How to train your tofu.
Your easy guide about how to work with tofu for best taste and texture.
When it comes to tofu, people are often a bit of disbelievers. Some of them have confusions if it’s a ‘not so good for health’ food. Some don’t get how to handle its spongy texture that crumbles easily and “doesn’t hold”! Some blatantly refuse to bear with something so tasteless! Why, I have even heard my dear sister say “Tofu tastes like the sole of my summer sandals!” Now, I surely don't know where she got a chance to taste her summer sandals (!), but my dear reader, I know this much, that tofu can be a real rocker in the kitchen if you only give it a chance!
So, let’s demystify our so-called bland-bad for health-wired texture block of this soybean curd and see if we can discover it for the real goodness it contains.
Is tofu really bad for health?
The health concern is always first, right? The short answer to your question is : No, tofu is not bad for your health. There are some concerns that soy products in general can cause health adversities like breast cancer, unwanted estrogenic effects in men (like man-boobs and lowering of libido) or ill affect thyroid functions. But these are not backed by science. On the other hand, studies showed that isoflavones present is soy can protect against coronary heart disease, osteoporosis and even, some form of cancer. Tofu or other soy products do not cause or increase any chance of breast cancer. On the contrary, eating these things throughout the adolescence can in fact reduce breast cancer risk.
Soy does contain some estrogen like substances called phytoestrogens. But they do not act like human estrogen at all! Though two studies showed links between soy consumption and femizing effects in men. But the subjects had to eat 14-20 servings of soy to have those effects. That many servings mean like 7-10 cups of tofu! That’s really a lot of soy to eat in a day don’t you think?
If we keep talking about the hormonal effects of soy, it rather has been found to reduce hot flashes in pre and post-menopausal women because of its weak estrogen like act. But it does not affect the ovulation.
If you have concerns about thyroid and soy, there are a few facts you need to know. There is a relation between soy consumption and thyroid conditions. If you have hypothyroidism you might want to limit your tofu to ½ - 1 cup per day. And do not eat it right before having your thyroid medication. A few hours gap between eating tofu (or any soy product) and the medicine will ensure proper absorption of the drug in your body. Also, make sure that you are not deficient in iodine.
If you don’t have hypothyroid conditions and you’re iodine repleted, you can eat your tofu without any worries.
Tofu actually is a very good source of protein (10 grams of protein per serving). It also gives you a nice amount of calcium, magnesium, iron and copper.
So, now you know that you can buy your tofu and eat it too! How much can you eat per day? It’s safe to eat up to 2 cups of tofu if you have no thyroid conditions. If you wanna stay on the conservative side and avoid all doubts, eating a cup of tofu a day is fine!
If you want to read more about the info and studies mentioned here, just drop me an email. I’ll happily send you the list of the references.
How many types of tofu are there?
Tofu can be categorized according to their texture. Tofu with the soft, almost flan like texture is called ‘silken tofu’. This is a very good ingredient to add creaminess into desserts. You can make decadent cheesecakes, puddings and smoothies with it. It’s also used to make gravies or sauces creamy and velvety.
Tofu can also be ‘firm’ and ‘extra firm’. These usually come as blocks, packed in water. These forms of tofu are usually used in savory dishes like stir fries, scrambles, curries and many more.
How to deal with the texture and taste (or the lack of it)?
Silken tofu does not need any prepping as they are mainly used for their, you guessed it right, silky texture. It’s the firm or extra firm kind you have to work on. But no worries. Just follow these simple steps and you will see that the spongy, water logged, over soft texture and sheer blandness of tofu won’t be a problem anymore.
1. Freeze your tofu first and thaw it by microwaving, or putting the sealed tub in hot water, or by keeping at room temp overnight. Don’t forget the freezing part my friend! It does make a difference!
2. Drain and press your tofu. When all the water is squeezed out, the whole interior is open to soak up yummy flavors.
3. Roast or air fry it to have a nice texture, crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.
4. Marinate in your favorite marinade. Yes, you’re reading it right. Marinating after roasting ensures better texture and taste. I learned this technique from my mentor in the culinary course. If you marinate them before cooking, tofu tends to get too soft and fall apart.
How do you press tofu then?
Okay, so first you have to drain the water that is in the tub of tofu. Just pour it off. And then the block is to be pressed to bring out more liquid that the tofu is saturated with. You can do it with or without a tofu press.
Using tofu press :
Tofu press is a very handy tool to have in your kitchen. You can buy one from amazon for a quite reasonable price. It’s very easy to use and makes the pressing episode a breeze. It’s actually two plates made of some kind of non-reactive materials and are attached with springs and screws.
You just put the block of your tofu between the plates, place the whole thing in a tray and tighten the screws until you feel a little resistance. Remember not to tighten too much at the beginning. It can break your tofu.
After 5 minutes or so, tighten a little more and leave it again for 5 minutes more. Repeat this thing a couple more time and within 20 minutes or so, you will have your tofu totally drained of any liquid.
Using conventional weights :
If you don’t have a tofu press at home, you don’t need to worry at all. There is another method that works just fine.
Wrap the block of tofu in a couple of paper towels. Now place it on a tray and put some wight on it. I have seen first placing a plate or frying pan and then putting a few cans of beans or veggies on top of it, does the job right. You can use a bag of flour, a cast iron skillet or any heavy thing for the weight to be honest!
Keep it like that for 40 – 60 minutes and you’ll have your tofu nice and dry.
No matter if you’re using a tofu press or the cans of food, don’t pour out the liquid that came out of the tofu. This is full of protein and can be added to any sauce for extra body. I use them as a base for the marinade I’d later dunk the tofu in. It works beautifully, every time!
Roasting the tofu :
Once your tofu is pressed, you need to roast them to attain the nice texture we talked about earlier. You can do that in an oven or an air fryer if you have one. They both work really well. Oven only takes a little longer than an air fryer. You do not need to use any oil in either of the methods. Trust me, your tofu will crisp up nicely even without any oil.
In an oven:
1. Cut your block of tofu into six long strips of medium thickness. This makes handling and flipping easy.
2. Place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet and roast at 400◦F / 200◦C for 15 minutes.
3. Take them out, flip and roast for 5-6 minutes more. You’re looking for a light golden color and crispy to touch.
4. Let them cool and then cut into smaller cubes.
In an air fryer:
1. You can cut your tofu into cubes at the very beginning in this method. That’s because an air fryer cooks it from all the sides at once and you don’t need any flipping.
2. Put them in the basket and cook at 350◦ F/150◦C for 10 minutes shaking once in the middle point of time.
Adding flavors to tofu :
Now that you have handled the texture of your tofu, it’s time to face the ‘lack of taste’ challenge. As I told you earlier, now your tofu has become a nice vessel for marinade. Just drop the roasted cubes into your favorite marinade and let them soak it up like sponge. After marinating for 20 -30 minutes, they can be added to stir fries, fried rice or any other dishes you want.
I often make the marinade in a ziptop bag, put my tofu cubes into it and freeze it then and there. It keeps in the freezer for more than a month. You can just take them out, thaw on the counter (or in the refrigerator) and cook. Pressing and roasting a few blocks of tofu one day and then putting them in several different marinades in a few different baggies can be a huge time saver.
Here, you can find some nice marinade ideas in this link -- https://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/fantastic-marinades-for-tofu-that-will-make-your-taste-buds-dance/
You can also directly add the roasted tofu cubes into any sauce or gravy and boil them in it for 10-15 minutes. These puppies will absorb all the flavors of the sauce and yet, they won’t lose their texture.
For this method, I’d suggest freezing a few batches of roasted tofu cubes in ziptop baggies without any marinade. Then you can just take ‘em out of the freezer and add them to any sauce you’ve made. You don’t even have to thaw them.
So, my tofu fearing friends, this was your easy peasy instruction manual about tackling the ill-reputed bean curd and uplift it to a really nice level of taste and consistency. It wasn’t too hard, was it? You yourself can now tell all your skeptic friends that, with only a few handy tricks, the bland ole ‘to-fu’ can really be elevated into delicious ‘to-fun’.
*This is not a sponsored or affiliated post.
Do you have any questions? Any thoughts about the post? I'd surely like to hear about it! Feel free to comment below.