This char siu in the air fryer will taste just as good as the char siu you are used to getting from your Chinese takeaway. Char siu is pork that has been marinated in a sweet and salty sauce, which is then basted with a sticky glaze before being cooked to perfection.
Char siu is very easy to make yourself, and even easier using our air fryer method. The air fryer will keep the meat juicy and tender, and give it a beautiful shiny red finish. Give it a go, and start making restaurant quality char siu today!
Why Make Char Siu in the Air Fryer?
As you probably guessed, Steph and I are still very obsessed with our air fryer. Cooking in an air fryer is super easy and the clean up afterwards is much quicker than with a conventional oven.
So, it was only natural that we tried making char siu recipe in the air fryer instead of the oven.
We found the air fryer cooked the char siu quicker and allowed the pork to stay juicy and tender. It also produced a very good char without drying out the meat.
So after a few trial runs, it is very clear from this point onwards I will only ever make char siu in the air fryer! IT IS TOO GOOD!
What Cut of Pork to Use for Char Siu in the Air Fryer
There is a lot of debate around which cut of pork is best for char siu. The most popular cuts seem to be pork collar butt or pork shoulder.
I however, like to use meaty cuts of pork belly. The higher fat content makes your char siu more tender and juicy. This is especially important to me since I am not a fan of dry or hard char siu.
Whatever cut you choose, cut the meat into 2 cm thick or 3/4 inch pieces. Anything thicker will need extra cooking time, and you really want to keep the cooking time as short as possible to avoid drying out the meat.
Here are the most popular options when choosing a cut of pork for char siu:
- Juicy / fatty char siu – pork belly
- In between juicy and dry char siu – pork collar butt / pork shoulder / scotch fillet
- Dry and meaty char siu- pork loin or tenderloin
Getting the Iconic Red Char Siu Colour
A lot of people will recognise char siu from its iconic red colour. This is usually achieved by adding one or more of the following red ingredients to the marinade:
- Red fermented bean curd – this will give you a reddish dark brown colour and add depth of flavour. Available from Asian groceries.
- Red food colouring – will give you a deep red colour. Available from mainstream supermarkets.
- Red yeast rice powder – will give you a more natural red colour. Available from Asian groceries.
- Beetroot powder – a healthier option, though it can be expensive and harder to find. Available from health food stores.
My recommendation is red fermented bean curd because it gives you a more natural looking colour and extra flavour. It may mean another trip down to the Asian groceries but I think it is worth it.
Marinating the Char Siu
So you all know I would never tell you to marinade something unless you had to, but this is one of those situations where marinating is a must. The pork will need to marinate for a good 1-2 days in the fridge to absorb the flavour and colour. Flip the zip lock bag every now and then to ensure the marinade gets evenly distributed.
Air Frying the Char Siu
Preheat the air fryer to 200 C/ 400 F. Baste the meat with the honey and marinade mixture. Spray the air fryer racks with a little oil, then cook the meat for 12 minutes, basting again and flipping the meat at the halfway point. Flip one more time and cook for 3 more minutes to cook off any raw pork reside.
How to Serve Char Siu
Char siu is great on its own, but is more commonly served with:
- Jasmine rice and boiled Asian greens (most popular)
- Char siu bao (Chinese BBQ pork bun)
- Egg noodle soup (as a topping)
Other Air Fryer Recipes You Might Enjoy
Hope you guys enjoyed this recipe post! If you guys do make this recipe, please tag us at #scruffandsteph on Instragram and Facebook.
Scruff and Steph
Sticky Char Siu in the Air Fryer (Chinese BBQ Pork)
- 1 kg pork belly or rashers
- 1 tsp five spice powder
- 2.5 tsp salt
- pepper, to taste
- 4 tbsp white sugar
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
- 1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
- 2 tbsp honey
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 cubes red fermented tofu, mashed (Note 1)
- 3 tsp red fermented tofu liquid (Note 1)
- 3 tbsp honey
- 3 tbsp marinade
- 1 tsp water
In a bowl, combine the marinade ingredients. Once thoroughly combined, take out 3 tbsp of marinade and put it into a small container. Put the container in the fridge until needed. (This is for the baste)
Prepare the pork by cutting it into manageable sized pieces to fit into your air fryer at 2 cm or ¾ inch thickness. Remove any pork rind and save it for another recipe.
Put the pork and marinade in a zip lock bag and shake until the pork is fully covered. Marinate for 1 – 2 days in the fridge.
When ready, remove the pork from the fridge and let it sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.
Pre-heat the air fryer to 200 C / 400 F.
Combine the baste ingredients together in a small bowl. (Use the 3 tbsp of marinade that you stored in the fridge earlier)
Spray the wire rack or the basket with a little oil and lay the pork on top. Do not let the pork stack on top of each other. You may need to cook the meat in batches. (Note 2)
Baste the pork on both sides with a brush then cook for 6 minutes in the air fryer at 200 C / 400 F.
Take the pork out of the air fryer and baste again on both sides. Cook for another 6 minutes on the side that was previously facing down.
Remove from air fryer. Flip one more time and cook for roughly 2 – 3 minutes or until the pork is cooked and there is a decent amount of char at the edges.
Repeat with any remaining strips of char siu until all done.
- The red fermented tofu cubes and liquid can be substituted for 1/4 tsp red food colouring.
- If you need to cook in batches, then remember to clean out the basket / wire rack / tray before the next batch. This will prevent leftover marinade residue being cooked again in the next batch and giving off a “burnt” smell.