You've seen tofu. You've eaten tofu. And you may have even purchased tofu at the grocery store it's available just about everywhere these days.
But, like most people, you probably have no idea what to do with it. The truth is that tofu is one of the easiest and healthiest foods to cook it's easy to work with, it has an extremely mild taste that goes with anything, it's full of quality protein, it's cheap, and it's fast.
But in order to turn this white brick of pure potential into dinner, it helps to know a few tricks and tips. Here are some tofu cookery basics (and a stellar recipe for the perfect tofu stir-fry) to get you going:
Tofu needs to be "pressed."
Tofu is packed in water, and it's a lot like a sponge if you don't press out the old water you can't get any new flavors in. This is really easy it just takes a teeny, tiny bit of advanced planning. Here's the breakdown (this assumes the use of extra-firm, water-packed tofu, not the silken kind in the little boxes):
Slice open the package and drain out the water. Cut the block of tofu width-wise into however many slices you want I like to do 4 or 6.
Lay a dish towel on a cookie sheet or tray; place some paper towels on top of that.
Spread the slices of tofu out in a single layer on top of the towels. Put more paper towels and another dish towel on top of that.
Set some heavy objects on top. I usually put another cookie sheet on top, and load it up with some canned goods, cookbooks or my Cuisinart.
Leave it alone for at least 30 minutes, but preferably a couple hours. You can leave it like this all day or night if you put it in the fridge. If you're really in a hurry, you can apply some "manual pressure" and cut back the time to 15 minutes, but it's not going to be quite as awesome.
Uncover; leave as "tofu steaks" or cut into cubes, marinate and cook according to your recipe!
Some other things to keep in mind:
Tofu loves being marinated.
If you don't marinate it, it will taste like nothing.
Tofu hates marinades containing oil.
Tofu has a lot of water in it, even after you press it, and oil and water don't mix. Using oil in your marinade will actually create an oil slick on the tofu and the flavors will never sink in. Skip the oil in your marinades replace it with extra vinegar, soy sauce, citrus juice or stock.
Get crispy with cornstarch.
If you're going to pan fry or stir-fry your tofu, simply coat it in cornstarch after you've marinated it. A medium/light coat is best just put your marinated tofu a big plastic zipper bag, add in a ½ cup of cornstarch, close and shake well. I like to dump it all into a colander over the sink to shake off the excess. This will give your tofu a fantastic, crispy coating, and it also really, really helps the tofu not stick to the pan.
Don't forget about broiling, grilling & grill pans.
Tofu is great on the grill, in a grill pan and under the broiler! Just marinate it, spray your grill or pan with a little canola oil spray to prevent sticking, and cook until you get nice grill marks or crispy edges (about 7 minutes per side can be less on a scorching-hot grill!) Tofu doesn't actually need to be cooked at all, so no worries about internal temps, and this is a super-healthy way (un-fried) to prepare tofu!
Tofu: not just for stir-fries anymore.
It's the ultimate multitasker. It's right at home in stir-fry, but use an Italian marinade and some bread crumbs and it can easily pinch-hit in chicken Parmesan. Use a steak marinade, grill it with some onions and barbecue sauce and serve on a grilled bun at your next barbecue. Cube it, coat with cornstarch, pan fry and serve with honey mustard and sweet potato fries for super-easy "chicken" nuggets.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.