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Two words: pan sear.

Elizabeth Laseter
December 06, 2018
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Air fryer steak immediately raises a red flag. Cooking steak is straightforward enough, so why overcomplicate it by tossing it into an air fryer?  

Hear me out. I have nothing against the air fryer. This mini convection oven, which cooks food by circulating hot air around it, is actually pretty amazing. It can make foods that are typically fried—like French fries, doughnuts, and chicken wings—a whole lot healthier by eliminating the need for excess oil.

RELATED: 35+ Healthy Recipes You Can Make in an Air Fryer

Despite my skepticism, there are a plethora of recipes for air fryer steak all over the internet. And several even claim to make . On top of that, one particular model—the Power Air Fryer XL—even has a specific setting for cooking steak.

Can your air fryer really cook the perfect steak? And does it top tried-and-true methods like pan-searing? I wanted to find out for myself.

How to Cook Steak in an Air Fryer

Not all air fryers are created equal, so make sure to read the instruction manual for your particular model before cooking. For this test, I used the . To keep things nice and simple, I settled on a New York strip steak, which is lean, tender, and flavorful when cooked properly. Here’s the exact ingredient breakdown and method I followed:

  • 1  9 ½ oz. New York strip steak
  • ¼ tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Step One
Bring the steak to room temperature (this helps it cook more evenly). Next, set your air fryer to 400 degrees and pre-heat it for 3 minutes on any setting. While you’re waiting, remove excess fat from the edges of your steak—it should pull off easily, but you can use a sharp knife.

Step Two
Season the steak and rub it all over with olive oil. Place the steak inside the air fryer basket, set the temperature to 400 degrees and the cook time for 7 minutes if you prefer medium-rare.

Step Three
Flip the steak about halfway through cooking, remove it from the air fryer, and let it rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Note: The Power Air Fryer XL has a steak preset, but I just don’t recommend using it. This setting—which adjusts the temperature to 400 degrees and cook time to 12 minutes—is only useful if you’re cooking a larger cut of beef like a bone-in ribeye. For smaller cuts like strip steak, 12 minutes of cooking is way too long.

The Verdict on Air Fryer Steak

Elizabeth Laseter

Hands down, this was the saddest-looking steak I’ve ever cooked. It picked up ZERO sear in the air fryer, and it lacked the gorgeous, golden-brown crust you can get from a cast-iron skillet. Aesthetics: 0 out of 10.

Here’s another big issue: The Power Air Fryer XL can fit only one steak in its basket. If you’re cooking for one, this is fine, but if you’re cooking for a crowd it’s completely impractical. In the same amount of time it takes to air fry one steak, you can cook four steaks in a large cast-iron skillet. Convenience: 0 out of 10.

On the bright side, seven minutes in the air fryer produced a flawless medium rare steak. On the inside, it was surprisingly juicy and moist. Regardless, this steak loses serious points in the flavor department for lacking a sear on the outside. Flavor: 5 out of 10.

So, with that said, there are plenty of delicious things you can make with an air fryer, but steak is not one of them. (The same goes for bacon—you can read about that fiasco here.)

The Best Way to Cook Steak

Photo: Caitlin Bensel

Please don’t ruin your perfectly nice steak by air frying it. Instead, pan-sear your steak in a cast-iron skillet or stainless steel skillet. This method doesn’t require fancy equipment (just your skillet and a pair of tongs), you can cook several steaks at once, and it guarantees a perfect golden-brown sear that will add boundless flavor.

Need a foolproof, basic recipe? Make this Pan-Seared Strip Steak—I promise you won’t regret it.

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