Most proteins—like chicken, steak, and pork—are delicious even when they're seasoned simply with salt and pepper. Too bad you can't say the same about tofu. Sure, the soy protein is good for you, but often times it tastes that way: boringly bland. The good news is that you can turn it into a food you actually want to eat with these tips.
You've gotta drain it.
Most tofu comes packed in water, so the number one thing you always need to do is drain the block as much as possible. A water-logged block of tofu won't absorb a marinade or get crispy in a frying pan. To drain it, slice the block and place the slices in a single layer on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Top tofu with more paper towels and then a heavy object (a cast-iron skillet, cookbooks). Let sit at least one hour, preferably two. (Tip: If you know you want tofu for dinner, let it drain in the fridge during the day.) Once drained, you can marinate the tofu or start cooking it.
If you marinate it, skip the oil.
After you've pressed tofu, it's ready to absorb flavor. But the food still retains some water—and as we all know, oil and water don't mix. Go for soy-, citrus-, or vinegar-based marinades instead.
Cornstarch holds the key to crispiness.
Trying to get tofu crispy is a struggle. That's because an important step is oft-overlooked: Tossing the tofu in cornstarch, which helps it take on a truly crispy crust. Place cornstarch in a bowl, add drained or marinated tofu pieces, and toss. A light coat is best; to shake off excess, dump it in a colander over the sink.
Make sure the pan is hot, hot, hot.
The biggest mistake you can make when trying to sear any ingredient? A room temperature pan. Before you add tofu, give the oil and pan time to warm up so that the tofu gets an even blast of heat.
Ditch the olive oil.
Since you're searing tofu, be sure to use an oil that can take the heat—and double as a flavoring agent. Two great options: Sesame oil, which will give tofu a nutty flavor, and coconut oil, which lends a subtle sweetness.
Almost as important as cornstarch? Salt. Sprinkle after searing.