Why Thicker Slices Are Best When Grilling Tofu

Grilling any food, from meat to vegetables, imparts a unique smokiness and char that no other cooking method can touch — not to mention the added flavor from the wood or charcoal fueling the flames. With its versatile and neutral flavor and absorbent meat, tofu is one of the best ingredients to throw on your grill. Thick-cut slabs of firm tofu will yield the best results in terms of flavor, texture, and integrity.

Cutting your tofu into at least half-inch slabs will give you more surface area and volume, which translates to increased absorption of marinades and the smokiness from the grill. Firm is the sturdiest form of tofu, but it's still a much more delicate product than many other animal proteins. Thus, a thicker cut is more likely to hold its form as you place it on the grill grates and flip it to get those deliciously charred markings. Also, thicker slabs are less likely to fall through the cracks of your grill grates. If you cut tofu too thin, the char delivered by the grill grates will overwhelm the flavor of any marinade or spice rub you use. Worse still, thinner cuts are more likely to stick to the grates and fall apart when you flip them.

More tofu grilling tips

Cutting the tofu into thick slabs is one of the various preparation tips to reap the most flavorful and structurally sound grilled results. Before you cut your tofu block, be sure to press the tofu to rid it of as much water as you can to maximize its absorption capacity. You can wrap tofu in paper towels and place a heavy saucepan on top to sit for 15 minutes while you fire up the grill. 

Dry spice rubs will absorb any residual moisture as tofu cooks while also creating crispy crust, further upholding the integrity of tofu steaks as you flip them. Since tofu has a neutral flavor, you can pair it with any spice profile you have in mind. Garlic powder, paprika, lemon pepper, and coarse salt would be a well-rounded blend of aromatic, smoky, and tangy notes to tofu. Prepackaged spice blends like taco seasoning or Cajun spice mix are convenient vessels to infuse flavor.

Of course, if you want to add a burst of juicy flavor, you can always drizzle an oily or creamy grill sauce over your tofu hot off the grill. A fresh chimichurri, lemony basil arugula pesto, or spicy sofrito would taste delicious over grilled tofu. If you wanted a creamy herbal sauce, you could blend silken tofu with lemon juice, fresh dill, parsley, and pickle relish. Vegan mayonnaise and sriracha or chipotles in adobo would bring a great creamy spicy kick to complement the smoky char of grilled tofu.