Frying tofu might sound easy as pie, but it’s actually tricky business. When I first started cooking with tofu about 10 years ago, I was always disappointed with how it turned out any time I fried it. Over the years, I’ve picked up a lot of tips and perfected the technique, so now I am going to share with you what I have learned.
The very first thing you always want to do before you fry tofu is press it. What is pressing tofu? It’s just removing excess water from the tofu. All you have to do is wrap the tofu in paper towels and press down on it with your hands until most of the water comes out. This does two things: it prevents the tofu from spattering, and it makes your tofu crispier. If you are using super-firm tofu, or any tofu that is not packaged in water, you don’t have to press it.
The next thing you might want to do is marinate your tofu before you fry it. What I like to do is chop my tofu into cubes after I’ve pressed it and then put it in a bowl of soy sauce and let it marinate in the fridge for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. Obviously, you can use any type of marinade you like, or can opt not marinate your tofu at all.
In my experience, I find that it’s generally a bad idea to fry your tofu on high heat, no matter how tempting it might be. Your intuition might say to you, “If I fry it on high, it will get super crispy,” but ignore these thoughts. Yes, your tofu will get super crispy if you fry it on high heat, but it will also stick to the pan, leaving the crispy skin in the pan, and the soft inside behind. It’s always better to demonstrate a little patience and fry tofu on medium heat, unless you have an excellent non-stick pan and a cooking oil with a very high smoke point.
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I prefer peanut oil. I like the taste of it and it has a higher smoke point than most other oils. It also lends itself well to Asian dishes, which I happen to cook often. However, you can fry tofu in any oil you like, such as vegetable oil or olive oil.
Preheating the Oil
No matter what kind of oil you’re using, you should always make sure to bring it to temperature before you put the tofu in it. It’s important that you do this so the oil cooks the tofu instead of soaking into it.
If you didn’t marinate your tofu and you want to add some spices, do it at the very end after you’ve laid your tofu out on a paper towel. You can sprinkle the seasonings over the tofu, but I prefer to mix all my seasonings together in one bowl and then shake the tofu in the seasoning. I find I get a more even coating this way and I can get more seasoning on the tofu.