Save The Marinade Until After You Cook Tofu

Tofu often gets a bad rap because for having a bland flavor and soft texture — but that shouldn't be a problem as long as you know how to cook it. Because this versatile plant-based protein comes in so many varieties, from soft to firm to silken to dried, the best ways to cook tofu will depend on the meals you're making and your preferred texture. 

One of the most popular ways to prepare tofu is to marinate it in a sauce before frying or baking it, theoretically infusing it with flavor before crisping it up with some oil and heat. However, saving your marinade until after the cooking process will actually help make your tofu crispier and more flavorful. This is because when your tofu is kept in the fridge at a cold temperature, it retains its natural moisture, leaving little room for any marinade to penetrate the block.

On the other hand, the high heat involved in cooking tofu helps to extract a lot of the liquid found in the ingredient, so the marinade will be absorbed much faster and more thoroughly at this stage — especially if the marinade is also hot. And if you're worried about this technique messing with the texture of your tofu, don't be: There are many ways to cook tofu to get it crispy on the outside while still allowing the sauce to add flavor to the soft, chewy inside.

Cooking tofu for the perfect texture

A common way to cook tofu blocks is to dice them into cubes and throw them in a hot pan with some oil. This will eventually give the outside a nice crunch, but you will likely have to coat each piece in oil and continue turning them for several minutes to ensure that each side gets browned.

Alternatively, spreading tofu out on a sheet tray and placing it in the oven is a simple and easy way to cook it, while using far less oil than pan- or deep-frying. A simple spritz of cooking spray on your sheet pan or a light drizzle of olive oil is all that's required for the tofu to get crunchy without sticking to the tray. Once it's out of the oven, it can easily be tossed in the sauce you want and served. Air-frying tofu is another great option for convenient, low-oil cooking that crisps up tofu very quickly. 

Ultimately, cooking tofu can be very simple and straightforward. If you are a beginner, starting with firm or extra firm tofu is a good idea since they are lower in moisture, super versatile in recipes, and will very quickly absorb the flavors of your marinade, which is what elevates a dish. Regardless of how you decide to prepare this soy-based staple, though, simmering your sauce in a pan and then tossing in your hot cooked tofu until coated will be a game changer.