February 01, 2023
It's only Wednesday but I feel like I've been making tofu every which way for weeks on end. Once I get started on a project it's hard to stop. The image above should say it all. No matter the process, it pretty much looks the same. Between the three methods (pan/oven/air-fryer) I will say I liked pan-fried for the crunch, oven-baked for the easy and almost no oil, and air-fried was okay. Pick your path. But know that once you start making tofu this way, your family may just surprise you by asking for more tofu.
Pan-Fried, Oven-Baked, Air-Fried Spiced Tofu
2 tablespoons cornstarch, potato starch, or arrowroot
1 teaspoon mushroom powder
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon white salt or garlic salt
1 18-oz. package firm or extra firm tofu, no need to drain, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (if pan-frying), spray oil if baking or air-frying
1. If baking, set your rack to the top position and pre-heat the oven to 420 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, lightly spray a baking tray with oil, or use a mesh basket fit over a baking tray. If pan-frying, using a non-stick pan helps prevent sticking.
2. In a small bowl, add the cornstarch, mushroom powder, white pepper, and salt. Whisk together until evenly combined. I’m a big fan of mushroom powder, which is available at most grocery stores and gives you a deeper flavor. Make your own by grinding down dried mushrooms. I prefer white pepper to black to keep the tofu a lighter color, which looks better in the finished dish. Here is where you can get creative. Use any mix of spices to fit the dish you are making. Try Indian, Mexican, or Italian spices.
3. Place half the spice mixture into a large Ziploc bag or container with a lid. Add half the tofu, then add the remaining spice mixture followed by the remaining tofu. Seal the bag or container and gently shake and flip to make sure every piece is coated. There’s no need to squeeze the tofu if it’s firm or extra firm. You can also freeze the tofu first in its container, defrost, and then proceed. The texture changes slightly. Be sure to spice the tofu just before you are ready to cook it. If it sits too long, the cornstarch can get soggy.
4. Transfer the tofu to a tray and then assemble each piece into a pan, on a baking tray, or in the unlined basket of an air-fryer. If pan-frying, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large, roomy pan. If air-frying, lightly spray the basket with oil to prevent sticking. Assemble the tofu pieces in the pan, tray, or basket. It’s important that the pieces do not touch to ensure they cook evenly. When using the air-fryer you’ll need to do this in two batches.
5. If pan-frying, cook the pieces over medium-high heat, turning until all sides are golden brown. I will put a lid on the pan as well to lock in the heat and really crisp up the tofu. If oven-baking, cook for 40 minutes (no need to flip) and then remove, cool, and eat. If air-frying cook at 390 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. When you are finished air-frying, pull the basket out of the base, and let the tofu cool for 2-3 minutes. This helps prevent sticking, though some do still stick to the bottom and had to be coaxed off. This tofu is delicious as is, in a salad, added to a stir-fry, soups and stews, or cooked with any Asian sauce.
Quick Tip: I hate throwing away gently-used Ziplock bags, so instead, I rinse them after each use and then stuff them with clean and dry dishcloths. Then I press until they are dried and presto - use them again and again. I can't be bothered with turning them inside out letting them air dry. The dishcloth method works beautifully.
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