September 9, 2005 4:58 PM   Subscribe

CookingFilter: So anyway, Tofu! Yeah, tofu. I like to cook it and I like to eat it. But even extra firm tofu tends to remain a little soggy...

Baked in the oven, deep fried, sauteed, grilled, whatever, even if I press it beforehand, it tends to stay kind of un/undercooked inside. To get tofu in the consistency that I like, I've got to buy precooked packs from a store in Chinatown that only occasionally has it. What are your favorite methods for dehydrating and preparing tofu so it gets cooked and crispy, throughout?
posted by Jon-o to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried freezing it and then thawing it before cooking? I find that even extra-firm is much more solid after doing that.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:11 PM on September 9, 2005

Response by poster: Freezing it in a ziplock bag or in its original container?
posted by Jon-o at 5:14 PM on September 9, 2005

Original container. Here is some info: "To freeze tofu, place the unopened container in the freezer for at least 36 hours. It can remain in the freezer for up to three months. It can be thawed in a microwave - poke several holes in the top, place the tub on a plate and defrost on high (100% power) for 5 to 7 minutes. It also can be defrosted at room temperature, which should take about three hours. Then drain and press. It will be darker than regular tofu, but it will also have a chewy texture. Freezing tofu increases its ability to absorb flavors."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:19 PM on September 9, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, man. It's a little early yet, but you might get "best answer."
posted by Jon-o at 5:30 PM on September 9, 2005

Freezing tofu will change its texture a lot. It won't just be drier and chewier -- it will also get crumbly. I've seen vegan chili recipies that take advantage of this fact. If you marinate firm tofu, freeze it, thaw it again, and crumble it up, it can make a good substitute for ground beef.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:39 PM on September 9, 2005

Could it be that you're not pressing it enough?

I press my tofu really well--slice it thinly and put a layer on some paper towels. Then another paper towel, another layer of tofu, etc. I put a cutting board on top and then put two big cans of tomatoes to press it all down.

Change the paper towels after a few minutes and repeat. You'll get gorgeous, golden tofu with a crispy exterior if you oven bake it or fry it on the stovetop.
posted by bcwinters at 6:18 PM on September 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

I press my tofu really well--slice it thinly and put a layer on some paper towels. Then another paper towel, another layer of tofu, etc. I put a cutting board on top and then put two big cans of tomatoes to press it all down.

Change the paper towels after a few minutes and repeat.

Yes, but for a few minutes substitute an hour. Then freeze. Lovely non-soggy tofu, with terrific texture.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:09 PM on September 9, 2005

I second BC Winters on the draining tofu. It's pretty much the same thing my wife and I do before using tofu. We usually drain it for a good 30 mins before doing anything with it using the same technique listed as above.

We never drained it until a recipe I was using called for it. It was then that we discovered why our tofu at home never quite tasted like it did everywhere else.

I also do the freezing once in a while too, but only for certain recipes. (Yummy Diner Cutlets from the Chicago Diner cookbook come to mind.)
posted by punkrockrat at 7:47 PM on September 9, 2005

Freezing is good -- I drain it first, THEN freeze, because I'm impatient -- I like to pull it out of the freezer and dump it straight into whatever I'm cooking, but I'll try the non-drain method next time. That could be good.
posted by fishfucker at 7:55 PM on September 9, 2005

What oils have you used to fry your tofu? I always have good luck using (drained and pressed/sometimes frozen) extra firm fried in sesame oil (with a really nice nonstick pan). My slices are about 2cm thick. Using a medium-high flame, the tofu can fry and fry and fry until all of the water has evaporated, then it crisps up delightfully.
posted by ArcAm at 8:40 PM on September 9, 2005

Response by poster: I've had some luck with deep-frying methods. I'll pour corn or veggie oil 3 inches deep into my wok, set it to medium/high, and then submerge the tofu in the hot oil. The outside gets nice and crispy, but the inside remains a little raw.
However, as we discuss this, I've discovered how important a factor the thickness of the slices is. For dinner, I baked some very small squares of tofu in a Thai red curry sauce (for about a half hour at 350, I think) and they turned out pretty well.
More tips are still very welcome, though.
posted by Jon-o at 9:12 PM on September 9, 2005

I have an article about handling tofu that might help you in some ways. (self-link, but it was too long to copy-paste here)
posted by madman at 9:27 PM on September 9, 2005

Freezing is a neat trick in changing the texture of bean curd. It soaks up strew-flavours better afterwards, but some people like the 'fluid' texture of native tofu.

Have you tried deep-fried tofu, or tofu-curds or non-plastic-box kinds of tofu? There is an entire constellation of of soy-products that I think that you may be missing out on. The pasty white "firm" stuff that comes in translucent thin plastic boxes definitely does NOT compare with actual FIRM tofu. "Smelly" tofu is a completely different experience.

You seem to be in Philly, Jon-o, maybe check out the local Chinatown there; is there a bean-curd specialty shop who does desert/smooth/specialty/etc. tofu shop?

Maybe check with some of the Buddhist vegetarian restaurants/groceries; they'll have (should have) all kinds of different soy-curd products.

"Tofu" is often thought of as just a limp-wristed chunk of non-tasting white stuff. Not so. There are many different forms of bean curd; if there... I did a quick google search; no love. Anyway, maybe try asking some of the mom&pop owners at your Chinatown about bean curd or different types; they might be able to point you to local/available varieties.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:11 PM on September 9, 2005

I thought it was practically standard to cook your tofu a bit, shock it with cold water then start, to give it that solid consistency. I may be wrong though.
posted by abcde at 10:46 PM on September 9, 2005

I've never tried freezing it, but I've had good results with frying in a pretty dry pan. (Just a touch of olive oil — something like this is a great tool.) My ideal method is to slice the block into half lengthwise, press with a clean cotton rag, then cut into cubes. Fry until lightly brown in a lightly oiled pan. Apply some garlic powder, liquid aminos, and coat with nutritional yeast. The oil should be pretty much gone by now; continue cooking over steady, medium-low heat until the tofu starts to get a little crispy. If you've done this right, the resulting tofu will be similar in taste and texture to a pork chop.

My preferred store brand of tofu is White Wave extra firm, in a vacuum pack.
posted by ijoshua at 12:17 PM on September 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

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