Cooking tofu can be a tricky, given its consistency and taste. It has also gained attention as one of the most hated foods in America, although this bad reputation is primarily because people aren’t sure what to do with tofu. If you’re not sure what to do with it, after all, it can be easy to write off.
If you haven’t been tofu’s biggest fan, you may have been cooking it wrong. Here are four common mistakes people make when cooking tofu and some tips on how to bring out its best qualities:
You Purchased the Wrong Kind of Tofu
Soy milk isn’t a popular ingredient in American cooking, so it makes sense that you aren’t sure of the right kind of tofu to buy. It is made of condensed soy milk in a process resembling cheesemaking, so you may gravitate towards compressed white blocks. However, there are many tofu textures and densities available, and purchasing the wrong kind will cause your recipe to go in the wrong direction.
There are two main types of tofu you can choose from: block and silken tofu. These have their own subcategories. If you want the tofu to keep its shape, such as stir-fry, you’ll want to avoid silken tofu, which is either soft or firm. Silken tofu is great for creamy but dairy-free additions to various dishes like sauces, smoothies, dressings, soups, or even desserts. On the other hand, block tofus have different firmness that is great for baking, crumbling, or stir-frying.
You Didn’t Drain It of Water
Once you remove tofu from its package, rinse it, then drain it of water. All you need to do with soft tofu is drain it and blot it until it is dry. However, for medium, firm, and extra-firm tofu, you’ll have to press it until all the water comes out. Tofus are like sponges, which means they can hold water. However, if you don’t get all the water out, it won’t absorb other ingredients you’ll use with it, like delicious broth. Additionally, the water it contains will evaporate during cooking, which will throw a wrench in your recipe.
To drain it entirely of water, put the tofu in between numerous layers of paper towels, which you’ll have to sandwich between two plates. Put something heavy on the top plate, like a cookbook or a cast-iron skillet. Drain the liquid every 30 minutes until it is free of water.
You Didn’t Cut It Small Enough
The size of the tofu you cook with can affect the flavor or texture it adds to your dish. It cooks much better in smaller pieces, like cubes or slices, as cooking a block of tofu is very similar to cooking a block of cheese. With smaller cuts, tofu will shine exactly as promised by the recipe.
You Coated It In Breading
It can be tempting to coat your tofu in breading if you want a crispy exterior on it, but it doesn’t work like fish or chicken. Tofu has a porous surface, which means it will let water out before the coating has a chance to crisp, resulting in a gummy texture. To avoid this, roll the tofu in a bit of pure cornstarch or arrowroot powder, remove the excess by shaking it, then dry it in oil for a crisp and tasty exterior. You can also fry it in a flavorful oil like sesame or coconut to bring out even more of its character.
When treated properly, tofu can upgrade your dishes and add a nice hint of flavor and texture. By avoiding these common mistakes, you’ll look like a pro when you prepare a dish with tofu in it!
If you’d like to learn more cooking tips from private chefs in Asheville, North Carolina, check us out at Food Fire + Knives! We want to help everyone enjoy the perfect private chef experience through our private chef catering and cooking classes. Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know about all our updates!