This Is The Secret To Making Your Tofu Extra Crispy

We think tofu deserves more time in the spotlight. In recent years, the world's vegetarian, vegan, and curious eaters have progressed to other options. They eat pulled pork sandwiches made from seitan or jackfruit and dig into burger patties fashioned from Impossible Foods. Tofu isn't as freakishly meat-like as some of these trendier substitutes, but that's okay. Tofu is entirely its own thing. It's more than a meat substitute. It's been around for years — possible 2,000 years, according to folklore. It made a definite appearance by the 8th century, according to the BBC.

And while tofu gets a bad rap for lacking flavor, it can add incredible texture and depth to your dish. Plus, its relative blandness (sorry, soybeans!) allows cooks and eaters to mix it with an unending variety of sauces. It's been thrown into teriyaki bowls, scrambled into veggie burritos, and it makes a lovely, creamy appearance in hot and sour soup (via Delish). But crispy, pan-fried tofu adds another layer of texture to a dish, or honestly, it can be great on its own if you do it right. 

Dry out your tofu

To achieve crispy, golden-brown tofu, you need to rid the soybean curd of its water. And tofu holds a lot of extra water. To remove the moisture, you can break the tofu into chunks and place the pieces onto a paper towel, according to Bon Appétit. Add a little salt to help draw the water out, the way cooks often do with water-logged eggplant before roasting it.

Or, you can also press the tofu to squeeze out some of that water, according to The Kitchn: Shimmy your slab of tofu between two paper towels, plop it onto a plate, and add another plate on top. Grab a heavy can, and maybe a cast iron skillet, and let gravity do its thing.

As Bon Appétit explains, it's crucial to have a dry surface for most foods before you pan-fry them. Making sure your tofu's gotten rid of some water, and that its surface isn't bursting with little water droplets, will allow its outer surface to get that crunchy feel you truly deserve. To make sure you get that desired crisp, you can even go wild and coat your tofu pieces in cornstarch, according to the staff over at The Kitchn.

Listen for the sizzle

Repeat after us: Stirring prevents browning. When you're cooking grits or a risotto, it's important to stir and prevent any sticky, fried bits. But in this case, we want those crispy edges. We live for them. Stirring and nervously rearranging your tofu will only result in frustration. Let it sit, and let it sizzle, according to Bon Appétit. You're not necessarily throwing caution to the wind: Simply stand over the stove and monitor whether or not each side of the tofu has browned to your liking.

Also, really heat your oil before adding in your tofu, according to Bon Appétit. Opt for a durable, high-heat oil (no extra virgin olive oil, please!). Make sure your food actually sizzles once it hits the pan. If you don't get that audible reaction, chances are, your pan isn't hot enough and your food will simply absorb the oil, rather than get that desired Maillard reaction

Once you've got the tofu crisped to your liking, the world is yours. That soybean gold can go into a coconut milk green curry, or summer rolls with peanut sauce, or you can coat the pieces in some garlicky, Sriracha-infused sauce. Whatever recipe you choose, the texture of your tofu will make the dish incredible (via Good Housekeeping).