The Pro Tip You Need For The Crispiest Baked Tofu Ever

Cubes of tofu
Cubes of tofu - aomas/Shutterstock

Whether you're shooting for meatless Mondays or looking for an inexpensive protein to round out the week's meal prep, you can never go wrong with tofu. It's probably the ingredient most people think of for eating vegan or vegetarian, but it's so versatile and cheap that even meat lovers can enjoy a plant-based meal from time to time. You can make tofu into all kinds of dishes, but the real trick for getting everyone to love tofu, even picky kids, is to cook it so that the outside gets crispy and golden brown. To do that, you have to make sure the surface of the tofu is very dry.

If you've ever tried to cook a piece of tofu in a pan like a chicken cutlet or baked it in the oven, you know that it's difficult to sear. With a little pressing and drying, plus some cornstarch and cooking oil, however, you can make a batch of the crispiest tofu ever right in the oven — no frying required. Just start with some extra firm tofu and follow a few easy steps.

Read more: The Best Grocery Store In Every State

Make The Surface Dry

Crispy tofu pieces
Crispy tofu pieces - Herman Suparman/Shutterstock

Tofu is a bit of an all-star ingredient because it can become almost anything it wants to be, from a vegan stir fry to a strawberry smoothie. To make it crispy, however, you first have to do a little prep. Browning, which makes food like caramelized onions and seared steaks taste so good, is caused by the Maillard reaction, and the only way to get that to happen is if the food is dry. This is because water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, so if the surface of your food is wet, it will just boil or turn to steam instead of searing. As you've probably noticed, most tofu is packed in water, which keeps it fresh but also means you're working with a very wet ingredient.

The first thing you have to do if your tofu is packed in water is to try and squeeze out as much as you can. If you eat a lot of tofu, it's not a bad idea to invest in a tofu press, which slowly squishes any extra moisture out. If not, however, you can make do by pressing it with something heavy in your kitchen. Stack the tofu between two plates and some clean paper towels, put a heavy object on top in the sink, and let it sit for about 20 minutes. When the pressing period is over, dry the surface of the tofu with clean paper towels.

Coat The Tofu

Bowl of cornstarch with kernels
Bowl of cornstarch with kernels - WS-Studio/Shutterstock

Once you have the surface of the tofu dried off, it's time to dredge it in cornstarch, which is the secret to giving it a crispy coating in the oven. Cut the tofu into whatever shape you'd like, and then toss it in the cornstarch. Don't worry about coating it with anything else first because the surface will still be moist enough for the cornstarch to stick. The easiest way to do this is to put everything in a gallon-sized Ziplock and gently shake it around so that you reach every surface of your tofu pieces.

When the tofu is covered with cornstarch, add any seasonings and salt to the mix, then add enough neutral-flavored cooking oil -- like avocado or canola -- to coat all of the pieces. Toss them around again so that the oil soaks into the cornstarch, and then it's ready for the oven. Spread the tofu out in a single layer on a baking sheet that's lined with parchment or aluminum foil and baking spray and pop it in a hot oven (400 degrees Fahrenheit works great). Make sure to rotate the pan after about 10 minutes and use a spatula to turn the pieces over so that they don't get stuck or burnt, then bake the rest of the way until the tofu looks crisp and golden brown. When you remove the pan from the oven, let the tofu cool for a few minutes, and it's ready to serve.

Read the original article on Daily Meal