Smoking tofu transforms this nutritious but famously bland soy product into a startlingly tasty grilled entre. Tofu has long been the go-to, high-protein meat replacement for vegetarians, and its ability to absorb flavors from its surroundings is given a fine workout by the smoking process. To make your own you'll need a firm or extra-firm tofu, and either a smoker or gas grill to generate the flavorful clouds of smoke.
Gather Your Equipment
You'll need the same basic equipment for smoking tofu as you would for smoking most other foods. A smoker or gas barbecue is essential as is a product to supply the smoke, such as hickory chips.
Other useful equipment includes a few mixing bowls, paper towels, plus olive oil and a food brush to keep food from sticking to the grill. You may also want to add some spices, marinades or other flavorings.
Prepare Your Tofu for Smoking
Drain the tofu from its water packaging, rinse with fresh water and blot it dry with paper towels. Then it's ready to cut. You can make whatever shapes you desire, such as slabs, strips or cubes. Note that if you're using a tofu block that is not firm or extra-firm, or if the curing process was not long enough, the tofu may fall into pieces while smoking.
You can spice up your tofu if you like with a dry spice mix or with a liquid marinade. Rub the tofu surfaces with a dry seasoning mixture or toss the whole pieces of tofu thoroughly in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight, so the flavors can permeate the tofu.
Prepare Your Smoker
Get your smoker ready by loading it with charcoal and hardwood chunks, or, in the case of an electric smoker, by filling the smoke chamber with hardwood. On a gas grill, fill the smoker box with hardwood if you have one. If you don't, improvise a smoker box by filling a foil baking pan with hardwood and covering it with heavy foil. Poke a few holes in the lid so smoke can escape.
Enthusiasts differ sharply on the question of whether the wood chips should be soaked before smoking. If you opt for dry chips, keep a squirt bottle of water nearby to mist them should they burst into flame instead of smoldering.
Heat the barbecue to approximately 300 degrees. When the hickory chips begin to smoke, the grill is ready.
You're Ready to Smoke Your Tofu
Brush olive oil onto the grill slats to help prevent the tofu from sticking. Then, place the seasoned tofu as far away from the flames as possible. Slabs or strips of tofu can go on the grate as is, but cubes should be skewered for ease of handling.
Close the barbecue's lid, and allow thick slabs of tofu to smoke for up to 1 1/2 hours. Smaller strips or cubes require only 30 to 45 minutes. Check the tofu near the end of your expected cooking time. When it's done it should be deeply browned at the surface with a slightly tacky texture.
Finishing the tofu at high temperature on your grill gives it a seared, flavorful surface and pleasant crust. Brush the tofu with a sauce or glaze, if you wish, for added flavor and a caramelized surface.
Tips for Making Your Tofu Resemble the Texture of Meat
If you want to recreate the texture of meat, there are a few tricks you can apply to your tofu.
Freezing your tofu will help keep it fresh for approximately three months and will also change the tofu's texture. That extra chewiness is usually considered a flaw, but it lends smoked tofu a more meat-like texture.
Pressing the tofu under a plate weighted with a can of soup forces additional moisture from the soy curd and gives it a denser, meatier texture that works well for smoking. Let it drain overnight on a cutting board that's angled into the sink, so the water can drain away neatly.