AirFryday: Pepper steak, the air fryer way

AirFryday: Pepper steak, the air fryer way
Tony Jackman’s fillet steak cooked in an air fryer, with pepper sauce and air fryer chips. (Photo: Tony Jackman)

Fillet steak, rare, medium rare, or well done (if you must). But can you cook it successfully in an air fryer? Yes, you can.

People have love-hate relationships with fillet steak. It’s regarded as the least flavourful of beef steak cuts – the easy option which is almost certain to turn out tender, and that is a fillet steak’s trump card. 

But other cuts, whether sirloin, the confoundingly complex rump (it comprises up to five muscles – how are you supposed to cook all that evenly?), or the perplexing T-bone, are inevitably more flavourful. Me, I’m a fan of picanha, but we’ll get to that one AirFryday soon.

There’s another way of seeing a fillet steak: its relative “lack” of flavour (I actually love its subtle natural taste) enables it to soak up other flavours that are cooked with it. Hence, fillet steak being far and away the best cut for pepper steak. And Chateaubriand is not lauded as a prince among beef cuts for nothing.

Now let’s talk about the bloody “blood” in a raw steak. Or a rare or even a medium one. The “blood” in meat isn’t blood at all. It just looks “bloody”. In fact, it’s water mixed with myoglobin. As much as 75% of the red “blood” in your meat is water. It only needs a mind switch, and if you are dubious, read this.

As with almost anything I now cook (or at least give a try) in an air fryer, I was sceptical of how a fillet steak would turn out. I like to see a steak while it cooks in a pan – to be able to touch it to assess its tenderness, to enjoy the process with eyes as well as nose. 

A steak cooking in an air fryer is out of sight, relatively, and depending on the brand you own and whether it has a window one can see through. 

But I cooked fillet steaks in my air fryer, very successfully, and made a pepper sauce on the stove top, then served it with air fryer chips on the side.

(Per 1 portion of steak, sauce serves 2-4)


1 x 300 g fillet steak per portion

2 Tbsp melted butter

Salt to taste

Black pepper to taste (yes, more)

Cooking oil spray


Preheat the air fryer to 200℃. Spray the basket with cooking oil spray.

Melt the butter in a pot or in the microwave. Brush the butter on to the steak/s on both sides, lightly. Season with salt and black pepper on both sides.

Cook at 200℃ for the following times:

Ten to 11 minutes for rare, turning after 7 minutes;

Twelve to 13 minutes for medium rare, turning after 8 minutes;

Up to 14 minutes for medium, turning after 9 minutes.

Well done? Give it about 15 minutes, but don’t blame this messenger if it’s less appealing than it could be.

Leave it to rest for 5 minutes with the air fryer drawer open. 

For the pepper sauce:


1 medium onion or 2 or 3 shallots, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 Tbsp butter

1 heaped Tbsp hot English mustard

1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

2 Tbsp whole black peppercorns

1 heaped tsp finely ground black pepper

250 ml/1 cup beef stock

⅓ cup Cognac or brandy

⅓ cup Old Brown Sherry

200 ml cream

Salt to taste 


Melt the butter in a heavy pan and add the chopped onions/shallots and garlic. Fry gently, stirring, until softened. Add the crushed peppercorns, ground pepper, thyme leaves and beef stock, bring to a simmer and briskly stir in the mustard.

Add the Cognac or brandy and Sherry, bring back to a simmer and cook until reduced by half. Give it time and make the heat slow and kind. That slow touch will bring up all the flavours.

Add the cream and bring it to a gently rolling bubble, simmering slowly until it becomes perfect and impossible not to taste. This is key, because this is what is going to create that luscious, creamy sauce. 

Season to taste with salt. Taste again and decide whether you’re happy with the flavour balance. If you need to, you can add more of either or both liquors and cook it a little longer. Just be sure you get the creaminess back to the sauce.

Meanwhile, cook the steaks to your liking. DM/TGIFood

Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.

This dish is photographed on a plate by Mervyn Gers Ceramics.



Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Siobhan Hanvey says:

    Yum. Funny you should publish this – we have fillet steak for supper. If I may make a suggestion I use the Mantova Extra virgin olive oil spray – there are a couple of different flavours – I love the turmeric one it really makes a difference with items such as air fryer Sweet Potato chips . We would give your recipe a whirl tonight but you know – load shedding! 18h00 to 20h30 – hey-ho living in South Africa is not for sissies. But next time we have fillet and there is no load shedding we will give it a whirl. I would also wonder what smoked pork fillet would taste like if air fried?

  • Jennifer Duncan says:

    Thank you for this. I found the recommendations about the cooking of the steak helpful. Followed the time preparation and instructions and it was yummy. I was interested to see the recommendation regarding cooking oil spray. I belong to a group on Facebook in which everyone is warned *never* to use cooking spray in an air fryer.

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