As the number of vegans in the world reaches an all-time high, tofu has never been so sought after. It remains a relatively divisive foodstuff, with many people put off by the soft texture and mild flavor.
There are hundreds of different ways that you can cook tofu, but we are just going to discuss smoking it in this article.
Tofu is a combination of 3 key ingredients – a coagulant, soybeans, and water. The soybeans are blended with water to create soymilk. This is then simmered over heat and a coagulant, such as calcium sulfate or nigari (a seawater extract), is added.
This forces the curds and whey to separate. The curds are strained off and pressed to form a solid block – this is the tofu.
There are many different types of tofu. They include silken, soft, medium, firm, extra-firm, and super firm. They all contain varying amounts of water, which is what causes the variance in texture.
For smoked tofu, we recommend opting for a firm or extra-firm tofu. The softer options may still work, but there is a high chance that they will fall apart during the smoking process.
How do you smoke tofu?
Before you begin smoking your tofu, there are some preparatory steps you must take. Drain the liquid that it is packaged in and rinse the block of tofu under cold running water. You should press any excess liquid and blot the surface using paper towels.
Cut the tofu into the desired size and shape. If you wish to impart more flavor into the tofu, consider placing it in a marinade or applying a dry rub to the exterior.
If you have chosen to marinade the tofu, you should ensure that it is fully submerged in the marinade and allowed to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, but preferably overnight.
The longer the tofu is allowed to marinate, the more intense the flavor.
It is also a good idea to use this time to soak your wood chips. Submerge them in water and allow them to soak up the moisture for 30 minutes.
You do not have to do this, but this ensures that the chips smoke instead of catching fire. If you choose to use dry wood, we recommend keeping a spray bottle on hand to mist the chips if they ignite.
You will then need to prepare your smoker. If it is a traditional smoker use hardwood chips and charcoal briquettes.
For an electric smoker, fill the smoke chamber with hardwood, and on a gas grill fill up the smoker box. Heat the smoker to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and wait for your wood chips to begin smoking.
Brush the grill of your smoker with olive oil to prevent the tofu from sticking. Lay the tofu chunks on top and close the lid of the smoker.
For thick chunks, you will need to smoke the tofu for approximately 1 ½ hours. Smaller chunks of tofu will likely only need 30 to 45 minutes in the smoker.
Check on the tofu near the end of the smoking process. The surface should have browned and it should feel slightly sticky to the touch. As with a joint of meat, you can brush the tofu with a sweet glaze close to the end of the cooking process.
How can I make the texture of tofu more similar to meat?
An easy way to do this is to freeze your tofu. This will extend the shelf life of your tofu, keeping it fresh and ready for up to 3 months.
When the tofu has been defrosted and the moisture pressed out, the texture will be a lot chewier. When smoked, this makes the tofu much more texturally similar to meat.
The longer that you press your tofu for, the denser the texture becomes. Place it underneath a chopping board weighed down with heavy books or pans. Allow it to sit like this overnight for the best results. Pour away any excess liquid that collects.
Can you cold smoke tofu?
Yes, you can. This still involves some heat, but the temperature will not exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This is achieved by placing the tofu in a separate chamber to the heated, smoking wood.
The smoke is then vented into the tofu chamber where it is at a much cooler temperature. The tofu does not get cooked but the shelf life will be extended and it will not need to be stored in the refrigerator.
Is tofu bad for you?
Tofu has massively grown in popularity recently. It has gone from being a scoffed at vegan alternative to meat, to a meal’s centerpiece in its own right.
Tofu contains a great deal of protein and is a complete source. This means that it contains all of the 9 essential amino acids required by your body.
Tofu does not contain much fiber, so you must pair it with other foods to meet your daily fiber requirements. Good combinations include sweet potatoes, quinoa, and leafy vegetables.
There is a lot of iron contained within tofu. This is something that many vegetarians and vegans are lacking. Iron is vital to convert nutrients to energy in your body and is also very important for the maintenance of a healthy immune system.
The iron found in tofu is nonheme, different from the heme iron found in animal foods. This is harder for your body to absorb, so you should try to eat your tofu with foods rich in Vitamin C, such as red bell peppers.
Tofu is also a great source of calcium, provided the coagulant used is calcium sulfate. Calcium is vital for the maintenance of strong bones and teeth. A typical serving of tofu will contain approximately 10% of your daily calcium intake.
Tofu has had some bad press due to the believed impacts on hormone levels. All of these claims have been disproved and as of right now, there are not believed to be any negative health consequences of consuming tofu.