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I've been trying to sear tofu in my stainless skillet, but no matter what I do it seems to stick. The nice crust gets ripped off of my tofu pieces. I've played around with different amounts of oil, different starting temperature, different cooking time, etc. Is there anything I should focus on?

If it's not possible, I'm happy to give up and just use a cast-iron or crumble the tofu or whatever instead.

UPDATE

I bought a carbon steel wok and can pan fry tofu in there with no problem! I sprinkle a bit of salt on there to prevent sticking but I'm guessing most of the nonstick comes from the pan's seasoning.

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    Personally, I've always found the very concepts of 'stainless steel' & 'frying' do not belong in the same sentence. Boil in stainless, fine; fry - find something… almost anything… else.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 18:40
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    Could you post your full process? Little things, like ensuring you dry the surface of the tofu before putting it in the pan....or if you're using any coating/marinade can be important details
    – AMtwo
    Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 20:57
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    @Tetsujin frying in stainless steel is entirely possible. You have to use sufficient oil, and have a somewhat narrow range of temperature that works, but it is entirely doable. Many people who claim that it doesn't work simply don't want to use the amounts of oil needed for actual shallow frying, as opposed to searing/roasting on the pan with almost no fat.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 22:37
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    @Sneftel nothing that you can taste in the food. In equipment terms, having a stainless pan does offer advantages - it is cheap, lasts a lifetime, requires no seasoning or other special maintenance, goes into the dishwasher when you are at home, and saves weight if you are in an outdoor situation. Anyway, I am not trying to talk you out of using a teflon pan if that's what you prefer, just mentioning that the "impossible" part is a myth.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 11:01
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    @Tetsujin Stainless is great for all kinds of frying. It comes down to time and temperature control. Have whatever you are trying to cook come up to room temp. If it is cold it is more likely to stick. Heat the pan first, no oil. Then add oil/fat. Then add food to be cooked. I do omelettes, chicken strips, over easy eggs, really anything. Meats will leave residu that has to be de-glazed or the pan washed well, but you can cook non-stick on stainless. Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 14:51

3 Answers 3

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Toast tofu slices under the broiler.

I agree with Tesujin re stainless and frying. Tofu turns out ok in my nonstick pan but I know some people don't like Teflon.

I have had great results from the broiler! Try this

1: Slice brick into rectangles.

2: Coat rectangles with oil.

3: Sprinkle on kosher salt.

  1. Under broiler until top of tofu slices is toasty.

  2. Out, flip, back in until other side is toasty.

Heating from above means the bottom doesn't stick. The broiler pan will get hot too but the coating of oil on the tofu will keep it from sticking.

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I usually dredge my tofu in Corn Starch before frying in a lot of oil (1/16 inch covering the bottom of the pan) and use my trusty stainless steep saute pan. Move them around a lot during cooking, and let them cook for a bit on medium heat before trying to flip them.

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  • Seconded. This is the way Chinese (at least Cantonese) chefs sear tofu and consistently gives good results. Also, a layer of corn starch can keep the inside of the tofu from getting too dry.
    – xuq01
    Commented Feb 27, 2020 at 18:34
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I also had this problem. The two things that helped were switching to a cast iron skillet and giving the tofu enough time to sear (~8 minutes on medium-high). Whenever I touched it too early, it would stick.

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