Cooking Tips

Why You Should Tear Your Tofu

Knives down, hands up.

Published May 27, 2021.

Attention all tofu lovers: Put down your knives and hear me out. There’s a lot to be said about using this knifeless approach to tackle that block of protein-packed bean curd.

To be clear, there’s certainly nothing wrong with sliced tofu. At America’s Test Kitchen, we’ve been slicing and dicing firm and extra-firm tofu into planks, "fingers," and cubes for years. But when we were working on our Complete Salad Cookbook, we realized that by cutting tofu into perfectly squared-off shapes, we’re only creating six surfaces for flavor. Tearing produces craggy nooks and crannies that hold onto batters, glazes, and dressings better than perfectly smooth sides do.

Sign up for the Notes from the Test Kitchen newsletter

Our favorite tips and recipes, enjoyed by 2 million+ subscribers!

The best part about tearing firm tofu is there’s really no way to mess it up (sounds like a great opportunity to get the kiddos involved!). The goal is to literally tear the tofu into pieces the size of your choice, and just like that you’re ready to move forward. These tofu pieces are great for any application with the exception of grilling and searing. (In those cases, the straight sides of sliced tofu are important for even cooking.)

When pieces of torn tofu are dusted with cornstarch or battered and then fried, the irregular surface provides more opportunities for extra-crispy texture. But you don’t have to fry your tofu to benefit from this approach.

charred cabbage salad with torn tofu
The Charred Cabbage Salad with Torn Tofu and Plantain Chips from The Complete Salad Cookbook.

Take the Charred Cabbage Salad with Torn Tofu and Plantain Chips from The Complete Salad Cookbook, for example (that’s it in the photos above). We started with tearing some tofu (firm is best in terms of ease) and then tossed the pieces with a vibrant marinade full of rice vinegar, lime juice, ginger, honey, and fish sauce. Ordinarily, marinated tofu takes a couple hours to get to its optimal level of flavor, but by utilizing this torn method we were able to achieve impressive flavor in just 20 minutes.

Don’t get me wrong, you should keep that knife close by. Torn mirepoix isn’t exactly a thing. But when it comes to tofu, be more hands on and tear it.

Get more invaluable cooking tips here (new articles are added every day), and start a free trial to access all our rigorously tested recipes, tips, and product reviews.

This is a members' feature.