Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a versatile plant-based protein derived from soybeans. A staple ingredient in many vegan and vegetarian diets, tofu is a product of coagulating soy milk, followed by pressing the resulting curds into soft, firm, or extra-firm blocks. Not only is tofu an excellent source of protein, but it also contains essential amino acids, iron, and calcium.
Known for its subtle flavor and a texture that readily absorbs other ingredients' tastes, tofu is a perfect addition to various dishes, such as stir-fries, soups, sandwiches, or salads. With its ability to be grilled, fried, baked, or marinated, this adaptable ingredient offers endless culinary possibilities for both novice and experienced home cooks.
Cooking with tofu, especially for those unfamiliar with it, can be a bit overwhelming, mainly due to its varying types and textures. The three main tofu types - silken, firm, and extra-firm, each offer different culinary possibilities and can drastically impact the outcome of your dish. For instance, a common mistake people make is using the wrong tofu type for specific recipes. Silken tofu is ideal for sauces, smoothies, or desserts, while firm and extra firm versions are better suited for stir-fries or grilling.
Moreover, the question of whether tofu should be pressed before cooking often bewilders many. While it's not always necessary, pressing tofu can remove excess water, which helps it absorb marinades better and achieve a crisper exterior when pan-fried or grilled. Using a tofu press can facilitate this process greatly, but a DIY setup with a plate and a heavy object does the trick.
Furthermore, while tofu's bland flavor may appear as a drawback, it's one of its significant strengths. Being a flavor sponge, tofu can adapt to a wide range of seasonings, sauces, and marinades, making each use uniquely flavorful.
As for cooking techniques, pan-searing, frying, grilling, or baking tofu can result in delightfully crisp and golden exterior and soft interior. Remember to turn your tofu frequently to ensure it cooks evenly.
Can I eat tofu raw?
How do I make tofu taste good?
What is the difference between firm, extra-firm, and silken tofu?
How do you press tofu to get the water out?
Can I marinate tofu like I marinate meat?
Can tofu be grilled?
How do I make tofu crispy?
How long should I cook tofu?
Can I freeze tofu?
What can I substitute for tofu?
Expiration & Storage Tips
When does tofu expire?
Unopened tofu usually lasts about 3-5 days past the printed date on the package, given it has been properly stored in the refrigerator. Once opened, you can keep tofu in the fridge for up to a week, providing it is kept in a container filled with fresh water. Be sure to change the water daily to keep your tofu fresh. As for freezing, tofu can be frozen for up to 5 months. Remember that it might change its texture and turn a bit spongy, which is perfect for absorbing marinades or sauces.
How do you tell if tofu is bad?
Tofu is spoiled if it has a sour smell or if it has been in your fridge for more than a week without water change. Also, if you see that it has changed color, typically getting darker, yellowish, or starting to grow mold, it's time to throw it away. You should always discard tofu that has gone bad, as eating spoiled tofu might result in food poisoning.
Tips for storing tofu to extend shelf life
• Always store your tofu in the fridge, regardless of whether it's opened or unopened.
• For opened tofu, transfer it into a container filled with water. Remember to change the water daily to keep it fresh.
• If you want to freeze your tofu, slice it into manageable pieces and freeze it in a container. When ready to use, let it defrost in its own time in the fridge.
• To further extend its shelf life, you can blanch tofu before storing. Blanching is a cooking process in which the tofu is quickly dunked in boiling water and then immediately shifted into cold water. It can extend your tofu’s life by at least a few days.
• Marinating tofu and storing it in the fridge will also help keep it good for a few days.