relatively low temperature to cook a steak at. When you're searing a steak on the stovetop, the best way to get great char and flavor without overcooking the steak is to use a very hot – even lightly smoking – pan (or a grill!). The hot surface cooks the steak quickly, which prevents the inside from overcooking and drying out. In an air fryer, the temperature combined with the fast movement of air can cause the steak to be dry by the time it's cooked. This is especially a problem when you're dealing with leaner cuts, like sirloin.

So, Does Steak Belong in an Air Fryer?

Ultimately, whether or not to cook steak in the air fryer is entirely up to you. Air frying may not lead to the most mouthwatering final product, but it offers other benefits that may offset the drawback for many home cooks. And if you're looking for a quick and easy way to cook steak in order to use it as an element of your recipe (say, a steak sandwich, steak quesadilla, or steak nachos), versus serving it as the "star" of the plate, your air fryer can certainly get the job done.


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