I Tried the 2-Ingredient Hack for Perfectly Crispy Tofu and It Worked Like a Charm

published Jun 6, 2022
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image

Perhaps one of the kitchen’s most versatile meatless ingredients, tofu can be prepared just about any way. This ingredient, made from curdled dried soy beans, is a staple in many households and it takes on a ton of flavor when prepared well. This spicy seared tofu and broccoli and this sheet-pan honey sesame tofu are just some of the many delicious paths you can take with tofu.

Whether you cook with tofu often or you simply want to cook with more meatless alternatives, one thing that’s important to keep in mind is how crucial it is to know how to properly drain and prep tofu. If you are making a recipe that calls for crispy tofu, getting that perfect crunch is probably the most challenging aspect of cooking it.

Luckily, there is this two-ingredient trick for making ultra-crispy tofu from @Omsom via an Instagram reel. The secret? Soak planks of tofu in a hot salt brine for 10 to 15 minutes before pan-frying them. According to the video, you simply remove them from the brine, let them drain on a plate lined with paper towels before dicing them into cubes and cooking them in an oiled skillet. All you need is 1/4 cup salt for every 4 cups of water.

I followed this method, pan-frying each cube on medium heat for 5 minutes on each side before tossing with a sauce. You can see my results below. To really put things to the test, I did a side-by-side comparison. In the stills below, the first photo is the tofu brined in salt and the second photo is the tofu I simply pressed dry. You can pretty clearly see the difference on the surface of the tofu and how much more evenly browned the brined tofu is.

Salt-Brined Tofu
Pressed-Dry Tofu

My Honest Opinion on This Two-Ingredient Hack for Crispy Tofu

It made a surprisingly noticeable difference! My tofu turned out perfectly browned and evenly crispy and all it took was just a generous amount of salt and some hot water.

Because this hack is so simple, I was a bit skeptical at first. I had no choice but to try this out for myself. First, though, I looked into the mechanics behind the idea. My assumption was that the salt in the brine helps to extract the excess liquid from tofu while it sits, similar to how you might use salt to extract water out of sliced vegetables like eggplant before frying.

An article in Cook’s Illustrated explains the science behind why this works a bit further: “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. ”  

This is a method I’ll definitely turn to again whenever I want crispy tofu.