Ah, tofu. The staple of vegans and vegetarians in every single place, and one of many earliest and best methods of incorporating protein in a plant-based eating regimen that didn’t contain simply taking the meat out of no matter you’d ordered or crunching by means of a handful of nuts.
I inherited a Dreo 6-Quart Air Fryer this week, and after scrambling round my kitchen for one thing to check it with as my first recipe, I felt like the celebs had aligned. This week (Might 6-22) is Nationwide Vegetarian Consciousness week within the UK, the place I’m based mostly; and what ought to I discover within the barren, desolate wasteland that’s my pantry? Two packing containers containing completely different manufacturers of tofu – one silky and gentle, and one firmer and extra spongy.
I used to be a vegetarian for 5 years again within the 2010s (adopted by three years of pescetarianism) earlier than I packed it in on account of some well being points, so I’ve an enormous appreciation for individuals who decide to the life-style.
Whereas vegetarianism gained reputation through the twentieth century, it predates the trendy period by no less than a few millenia. As early because the sixth century BC, early Jain and Buddhist sources practiced non-violence in direction of animals, as did the Historical Greeks within the teachings of Pythagoras – though current findings recommend that way back to 4,000 years in the past, Ancient Egyptians may have practiced vegetarianism for non secular causes.
Tofu, in the meantime, dates again to the Chinese language Han dynasty round 2,000 years in the past, with its rise in reputation largely being attributed to its high-protein nature coinciding with the unfold of Buddhism.
In my days of meatlessness, meat alternate options weren’t as ubiquitous as they’re now, and sometimes got here with a fairly important price ticket, so me and tofu turned intimately acquainted fairly rapidly.
Nonetheless, it’s not all the time the simplest meals to cope with. One in every of my favourite issues to do with tofu is to crisp it up and toss it right into a rice or noodle dish reminiscent of ramen, however you’ll be able to typically end up with clumpy, cornflour-coated chunks of raw tofu in the event you’re not giving it your full consideration whereas it’s within the pan – and I’m not recognized for my endurance or attentiveness.
So, whereas my Dreo doesn’t rank as one in all TechRadar’s best air fryers, the thought of frying tofu in it crammed me with pleasure. After researching ideas and tips for air frying tofu on-line, right here’s what I discovered after I gave it a strive…
Greatest air fryer offers
Learn on to find what occurred after we cooked tofu in an air fryer – or, in the event you’re able to take the leap to get your individual, take a look at the perfect costs proper now:
Making ready the tofu
Should you’re aware of tofu, you’ll know that it’s packaged in water, which is nice for retaining it contemporary, however not so nice in the case of attaining a crisp and crunchy texture on the surface. So, if you’re pan-frying with tofu, it’s vital to squeeze as a lot moisture out of it as doable earlier than cooking.
That is simply as vital for air frying – whereas moisture is fairly essential to the method, substances like a moist batter simply gained’t crisp up rapidly sufficient for the specified crisp, and can lead to a messy tray.
I don’t have a tofu press – as a lot as I need one, my cozy London flat doesn’t supply a lot area for non-essential instruments – and I’ve discovered that, typically talking, one of the simplest ways to squeeze the moisture out of tofu is by inserting it on a flat floor after which compressing it with a comparatively heavy object, making certain that you simply’ve laid down some kitchen towels to seize the run-off moisture. Silky tofu may be very delicate, so be sure you don’t use one thing too heavy, because it’s prone to simply squash the juicy, squishy bean curd.
I left my firmer tofu to dry for 20 minutes, and my silkier tofu for an hour. This nonetheless wasn’t lengthy sufficient for the silky form, as we’ll focus on later, so in the event you’re eager to do that at residence, go for one and a half hours, switching out the kitchen towels each 15-Half-hour. Subsequent, I minimize the tofu as evenly as I might into roughly 1-inch / 2cm cubes.
Tofu isn’t essentially the most flavorful factor on the planet; nonetheless, it does tackle seasoning very nicely. I needed to attempt to air-fry the tofu in a number of other ways, so I separated it into a number of batches.
First I divided each sorts of tofu into two batches, taking one-half of every to cook dinner with out seasoning. I left the agency tofu because it was, and coated the silky tofu in cornflour to present it the perfect probability of crisping.
For the opposite halves, I attempted two completely different recipes. The spongy tofu was seasoned with sesame oil, garlic and soy sauce (impressed by Live Eat Learn), and the silky tofu with paprika, garlic powder, sesame oil, soy sauce, cornstarch, salt and pepper (impressed by Jessica in the Kitchen). I left these batches to marinate for Half-hour earlier than cooking.
Air-frying the tofu
First up have been the 2 plain tofu parts. I preheated my air fryer to 380F / 200C for 3 minutes, as per the directions, after which fastidiously laid out my tofu cubes on the cooking tray, taking care to not overfill the tray and leaving area between them for the airflow. Each preheating and spacing are essential to air frying, as success when cooking with air fryers depends upon a very good circulation of sizzling air in order that moisture on the floor of meals can evaporate instantly, giving them that desired crispy texture.
The silky tofu misplaced lots of its structural integrity within the technique of tossing it within the cornflour – which was after I realized that I’d underestimated the drying time required – however the tray was sizzling sufficient from the pre-heat that the underside of the tofu cubes firmed up, stopping them from slipping by means of the non-stick plate.
Having learn a number of completely different guides to air-frying plain tofu, I set the timer for quarter-hour, shaking the tray midway by means of when my fryer notified me to take action – this ensured that the recent air reached each a part of the tofu cubes to crisp and brown them. When the cooking time was up, I used to be delighted to search out that each sorts of tofu had developed a beautiful crisp. The spongy tofu might have accomplished with 5 minutes much less, because the cubes have been pretty dry, however they nonetheless had the specified texture.
Understandably, the pretty deformed silky tofu hadn’t achieved a good crisp, however I used to be delighted with its texture – a frivolously crisped periphery and an exquisite, layered sponginess inside.
Excitedly, I took my learnings from the primary batch into my second: the spongier tofu marinated in soy, oil and garlic went in for 10 minutes, whereas the silkier tofu marinated in powdered seasoning, soy sauce, cornflour and oil went in for 15. This time, I positioned the cubes on a bit of baking parchment to stop messy drips, though it was tough to maintain this weighed down. Be warned: the airflow inside an air fryer can raise the parchment, creating a security hazard if it comes into contact with the recent factor on the high of the tray.
Including moisture again into these two batches within the type of oil and soy sauce positively affected the outcomes. The spongy tofu didn’t fairly get the thick, crispy fry from the primary batch, though I most popular this, personally – the primary batch was far too dry for me. The silky tofu, nonetheless, flat-out refused to crisp, though I’d been beneficiant with the dry elements in my combine. I attempted giving it an additional 5 minutes to cook dinner, however the seasoning was beginning to slide off the cubes. Once more, I believe this was right down to my impatience with the drying course of – however maybe air-fried silky tofu simply isn’t the way in which ahead if you would like seasoning on it.
General, I’d say my first foray into air-frying tofu was fairly profitable. All 4 of my tofu batches have been scrumptious, and labored nicely as a wholesome snack. Plus, the method was immeasurably simpler than pan-frying, so it ticked all of the packing containers for me.
Subsequent time I’d keep away from coating silky tofu in any respect, and I’d go away it to dry for longer; my first batch had that fantastic, pastry-like layering to it that you simply simply can’t get with thicker tofus.
Should you’re considering of investing in your individual air fryer as a vegetarian or vegan, there are many superb recipes on the market that you would be able to strive, and air-fried tofu is a good place to start out. Merely toss it right into a noodle bowl or stir fry, serve it with rice, and even eat it by itself with a spicy mayo or sauce of your selecting. Yum!