Better Fried Tofu

We brine the tofu to draw moisture out, helping it crisp and brown.

When preparing tofu for frying, we’ve always blotted it dry and tossed it in cornstarch, which absorbs exuded moisture and ensures a crispy exterior and better browning. Recently we came across another method: Soaking the tofu in a hot-water brine and then letting it drain for 15 minutes before frying. In the end, we got the best results by marrying old and new. We found that using a brine that was four times stronger than what we’d seen published delivered the best seasoning and crust, and tossing the hot-brined tofu in cornstarch after the draining period improved the crust even more. Why does the brine work? Both the heat and the salinity of the water draw moisture out of the surface of the tofu, helping it crisp and brown. The hot water also gradually tightens the proteins at the surface of the tofu, helping keep any remaining moisture inside. Here’s how to do it.

1. SOAK: Dissolve ¼ cup salt in 4 cups boiling water. Slice 14 ounces firm tofu crosswise into 1-inch-thick planks and soak in brine for 15 minutes.

2. DRAIN: Transfer planks to quadruple layer of paper towels and top with another 4-ply layer. Press gently, then let sit for 15 minutes.

3. TOSS: Cut tofu planks into cubes and toss with cornstarch to lightly coat. Shallow-fry cubes in hot oil for 4 to 5 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

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