If you’ve ever had some rubbery white stuff in the middle of a pile of veggies that tasted like cardboard, chances are it could have been tofu…cooked by someone who didn’t know the top tips that we’re about to share with you!
Tofu can be crazily delicious if you know how to prepare it. So here are our kitchen secrets that will keep your tofu from being rubbery, bland, or just plain mushy and tasteless.
Buy the right kind of tofu
Not all kinds of tofu are right for all recipes. When we think tofu, most of us think of the white blocks of pressed and condensed soy milk that is firm like a brick. However, there are several types of tofu, and if you buy soft instead of firm for your stir-fry recipe, you’ll be in trouble before you even begin cooking.
The main types of tofu are silken, and firm or extra-firm.
Silken tofu is a perfect addition to recipes that require a creamy, dairy-free option for smooth recipes. Think smoothies, soups, desserts, sauces, and dressings. Silken tofu is easily blended with other ingredients to give you silky results – hence its name.
Firm or extra-firm tofu is what you’ll find sold in blocks that look like feta cheese. You may find soft tofu in this category as well, so check the label before buying. The soft blocks are perfect for cubes that will melt in your mouth without giving too much flavor, as in miso soup. Medium-firm tofu can work in tofu scrambles or stir-fries but know that this tofu will crumble a bit – which might be what you want for that particular recipe. Firm or extra-firm tofu is what you want when you need firm cubes or slices that will hold their shape in stir-fries or scrambles.
Press your tofu before cooking
For tofu, a crucial step is to press it before cooking to remove the excess water. If you are using soft tofu, you can drain it and blot it with a towel to dry it. If you are using medium, firm, or extra-firm tofu, you’ll need to press the water out using pressure from a weighted plate or a tofu press.
Think of your tofu like a sponge: the more water you remove before you marinate it or add spices or sauces, the better your tofu will absorb these flavors.
To press your tofu, place it between towels or plates and put a weight on top, such as a cast-iron skillet, a heavy can, or other weight. Drain the liquid periodically – this process should take at least 30 minutes.
If you are in a hurry, get yourself a tofu press that will do the work for you in about 5 minutes. An example of a perfect press for block tofu is at https://tofubud.com/products/tofu-press.
Use small pieces
Tofu works best when you cut it into small cubes or slices to absorb flavors better. Think of your block of tofu like a large piece of cheese: it’s more pleasant to eat in small bite-sized pieces.
Use oil-free marinades
Even pressed tofu that has been patted dry will still have some water inside. If you use oil in your marinade, the moisture will keep the marinade outside the tofu.
Try liquids for your marinades like lemon or lime juice, vinegar, flavorful stock, or soy sauce.
Another trick is to add a bit of marinade to your tofu as a glaze after it has cooked. You can toss it in the marinade and then reduce it so that the liquid thickens and coats the crispy outside of the tofu.
Marinate your tofu thoroughly
You want to marinate your tofu for as long as possible. You can get away with 30 minutes, but try to marinate your tofu cubes or slices overnight in the fridge if you can. You’ll taste the difference!
Use the right breading
If you put your tofu cubes in breadcrumbs or a flour-based breading as you would for meat, it won’t work. The coating will just get soggy, and you’ll end up with fried mush.
Tofu has a porous surface and releases water before the coating gets crispy, so toss the tofu in a bit of cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Shake the excess off and then fry in oil for a crispy outside and tender inside. For even tastier results, try frying in an oil that’s full of flavors, such as sesame or coconut oil. Use plenty of oil, as tofu tends to stick to the pan.