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The Best Type Of Tofu That Holds Up In The Air Fryer

crispy tofu on a wood plate
crispy tofu on a wood plate - Herman Suparman/Shutterstock

Tofu's texture is just as versatile as its flavor, with ultra-soft silken tofu dissolving into a creamy sauce or soup thickener, while firmer varieties can crumble into tofu scrambles or serve as chewy stir-fry proteins. Air fryer tofu is the latest revelation to show off and extend tofu's versatile texture by instilling a shatteringly crispy exterior to contrast a meaty, tender interior. The best type of tofu to achieve this delectable contrast in the air fryer is extra-firm tofu.

An air fryer is essentially a smaller, more intense convection oven that uses intense dry, hot air to blast any ingredients you place in their compact fryer baskets. The result is as crunchy an exterior and tender interior as deep-fried foods minus the heavy oil saturation, hence the name, air fryer. While it may not be as agitative a cooking method as sauteing or deep frying, extra-firm tofu is guaranteed to hold up to an air fryer's fiery hot blast while still maintaining a juicy, tender interior. It'll also hold its shape after being pressed, marinated, sliced, and coated in flour or cornstarch, not to mention tossed into a glaze or saute dish post-air-fry. Softer tofu is harder to dry out and press, so it won't as easily absorb flavors or oils as it cooks. Furthermore, if it's too soft to hold its shape as you cut it into squares, nuggets, or even larger steaks, soft tofu will certainly fall apart when you try to flip it in the air fryer.

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Tips For The Best Air-Fried Tofu

marinated tofu with sesame seeds
marinated tofu with sesame seeds - Drong/Getty Images

To reap the most flavorful, crispy air-fried tofu, many of the same tried-and-true steps used in other cooking methods apply. Drain and press tofu to maximize its absorption of marinades or seasoned frying oil. If you cook frequently with tofu, it's worth it to invest in a tofu press. However, you can easily rid tofu of its water content by wrapping it in numerous paper towels and placing a heavy skillet on top of it for around 20 minutes. This will give you time to prepare any marinade or spice mixture you want to season it with.

Whether you use a marinade or seasoned oil, the fat and liquid will help keep the tofu from drying out as it cooks in the air fryer. It'll also help bind flour, cornstarch, or arrowroot powder, should you want an ultra-crispy crust. You can also add seasonings to the dry dredge for even more flavor. Just like an oven or deep fryer, you want to preheat the air fryer and ensure that it's at the desired temperature before adding the tofu. You'll also need to flip the tofu halfway through the airy frying process for even crisping. Air fryer tofu will hold its shape and stay crisp when you mix it with a thick slurried stir fry sauce like General Tso's or kung pao, pierce it with skewers to dip into a peanut satay sauce, or douse it with dressing and toss it into your favorite salad.

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