Tofu is a natural candidate for those of us trying to cut meat out of our diet, save a little money, and try out different recipes of the world. It’s cheap, lasts forever if you keep it sealed and refrigerated, and — just as importantly — can be super-flavorful and versatile.
Oh sure, plenty of people will tell you that tofu is spongy and tasteless, and at one point I was one of those people. I tried everything from cooking the tofu in oil, cooking it in no oil, even keeping it in the freezer to try to get it a little firmer. Nothing made it any less spongy.
That was until I learned that the key to cooking flavorful, satisfying tofu is properly drying it.
Buy extra firm tofu. I think it ends up having the most substantial texture (though for soups, you’ll want to use silken).
At least a day before you plan to cook the tofu, drain the water from the package and place the tofu between two cutting boards with a heavy object, like a soup pan, on top. This helps to squeeze out any excess water (not too hard otherwise the tofu will start to fall apart).
Take a long sheet of paper towel — enough that there are at least a couple of layers all the way around — and wrap the tofu tightly. Then store it in a small Tupperware in the fridge overnight.
When you are ready to cook, unwrap your tofu; it should feel thicker and firmer. Use a few more dry paper towels to sop up any remaining moisture (tofu ships with WAY more water than you think). The dried tofu will brown more easily when sautéed and absorb the flavor of marinades and rubs better.
This method adds extra steps, but a little planning ahead and a few extra minutes of prep work will make a big difference that you can see AND taste: