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There exists a basic tofu principle that is: In order for your tofu to absorb flavorful liquid marinades, stir-fry sauces, and soup stocks, the no-flavor liquid—i.e. the water—must first come out.
Several methods will expel the water from your tofu:
- You could press it out (either with some heavy books or cans or a nifty press).
- You could boil it out, by shallow- or deep-frying.
- Or, you could freeze it out—which is probably the easiest option of all.
That's right: Freeze your tofu. (Even if it's not nearing its expiration date—but especially if it is!)
When the tofu freezes, its water turns to ice crystals, which create small, sponge-like holes that remain once the tofu is thawed and the ice turns into water. As a Slate article explains, frozen tofu is "far spongier, firmer, and chewier than it was before. No amount of draining, patting dry, or pressing tofu can minimize sogginess as much as freezing does."
(Side note: Freezing tofu also turns the bean protein yellow, according to Minh Tsai of Hodo Soy Beanery—and that's why your tofu doesn't look like itself when it comes out of the freezer.)
To freeze tofu:
- Drain it of the liquid it came in. At this point, you can pat it dry and press it to remove excess liquid, but it's not necessary. (It may help prevent ice from building up on the outside of your tofu pieces, however.)
- Slice the block into thin pieces or chunks, store it in an airtight container or plastic bag, and stash in the freezer (for up to three months). You can freeze the entire block, but it will take longer to thaw.
- Once frozen, thaw the tofu in the refrigerator. (If you froze a whole block and are anxious to use it, you can do as this Serious Eats recipe recommends, and simmer the frozen block in water for 15 minutes before cubing.
- Squeeze or pat any excess water out of the thawed tofu, then use as you please (braise it, bake it, stir-fry it, deep-fry it, marinate it...)
Timing wise, I find it easiest to freeze the tofu overnight, then transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw during the day, while I'm at work. When I return in the evening, my tofu is a sponge, ready to absorb
my love the sauces, dressings, and marinades I throw at it.
What's your favorite way to prepare tofu? Ready, set, go (in the comments below)!