What’s cooking today: Staking out the perfect air fryer steak
We’ve all had a Hollywood disaster movie play out in our kitchen while cooking a steak. The smoke-filled room, the eyes watering, the dogs going mad at the back door. There’s a better solution, and it’s glaring at you from your kitchen countertop.
The key to air fryer cooking is containment. And an air fryer is the Fort Knox of cooking kit. It locks up as securely and totally as the metal bar of a prison cell door clanging shut. What’s inside stays inside and out of sight, if not entirely out of scent.
Have you noticed how, when cooking in your air fryer, there’s no sign of anything escaping? No smoke seeping out, nothing overflowing, no hint of anything at all. If you couldn’t hear the machine’s hum and see its digital display, you wouldn’t know it was operating at all.
What this means is that those side-effects of cooking are hidden away in that little box we call the air fryer. Everything stays in there. The hot air that is blowing in it stays in it, and somehow it does not create all that smoke that fills the kitchen when you cook a steak in a frying pan or griddle/skillet.
The other side of this, I suppose, is that enjoyment we do get from the aromas of the steak while it cooks. It’s an enticement; it gets the tastebuds ready for the feast. There is a little of that emanating from the air fryer, but without the fog of smoke that emits in the kitchen from the stove top.
It’s a matter of balance, really. A little of that smoke that leaves the pan and wafts past the nostrils is a wonderful thing; too much and the effect is spoiled. It reminds me of the difference between a great movie well made, and a clunky second-rate horror fest with all the finesse of a bull that’s run out of china shops.
The last thing you want is for John Carpenter’s The Fog to be remade in your kitchen with menacing dead-eyed figures trudging out of the smoke to lay waste to your kitchen cupboards; a B-grade schlock-horror nastypiece to leach into your home and ruin dinner.
Suffice for a steak cooked evenly in the pan on a moderately high heat in the right amount of fat, but getting the balance right without entering B-grade movie territory is a matter of fine tuning and we often don’t get it right.
Enter, from stage left, the air fryer, with its canny ability to contain all of those vapours while causing no splatter and splutter at all, and yet turning out a steak that’s pleasingly caramelised on the outside and juicy and tender within. Yes, an air fryer is the steak cook’s new best friend. Here’s how.
(Per 2 servings)
2 x 300g to 400g Porterhouse (sirloin) steaks, preferably nicely aged
2 Tbsp olive oil (more if steaks are bigger)
3 Tbsp butter, melted
Picked thyme leaves, about 1 Tbsp
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Brush both sides of the steak with olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper.
Preheat the air fryer to 200℃.
Cook the steak at 200℃ for 6 minutes, then turn and cook for another 2 minutes. This should give you a medium rare steak. Take 2 minutes off for rare or add 2 minutes for medium.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the thyme leaves. Turn off the heat and let the leaves steep for a few minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Pour the thyme butter over the steaks when serving, and garnish with a thyme sprig. DM
Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.