This Is the Secret to the Best Air Fryer Steak Bites

This Is the Secret to the Best Air Fryer Steak Bites

Air frying bite-sized chunks of steak might be one of the most casual ways to pop straight protein (thanks, TikTok). It’s fast, simple, and you can toss or dip the bites in any number of sauces. However, like most good ideas born on social media, there’s room for improvement. Yes, you should make some popcorn meat, but here’s how to make the very best air fryer steak bites. It involves not overcooking them.

When I first came across air frying steak bites, my mind jumped from “ooh!” to “oh no.” Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem eating overcooked steak; in fact there are a number of ways to make it better. I would however rather prevent overcooking it in the first place. The original method of steak bites involves a boneless, mostly lean cut of steak like sirloin, and slicing it into bite-sized pieces. (More on what that size is in a moment.) The meat is then seasoned and tossed into a preheated 400°F air fryer and cooked on the “air fry” setting for seven minutes. The steak bites are unveiled with nicely browned edges, and they get tossed in a garlic butter, or some other sauce to serve. The problem is, they’re overcooked.

Sad, tough, overcooked steak bites. Let’s fix this.

After trying a batch in this manner, as you can see above, I ended up with flavorful but damn tough steak bites. In most recipe photos I came across, the steak was well done. Very well, actually. It’s no wonder why—the steak oven is set to a high temperature, the convection action is strong, and those steak pieces are small. The first batch was sad. My second batch, however, was phenomenal. The steak was tender, slightly crisp and browned on the edges, flavorful, juicy, and pink in the center. This is what I did.

It’s never too late to get an air fryer. Come on in, the water’s fine:

Don’t cut them too small

I know they’re steak bites, but don’t cut them into actual single bite sizes. That’s too small. It just is. In order to get nice browning on the edges of these bites and build that interesting depth of flavor the Maillard reaction gives steak, it needs time. If you were to pull the steak out after three minutes to preserve a tender, medium-done center, the outside would be gray and soft. This is fine and edible, but there are no browned edges, and we deserve to have it all.

Cut the steak into something of a two-bite size—that’s about an inch and a half, or two-inch cube. Don’t worry: The fun of having steak as finger food is still there, it’s still small-ish, and if you think about it, that’s roughly the size of chicken nuggets. This larger size will protect the center from overcooking, and preserve much more of the steak’s natural moisture. Step two is just as important.

Freeze your steak bites

This is clutch for our purposes and, as Claire has informed us, air frying frozen steak is totally worth doing. Bringing the center of the steak bites down to freezing temps buys time in the air fryer. Since the convection is cooking from the outside in, your bites will start to sizzle and brown on the outside while the center is still getting warm. When the timer dings after seven minutes, the exterior of the bite has browned on the edges and the interior is juicy, tender, and pink.

How to make the best air fryer steak bites

Once you’ve cut your sirloin into two-bite pieces, blot them dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture. Season them generously with salt. Maybe with a little more salt than you think.

Blotted, salted, frozen steak bites.

Lay them out on a parchment lined sheet pan so they’re not touching, and put the entire tray in the freezer for 45 minutes to an hour.

Frozen steak bites ready to go.

The chunks of meat should be quite frozen. Preheat the air fryer. Scatter the steak bites in the air fryer so they’re not crowded, and cook at 400°F for seven minutes. Serve tossed in a board sauce, chimichurri, or as-is in their meaty glory.

The edges brown, but you can also see that the pieces are still juicy in the center.

You can even batch-prepare steak bites this way and keep them in the freezer. After freezing them on the sheet pan for an hour, place the frozen chunks in a freezer bag or container. Whenever you’re looking to pack some protein, heat up the air fryer and toss in a handful of frozen steak bites.

Perfect Air Fryer Steak Bites

What you’ll need:

  • 8 ounces sirloin steak, cut into two-inch cubes
  • ½ tablespoon salt


  1. Dry the steak cubes with a paper towel. Salt generously.
  2. Place the steak pieces on a parchment lined sheet tray.
  3. Freeze the bites for 45 to 60 minutes.
  4. Preheat the air fryer to 400°F (200C) on the “air fry” setting. Cook for 7 minutes.
  5. Serve with sauce or enjoy as is.

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