Tofu can be a polarizing food, if not a hated one. While it has a reputation among omnivores for being spongy and tasteless, the soybean-based protein shouldn’t be overlooked. Vegans and vegetarians swear by its versatility and convenience. It’s as versatile as chicken with fewer calories and more nutritional value, and it’s a great protein to choose when you want to cut down on your meat consumption (via ClassPass). If you’ve tried preparing tofu in the past and have sworn off of the texture or taste ever since, chances are you made some mistakes along the way.
The first mistake many people make when preparing tofu happens right in the grocery store. There are several different kinds of tofu, each with its own ideal uses. Silken tofu, for example, is a softer tofu option that’s great for adding to sauces or scrambling like eggs, but it won’t hold up well if you want to bake or fry it (via Taste of Home). When cooking tofu for an entrée, you’ll most likely want to choose a firm or extra firm option to slice and fry or cut into cubes and bake in the oven for a crispy addition to salads, rice bowls, or noodle dishes.
The early steps of cooking tofu are important
When you purchase a block of tofu, you’ll notice that it sits in a pool of water. You can dump the tofu water down the sink to start, but that won’t finish the job completely. In order to get a crispier and tastier tofu, you’ll want to wrap the block in layers of paper towels, put it on a plate, put another plate on top of the tofu, and finish with something super heavy on top of that. This will squeeze out all of the extra moisture in the block for an ideal texture when cooked (via Taste of Home).
Once your tofu is drained, make sure not to cut it too big. Large pieces of tofu won’t cook through the center, so you may end up with that spongy texture that people tend to find so unappealing. According to All Recipes, this will also allow for more flavor as the surface area for seasonings and sauces is larger in proportion.
You can add tons of flavor to tofu
When you’re aiming for a crispier texture, you may be tempted to use traditional flour to coat the tofu. This will turn the tofu soggy, so you’ll want to opt for starch instead. The Minimalist Baker recommends pan frying the tofu briefly and then baking it for an even crispier consistency.
Depending on how you’re preparing the tofu, you might want to marinate it before putting it in the oven, air fryer, or pan. Whether you’re marinating beforehand or adding sauce after, it’s important to use generous portions of sauce and seasonings to give it the most flavor (via All Recipes).
Ultimately, tofu is a delicious alternative to meat when prepared properly, and it will work well with all of your favorite dishes for a more plant-based diet. Next time you’re wandering down the grocery store aisles, don’t be afraid to throw a block of tofu in your cart and try something new.
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