6 expert-approved tips for making BBQ food in an air fryer

Beat the rainy weather and make delicious BBQ food using an air fryer

How to make BBQ food in an air fryer
(Image credit: Ninja)

Despite it being the middle of the summer, the weather in the UK has taken a turn for the worse. Long gone is the scorching heatwave that had us all outside enjoying the sun. Now, it’s overcast, windy and rainy… far from BBQ weather! If you love barbecues but don’t want to stand outside in the cold frying up a burger, it turns out you can make delicious BBQ-style food in an air fryer.

Now, this might come as a shock to some. From searing and grilling to steaming and reheating, the best barbecue gives food that authentic smoky flavour and texture that’s hard to replicate with traditional methods of cooking. Despite the power and popularity of the best air fryers, their way of cooking is completely different from barbecues, grills and smokers… so how can you possibly cook BBQ food in one?!

To find out more, I spoke to the grocery delivery service, Getir. Food experts from Getir found that Google searches for ‘air fryer BBQ recipes’ have skyrocketed by 193% over the past year, alongside searches for ‘air fryer BBQ ideas’ increasing by 370%. With this in mind, Getir came up with “a few simple hacks we should all be doing to get the same renowned char, flavour and grill marks from a BBQ in your air fryer.”

If you want tasty BBQ food no matter the weather, here are 6 expert-approved tips to transform your trusty air fryer into a mean lean grilling machine.

1. Preheat for maximum flavour

Just like how you’d preheat your BBQ before putting food on the grill, it’s important to preheat your air fryer too. Doing this replicates the high heat that you get from a BBQ and maximises flavour and crispiness. Getir recommends “preheating your air fryer for 3-5 minutes between 175°C and 200°C which is the best temperature to cook most BBQ-style foods.” Cooking at this high heat in your air fryer ensures your food will get a juicy tender inside and a crispy sear on the outside.

2. Season the basket with an onion

BBQ food is all about flavour and to replicate this with your air fryer, “a great trick is to cut an onion in half and rub it on the basket grates before you start grilling.” Not only does this add extra seasoning to your food, but the natural enzymes and acidity from the onion prevents food from sticking to your air fryer’s basket, making clean-up a lot easier.

3. Choose thicker cuts of meat

As air fryers offer extremely fast cooking times, it’s important to factor this in when you’re choosing what BBQ food recipes you want to make. Getir recommends using a thicker cut of protein to account for this speed and to ensure the flavour and texture of the meat is at its best. For example, burgers are one of the most popular things to BBQ and Getir suggests cooking them at 180°C for 7 minutes on each side for a medium-rare air fried burger. If you prefer your burger well done, add a couple of minutes to the cooking time on each side.

Air fryer cooking hack

(Image credit: Amazon)

4. It’s all in the marinade!

To get that charred smoky flavour that barbecues are known for, you need to pay attention to your marinade so you get the same bold tastes using your air fryer. For maximum flavour, marinate your protein and vegetables overnight before chucking them in the air fryer. While you can buy pre-made marinades, it’s better to make your own, using “olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper to form the base and adding paprika, barbecue sauce, cumin and smoked salts or spices” for a smoky flavour.

5. Use skewers

Using skewers in your air fryer is a great way to increase capacity and prevent food waste. As air fryers don’t have as much room compared to a grill, making skewers and kebabs means you can make multiple batches of food at a time and cater to larger groups of people. To maximise your space even more, use your air fryer’s trays or racks for more layers of food. Not only does this help with even cooking and easy flipping, “but it prevents tiny bits of food from falling through the cracks in the air fryer basket,” says Getir.

6. Monitor cooking time

Air fryers are a lot faster than traditional cooking methods, including BBQs. So, to avoid burning your food, you need to monitor your cooking times. When cooking anything in an air fryer, Getir states that “the general rule is to reduce the recommended oven cooking time by around 20%. But, check in on the basket ahead of this and make adjustments based on your preferences and the size of the food”.

For more food advice, take a look at the best foods to cook in an air fryer and try these BBQ recipes for charcoal, gas, pellet and electric grills.

Bethan Girdler-Maslen
Home Editor

Beth is Home Editor for T3, looking after style, living and wellness. From the comfiest mattresses to what strange things you can cook in an air fryer, Beth covers sleep, yoga, smart home, coffee machines, grooming tools, fragrances, gardening and much more. If it's something that goes in your house, chances are Beth knows about it and has the latest reviews and recommendations! She's also in the know about the latest deals and discount codes from top brands and retailers.

Having always been passionate about writing, she’s written for websites, newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics, from jewellery and culture, to food and telecoms. You can find her work across numerous sites, including Wedding Ideas Magazine, Health & Wellbeing, The Bristol Post, Fashion & Style Directory, TechRadar, CreativeBloq and more. In her spare time, Beth enjoys running, reading, baking and attempting craft projects that will probably end in disaster!