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I really enjoy the texture of the tofu in the pad thai with tofu dish at Noodles and Company. In particular, it comes out much firmer than it does when I make tofu at home by cubing it and cooking it in a pan with vegetable oil. How do I prepare the tofu so it comes out in a similar way?

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First thing's first, are you buying extra-firm tofu? –  Aaronut Feb 3 '11 at 2:58
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Could you perhaps describe their tofu? Noodles and Company isn't in every state (let alone every country). –  Jefromi Feb 3 '11 at 6:32
    
I think @Aaronut hit the nail on the head. Buy extra firm (or even super-firm, if you can find it) tofu. You can try to weight and squeeze some water out of tofu at home, but it is much more effective to just buy it the density that you want. The cooking doesn't have anything to do with it. –  Michael at Herbivoracious Feb 3 '11 at 7:27
    
@Aaronut: Yes, I am buying extra-firm tofu. It still doesn't come out as firm as I'd like after cooking. –  Lorin Hochstein Feb 3 '11 at 13:52
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There are some other products you can buy that are even more pressed, into an almost leathery dense texture and usually pre-marinated. Look in the refrigerator section of a natural foods store, usually near the veggie meat substitutes. Those are about as dense as you could want. This sort of thing: pulmuonewildwood.com/baked.asp –  Michael at Herbivoracious Feb 3 '11 at 16:58
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6 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

My girlfriend and I cook a lot of tofu - we have also found that "firm" and "extra-firm" tofu is highly variable and that the quality makes a big difference in the actual firmness, density and cooking results.

Here in SF though we did have good luck with the random brand of tofu available at our local produce market (in the Outer Sunset) we have now switched to almost exclusively cooking with tofu from http://www.tofuyu.com/ who are a local tofu maker and whose plain tofu cooks up amazingly well - gets great color, stays firm and in short is far better than anything else we've tried.

While not every part of the country is as lucky as the Bay Area to have multiple artisanal tofu makers competing to make fantastic tofu you should experiment with the various brands of tofu you can find - look for the one that gets the best results for your in your preparations.

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To make it more firm, try pan searing it. High heat, low oil, and flip it often with the pan itself. Don't use a utensil, you will want to keep it moving but using even a soft spatula may tear and crumble the tofu before it gains a seared texture).

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you may want to marinate your tofu.

and/or coat it in cornstarch before you fry it.

see this recipe: salt and pepper tofu

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Try baking your tofu before adding it to the dish. It'll lose a lot of moisture and turn out a lot more firm.

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The brand and type of tofu are essential and easy to get right. We have one called Cleveland Tofu in Ohio that has an extra-firm that works well, but even the one I see most frequently, Nasoya, works great if you follow up with these steps.

You can cube first but it creates more work. I get good results by:

  • slicing into 1/8-1/4" strips the short-length of the block
  • pressing/patting dry with a paper towel and laying out to air for 15ish minutes
  • putting on a baking sheet on 325-350F for about 15-30 minutes (depends on your taste in firmness, I like it to have some give, my wife prefers it to be firm to the point of crunchy), flipping once for even cooking

This gives a nice crispness by ensuring you have dried out the tofu sufficiently. If you choose to only bake just extend baking time. If you want to follow up with a deep-fry or saute they are a nice texture and won't crumble.

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To make your tofu more firm, you can press it. Before cubing it, place the block of tofu on a plate, put another plate on top of it and weight it down with something (like a can of tomatoes) and leave it for 15 minutes. This will compress it further and squish out extra water.

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