There is no doubt that tofu is tasty. However, it is intimidating the first time you buy it and attempt to make crispy tofu with a fresh silken tofu block. The tofu disintegrates in the pan or starts crumbling; next thing you know, the tofu has found its way to the bin. Anyone that has not grown up with tofu as a staple in the kitchen has had some kitchen mishap the first time they try tofu. Here are a few things that might be going wrong when you prep tofu.
Tofu isn’t a one-size-fits-all protein substitute for any recipe that calls for tofu. To get a better understanding of which kind of use, there are a few things to consider:
Soft or silken tofu
The softest of all the tofus, this tofu is usually handled with care and is not ideal for crispy tofu recipes. The texture is similar to jelly. Silken tofu has the most amount of water in and hasn’t been pressed for long.
Silken tofu is perfect for desserts, creamy dishes, steamed, or deep-fried in a batter. The high moisture content makes it unsuited to shallow and pan-frying.
Firm tofu is the most commonly found and famous tofu on the market. It has less water than silken and can be used in a variety of recipes. You can press firm tofu to remove more moisture to make extra-firm tofu.
Firm tofu is a little more robust and manages well in recipes that call for baking, boiling, pan-frying, and glazes. It can also be crusted and battered. It is considered the workhorse of tofu.
Extra-firm tofu is an excellent choice for anyone that needs a plant-based meat substitute. Extra-firm tofu has the lowest moisture of all tofus. It is solid and doesn’t break easily when handled.
The low moisture content makes this perfect for crispy tofu dishes, baking, battering, and just about any cooking method.
#1 – The wrong kind
The first mistake many novice tofu cooks make is buying the wrong kind of tofu. When it comes to making a delicious Thai tofu curry, there is nothing worse than finding your tofu broken into many pieces, floating on the top.
It is essential to consider how you will cook the tofu. Here is a look at different types of dishes and which kind of tofu is suitable for it.
- Smoothies, creamy sauces, desserts, dressings, or soups: Use silken or soft tofu for these meals. You can blend the silken tofu in a food processor for a smoother consistency and texture.
- Curries, stews, broths, and bakes: For solid pieces of tofu that are tender and tasty, use firm tofu. You can press the tofu to remove additional moisture and can hold its shape well in these dishes.
- Stir-fries, grills, battered meals: Opting for slightly harder tofu, such as extra-firm or super-firm tofu, is best for these recipes as the tofu is less likely to break apart.
Unless your recipe states otherwise, selecting firm tofu is usually the safest bet; it is easier to learn how to cook with firm tofu until you are confident to experiment with other kinds.
#2 – Fresh out the press?
The liquid is the number one reason why a recipe didn’t work as well. Draining the liquid out of the package is sometimes not enough for the tofu to work well. Most kinds of tofu, except silken or soft, can benefit from being pressed.
Pressing tofu removes excess liquid. If your tofu is too wet, the moisture can cause spattering oil. Moist tofu can also start to crumble while moving it around in the pan. Another sign that your tofu has a little too much moisture is a distant lack of crispy texture in the batter. Moisture hides inside the tofu, and if it is not removed, your tofu will struggle to become crisp and crunchy.
#3 – Making the cut
It might not seem that something as simple as cutting your tofu can change the entire meal, but it can. Like most meaty foods, you can marinate tofu to create flavor. If you cut the tofu into big pieces, it will not absorb the marinade evenly.
Slicing your tofu before putting it in a tofu press is also vital to get as much liquid out as possible. Think of tofu as a sponge; it is highly absorbent and will retain liquid if not properly pressed before marinading. The excess liquid leftover can dilute the marinade as well.
Pro Tip: Leave oil out of your marinades as it can stop the tofu from absorbing flavor by creating a barrier between the tofu and the marinade as tofu has high water content.
#4 – The wrong method
We know that pressing tofu is vital, so is the method in which the tofu is pressed. There are two methods to pressing tofu; a tofu press or manual pressing. Both ways work well if done correctly; here is how to ensure that your tofu is pressed correctly every time, no matter which method you opt for.
- Manual: The old-school method of pressing tofu. Place clean paper towels on a plate, tofu, and additional paper towels on top. Place a second plate on the tofu, and weigh it down with something heavy. This method takes a little longer depending on how heavy the weight is. It is usually recommended to press tofu for 30 – 40 minutes to remove the correct amount of water from the tofu. Drain excess water off the plate after pressing for 15 minutes.
- A tofu press: The modern invention of a tofu press has saved time and mess; many tofu presses have drainage trays for mess-free pressing (like Tofubud). Slice the tofu and place it in the press for 15 minutes. It will be ready for cooking after 15 minutes. Most presses only need 15 minutes as it provides even pressure across the tofu.
Once the tofu has been pressed, you can cut it into cubes or slices according to your recipe. However, slicing the tofu before pressing can help remove water trapped deep inside the block. It can be challenging to press tofu that has been sliced with the manual method, which is why it takes a little longer.
#5 – Don’t panic; just practice
Tofu is actually easy to cook with once you get the hang of it. The most common mistake people make when cooking tofu is panicking. Don’t panic; tofu isn’t as scary as it seems.
All it takes is a little experimentation and time to familiarize yourself with how it works and adapts to your cooking style. If you love tofu from a restaurant, you will soon be able to make your own at home with ease!