Thu Apr 20, 2017
Barbecue tofu—two words I never thought I would write together on my blog proudly dubbed "The Meatwave." In spite of that title, I have always wanted my cookouts to be an open space for all diets alike, although I admit that non-meaty efforts have been half-hearted in the past. My new reality in North Carolina though is I have almost as many vegetarian friends as meat eaters, so making sure everyone leaves stuffed requires greater attention to non-meaty pursuits, which you may have noticed are becoming more numerous in the recipe archive. Still, I've always been a fan of food in natural forms, being turned off from tofu, which I found odd and unappetizing on a personal level. I've been coming around to tofu though—mainly enjoyed in Asian dishes so far—and thought it was time for me to let go of this hang up and use my barbecue know-how to make what would hopefully be the tastiest barbecue tofu for all of my Meatwave guests to enjoy, vegetarian or not.
Saying I'm a tofu novice is an understatement—I think this was the first time in my life I have ever purchased the stuff. I knew enough though to know it comes in silken and regular in various firmnesses. I made a calculated assumption that I wanted a regular tofu, and the picture of the stuff skewered and grilled on the package of the extra-firm variety was a direct message to me that this was what I was looking for.
My end goal was to create a barbecue tofu with a lot of the characteristics that make barbecue chicken so good—sauce encased exterior, some crispy bits, tons of flavor, etc. For the maximum flavor part, I needed a good amount of surface area, so cut the tofu into half-inch slices, which seemed thick enough to hold up on the grill and gave me a lot of area to apply sauce to.
The crispy bits seemed like it might be hardest part to mimic though as the tofu was super moist, and moisture equates to slow cooking of the exterior, inhibiting the ability to get a good sear. To wick away some excess water, I placed the tofu on paper towels, placed another layer on top, and pressed down gently to squeeze out some moisture and dry out the exterior.
The best barbecue chickens build layers of flavor, usually starting off with a rub that pairs with the sauce. So I saw no reason not to do the same here and used my special Meatwave rub to gave the tofu slices a good seasoning all over.
Next I used the same tried and true method for cooking barbecue chicken to grill this tofu. It started with placing the slices on the cool side of a two-zone fire and covering. My initial goal was remove even more moisture from the exterior before applying the sauce. It only took about 5 minutes for the outside of tofu to look dry and begin to even have a little crispness. The inside still was pretty moist too at this stage, confirmed by the still springy consistancy when lightly pushed on.
For my barbecue chicken, I ensure maximum flavor by applying three coats of the sauce. The first two happen over indirect heat, with five minutes between brushings to allow time for the sauce to bake down.
Then after the third brushing of sauce, I move the meat to the hot side of the grill, where the sauce caramelizes over the fiery coals. Luckily this method translated perfectly with the tofu, with the final slices having a hearty coating of sauce with tempting grill marks and bits of caramelized sugars all over.
I assembled the tofu into sandwiches, using toasted potato buns and a mustard slaw as a topping. Put altogether, this was mighty tasty. Unlike with chicken, where sauce just sits on top of the meat, the barbecue sauce here seeped into the tofu and flavored the slices more thoroughly, making what I consider pretty drab tofu an exciting prospect. Things got more acceptable in my mind in sandwich form, where the addition of the bun and slaw made the tofu feel really hearty, "meaty" even—if you'll allow me to say that without getting chastised. I'm not going out and trading in my beloved barbecue chicken for tofu anytime soon, but I felt I did my guests a right, giving this tofu the attention and flavor I always dedicate to the meats on the menu, and that effort was certainly noted with many compliments on this barbecue tofu from those who indulged and left that Meatwave both satisfied and stuffed.
Barbecue Tofu Sandwiches
- Prep Time:
- 5 Minutes
- Cook Time:
- 20 Minutes
- Total Time:
- 25 Minutes
- 6 servings
- 1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained, rinsed, and sliced 1/2 inch thick
- 3 tablespoons barbecue rub
- 1 cup barbecue sauce
- 6 potato buns
- 1/2 recipe mustard coleslaw
- Line a work surface or sheet pan with paper towels. Lay tofu slices in a single layer on paper towel and lay another layer of paper on top. Press gently on tofu to squeeze out excess moisture. Season tofu all over with barbecue rub.
- Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place tofu on cool side of grill, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Flip tofu and brush with barbecue sauce; cover and cook for 5 minutes more. Flip tofu again and brush with barbecue sauce; cover grill and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Brush tofu with sauce all over and move to hot side of grill. Cook, flipping occasionally, until tofu develops grill marks and light charring on both sides, about 5 minutes more. Transfer tofu to a plate or cutting board.
- Place buns on hot side of grill and cook until lightly toasted, about 30 seconds. Transfer buns to plates, place 1 tofu slice in each bun and top with coleslaw. Serve immediately.