PSA: You Should Be Freezing All Your Tofu

Not only can you freeze tofu, it's actually the best way to draw out moisture.

Not only can you freeze tofu, you honestly should be freezing tofu. The freezing process transforms the texture into something pleasingly spongey, rather than crumbly, and also helps the tofu soak up sauces and marinades far better than it's able to right out of the box. Chemistry magic is happening in the freezer. Far from being a place to chuck something on the verge of going bad, your freezer is actually your best friend in cooking better, more flavorful tofu.

As tofu, which is full of liquid, freezes, that liquid turns into ice crystals, which fundamentally change the internal structure of the block by pushing aside the solids, as the crystals expand. When the frozen tofu is thawed, the ice melts, but the solids remain pushed aside, leaving aerated pockets throughout the tofu. That gives you something that's chewier and bouncier than the original product, and that has built in holes for absorbing flavor via sauces exactly like a sponge absorbs liquid.

This overall process should be familiar to anyone who cooks with tofu regularly in that it serves a similar purpose as pressing tofu—the ultimate goal being to extract as much water from the tofu as possible before cooking it. But the freezer method will actually do this more effectively than pressing ever could. It's seriously a win: You get to prolong tofu's shelf life and reduce the amount of active prep time in recipes (draining and pressing usually adds on 15 to 30 minutes to any recipe) and this all amounts to actually making tastier food.

If you freeze tofu first and then fry it, you will also end up with far crispier and lighter fried tofu. That's because moisture is the enemy of fried foods, and since the freezer method so effectively pulls water from the tofu, your starting point for frying is as good as it's going to get. But you can also actually fry tofu first and then freeze it, adding the fried-frozen bits directly to the pan, ready to absorb sauces. The freezing will draw additional moisture out of the already-cooked pieces. It's a great thing to do in advance, if you're a meal prep kind of person.

To freeze fresh tofu, empty it from its package and drain off any liquid. Pat it lightly on the outside, to avoid having too many ice crystals form on the outside of the tofu. You can pre-cut the tofu and freeze it, or freeze it as a block, if you're not quite sure what you want to do with it later, and you don't mind a longer thaw time. And if you want to really go the extra mile, you can also brine your tofu before freezing it, which draws out additional moisture, and lightly salts it. So while other items might languish in the freezer, or go there to be saved from fully rotting in the fridge, tofu should go there straight away as a way to up the ante.

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