Tofu is a classic ingredient worldwide, commonly found in Asian cuisine like stir-fries and curries. It is now making its way to our modern Western tables as a popular meat-substitute for vegetarian dishes and a tasty ingredient for meat-eaters alike. Unfortunately, as many discover the various uses of tofu for the first time, the proper cooking protocol is commonly missed or overlooked. These are the top 10 mistakes to avoid when making perfect tofu:
10 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Perfect Tofu
#1. Wrong Types Of Tofu
There are four types of tofu: silken, soft, firm, and extra-firm. You may think they are interchangeable, but the difference is their water content, which impacts their texture and can make or break your dish.
- The silken and soft type should be used in dishes that benefit from higher water content and smooth texture, like smoothies and mousses.
- The firm and extra-firm type should be used in dishes that need the tofu to maintain its form if the recipe calls for baking, frying, or sauteing, the firmer, the better.
#2. Not Pressing
Even the firmest tofu has a high water count, but if you want your tofu to keep its shape, absorb a marinade and not dilute your dish, it is best practice to press your tofu as the first step.
You can press by wrapping your tofu in some towels and placing it between a plate and a heavy cutting board for at least 20 minutes. If you commonly cook with tofu, you could also invest in a tofu press. This little gadget is built to press tofu in 20 minutes or less correctly.
It would be best if you were careful when trying to press soft or silken tofu because you might break it. I advise that you should cook soft/ silken tofu the way it is.
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#3. No Coating
When ordering crispy tofu at a restaurant, it may seem like it is sauteed. However, the truth is that there is usually some coating on the tofu before it is cooked. It is supposed to be subtle, but if crispy tofu is what you are trying to achieve, you will need some coating, typically cornstarch or flour, to keep the surface dry when cooking.
In fact, this isn’t a serious problem. You can pan fry the tofu without coating, which can still keep it firm in shape. When tofu is firm, you can perform various type of cooking method.
#4. Wrong Coating
You’d rather not coat the tofu with anything than coating the wrong ingredients. When wanting crispy tofu, all coatings are not the same. Unlike chicken or fish, tofu has a very porous surface. Breading will only draw out more moisture, even from pressed tofu, and create a sticky surface rather than crispy.
Looking for the best result? Consider using a light layer of cornstarch, all-purpose flour, rice flour, or arrowroot powder. These ingredients can both make the tofu look good and taste better itself.
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#5. Deep Frying
We like to apply trusted cooking methods to various ingredients, but tofu is unique. Though it is often used as a meat substitute, it is not meat and will not yield the same results if cooked the same way.
Deep frying chicken or fish works excellent, but tofu, which is essentially a sponge, will soak up a lot of the oil, and the result will be a spongy, greasy mess. Stick with pan-frying, stir-frying, or baking for the crispiest tofu.
#6. Using Heat Inappropriately
Don’t be afraid of putting your tofu in some heat. Like cooking vegetables, using low heat will only make your tofu stick to the pan and ultimately, limp and pale. On the other hand, overheating can easily burn tofu coating without making it even warm inside.
On the scale of 10, I usually use the heat at the level of 6, or maybe 7 for a cripsy coating of tofu. If you are a fan of hot dishes, hot tofu must be served right away, after it gets out of the heat. Raw tofu, pan fry quickly, fast serve with fish sauce and some chilli – best thing I can ever think of!
#7. Wrong Size
Here is an example of the wrong size tofu that screws up the dish. I once tried the simple crispy tofu by frying the big bar of tofu. I plan to cut the bar into smaller pieces afterward. That would be fine if I didn’t break the bar when I turn it upside down. I should have done a sauté or put it in an oven for 15 minutes. It would turn out to be a better result.
Tofu cooks best in small pieces. It’s also easier for you to fry or do whatever you want. Cut up your tofu into small cubes or thin strips for the evenest results.
#8. Wrong Marinade
No matter how well you press your tofu, there will remain water inside. When marinading, which is highly recommended for a flavourful dish, avoid using an oil-based sauce.
Oil and water do not mix, and neither will your tofu and marinade. They will create a natural barrier, preventing your marinade from getting inside. Instead, opt for an oil-free marinade like stock, soy sauce, or lemon juice.
#9. Wrong Pan
Tofu is like a natural sponge that naturally absorbs anything within your pan. The list includes the pan where you cook tofu. Using a non-stick pan can avoid scraping off all your crispy flavor from the pan’s bottom that might properly be a burnt and messy dish.
#10. Too Long/ Short Cook Time
A common mistake is not knowing how long to cook tofu, thus cooking it too little or too long. While tofu can be eaten raw, it is commonly used for fully cooked tofu, and plan to leave it for about 5 minutes on each side. If you’re going for a nice crisp, make sure the outside is golden brown and crunchy to the touch.
These ten tips are not to scare you away from attempting a tofu dish. On the contrary, save this list the next time you are cooking tofu to do it right, and offer you dinner quests the best of your culinary expertise. We hope this article about Mistakes to Avoid When Making Perfect Tofu helps you with some useful information. Thanks for visiting the St.J.G kitchen blog! Hope to see you around soon!