This Air Fried Char Siu takes half the time to cook than the oven baked method. Also, find out what makes the enticing shiny lacquered glaze.
While it is not difficult to make Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork), the traditional method baked in the oven can be tedious. You have to take the pan of meat in and out of the oven to apply the marinate or glaze. The cleanup is another issue that discourages people from making the delicious dish at home. Baked on sticky glaze on the pan and in the oven is no fun to clean.
Air Fryer Recipes
This is where the air fryer has a distinct advantage. An air fryer is basically a small and portable convection oven i.e. an oven with a fan. It cooks much faster as the heat is circulated in the small cavity in the air fryer and so it is very efficient. Some air fryer basket even comes coated with a non-stick coating which makes cleanup a breeze.
Also, many air fryer recipes use very little to no cooking oil and yet the exterior of the food cooked is crispy. Let’s face it, we all love fried foods. While deep fried foods may taste marginally better, the convenience and potentially “healthier” air fried foods is a big plus.
Secret to Shiny Char Siu Glaze
Now, back to our Air Fried Char Siu. There are many Char Siu recipes out on the internet but most of them use honey and brown sugar in their marinade and glaze. You will notice that they do not have the enticing sticky, shiny lacquer of restaurant quality Char Siu. Not all sweeteners are made the same.
So, what is maltose? Maltose, a.k.a. mak nga tong (in Cantonese) is a malt sugar made out of two molecules of glucose bound together. Table sugar has one molecule of glucose and one of fructose. Maltose is less sweet than sugar and is often used to make candy because of its high heat tolerance. It is also very sticky and so it makes a better glaze giving the meats cooked with it a shiny, lacquered appearance.
Therefore, if you want a sticky shiny glaze on your Char Siu, use maltose. It is inexpensive and can be found at some Asian grocery stores. They come in little white containers with a red lid.
Cut of Pork For Air Fried Char Siu
When it comes to Char Siu, a little bit of fat in the pork is desirable or it will be hard and dry. I like to use pork shoulder or pork butt if the former is not available. Pork butt is not the rear end of the pig. It is the cut of meat closer to the neck, above pork shoulder, with fat marbling throughout. Both cuts come from the pig’s shoulder. You can also use pork belly if you can’t find pork shoulder.
Air Frying time may vary if you choose a different cut of pork or if the strips are thinner or thicker than that specified in the recipe below. Please adjust accordingly.
Char Siu Sauce
For extra deliciousness, strain the leftover marinade and combine with any leftover glaze to make a sweet delicious sauce. Drizzle this sauce over the meat just before serving.
Similar Products Used To Make These Air Fried Char Siu
This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy here.
Air Fried Char Siu (Chinese BBQ Pork)
- 3 lbs pork shoulder (trimmed and cut into 2 inch thick strips)**
- Trim off excessive fat from pork shoulder. Cut into 2 inch thick strips. Place in a large bowl.
- Place fermented red soybean in a bowl or measuring cup. Mash with a spoon.
- Add Shao Hsing cooking wine, dark soy sauce, maltose, hoisin sauce,
- sesame oil, five-spice powder, and minced garlic. Stir vigorously for maltose to melt and combine.
- Pour marinade over pork in the bowl. Stir to get pork strips coated with marinade. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Place bowl in the refrigerator overnight. It is better if you can marinate for 48 hours.
- When ready to cook, remove bowl from refrigerator. Transfer marinated pork strips to a tray. Reserve the remaining marinade.
- Place all glaze ingredients in a bowl and
- stir vigorously to combine.
- Line air fryer basket with aluminum foil. This is to make an imprint of the shape of the air fryer basket. Remove and set aside.
- Place air fryer basket (without aluminum foil) in the unit. Close the hood and set air fryer to 390⁰F (200⁰C) for 24 minutes. Press start to begin preheating.
- When unit beeps, open the hood and place aluminum foil in the air fryer basket. Then, arrange pork strips on the aluminum foil in the air fryer basket. Close hood to let pork strips cook for 8 minutes.
- After 8 minutes, open the hood and flip the pork strips over. Close the hood and continue cooking for another 8 minutes.
- Open the hood and brush prepared glaze on top and sides of the pork strips. Close the hood and continue cooking for another 4 minutes.
- After 4 minutes, open the hood and flip the pork strips. Brush remaining glaze on top of the pork strips. Close hood and continue cooking for remaining 4 minutes.
- When cooking is complete, check to make sure the thickest part of pork strips registers 145⁰F/63⁰C. Remove char siu from air fryer and let it rest on a tray covered with aluminum foil.
- Strain reserved marinade into a small saucepan. Add any leftover glaze and ¼ cup (60ml) water. Bring sauce to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil until sauce is thick and syrupy, about 10 minutes. Turn off stove.
- Slice char siu into thin pieces and arrange them on a plate. To serve, pour some of the sauce over the sliced char siu.