OK, I realize that some of you may think that the words “best” and “tofu” do not belong anywhere near each other. But I maintain that people who don’t like tofu have just never had it cooked well. The soggy, tasteless stuff – yes, that is yuck. But the great thing about tofu is that it easily takes on the flavors of the sauce it is cooked with, so you can easily remedy the taste situation. The other major problem that I and many other people have is the texture. But with just a few steps, those problems can be remedied, and tofu can become something that is not only tolerable, but actually really good.
The first thing you need to do is buy the right kind of tofu. The kind of tofu you chose will depend on how you want to use it. I usually want my tofu to be used in things like stir fries and other dishes where it is the protein star instead of meat. So I always choose EXTRA FIRM tofu. Definitely don’t get silken tofu unless you are wanting to put it in your smoothie or make faux scrambled eggs or something. Extra firm tofu is better than just firm, so try to get that if you can for this application.
Now, here is the most important and BEST trick for getting tasty tofu – freeze it first.
I started learning how to make tofu in college when I first got interested in healthy eating (um, between making boxes of mac and cheese and eating lots of trail mix, let’s be honest). I’m not sure where I learned the trick of freezing tofu, probably on some kind of dieting message board (YES, message boards, y’all. Because that is how we interneted in the early 2000s).
BUT the reason freezing is so important is that the water in the tofu expands and makes the holes in the tofu larger. This makes the finished texture better and it also helps the tofu to soak up more sauce. So it solves the texture problem AND helps with the taste problem. Whenever I buy tofu I put it in the freezer as soon as I get home (in the package and all, just throw the whole thing in the freezer). Then the day I want to use it I take it out and sit it on the counter. It usually thaws in a few hours.
Once your tofu is thawed, the next super important step is to PRESS the tofu. Now, there are some fancy tofu press contraptions out there, but the DIY setup is this: Place tofu block in a colander in the sink. Put a few layers of paper towels on top of it. Put something heavy on top of that, like a few heavy ceramic bowls or a 28 oz can of tomatoes. Let it sit like that for at least 20 minutes to drain off some of the water. The freezing process also helps with this stage, because the tofu will release more water.
After the tofu is drained, It’s time to slice. This is my preferred slicing style, because I think it makes the pieces easier to flip when you are frying them. Perfect small squares are cute and all, but they are more difficult to flip and to get all the sides crispy.
First slice the tofu slab lengthwise through the middle like this:
Then cut those two pieces across the middle, like this:
Then slice into smaller pieces like this:
Then lay all the pieces flat on a layer of paper towels, cover with another paper towel and press down with your hands to get more water out (you can also use a clean kitchen towel, but mine always leave fuzz so I don’t like to). Just leave them there until you are ready to cook them.
Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add two tablespoons of oil. When the oil is hot, start to add the tofu. A good way to test the oil to see if it is hot enough is to place a piece of tofu in the pan. If it sizzles, then the oil is hot enough, if it doesn’t sizzle, let it get a little hotter. Depending on how much water you were able to get out of the tofu, the oil may spatter. I like to keep a splatter screen nearby in case the splattering gets crazy, and also turn the heat down just a bit if that is happening. I use one like THIS (affiliate).
Let the tofu sit undisturbed for a few minutes until it gets golden and crispy on the bottom, then flip and repeat on all four sides. Each side usually takes about two minutes. You may need to add a little more oil to the pan, but two tablespoons is usually enough for me.
Now your tofu is ready to use in whatever dish you want! At this point it doesn’t have much flavor, so it will be best in a flavorful sauce. You can toss it in a stir fry or make tofu tacos. I will be posting my favorite way to use this tofu next week, so stay tuned! You can sign up for email notifications so you don’t miss it, or follow me on Pinterest or Instagram to keep in touch.
How to make the best tofu
- 1 block of extra firm tofu 14 ounces
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- Prior to cooking, freeze block of tofu (in its water and packaging), at least over night, but as long as you want,
- Thaw the tofu before cooking.
- Cut open the package and drain the water, pressing the tofu with your hands a bit to help it release more water.
- Place tofu block in a colander to drain with paper towels placed on top of it. Place something heavy (A few bowls or a large can of tomatoes, for example) on the tofu to press out some water. Allow to sit under the weight for at least 20 minutes.
- After tofu has drained, slice as shown in the photos above.
- Lay pieces in one layer on a paper towel and cover with another paper towel. Press with your hands to remove more water.
- Heat the oil over medium high heat.
- When the oil is hot, add the tofu in a single layer. Allow to cook undisturbed for 1-2 minutes, until golden.
- Flip and repeat on all four sides.
- When finished, tofu can be tossed in a sauce of choice, or added to any dish with a flavor sauce.
Do you say YES or NO to tofu? Will you try this recipe?
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you buy any of the items I recommend through my link, I will get a small commission. All of my opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting Fox and Briar!