An Old Trick to the Crispiest Tofu

About 1,500 years ago, in the mountains of northern China, you might have found bamboo mats lined with slabs of tofu, resting in the snow overnight. Once frozen solid, “the structure and basic character of the tofu underwent a radical transformation,” William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi wrote in “The Book of Tofu” (1975).

Recipe: Crispy Tofu

Like the best of us, tofu is made up of mostly water. When that water turns to ice, then melts, it leaves behind what Mr. Shurtleff and Ms. Aoyagi called “a lacy but firm network.” This more compact, spongy form of tofu, it turns out, is especially great at becoming truly and unapologetically crisp — crunchy, even — in the oven.

Freezing is one of the best ways to get the crispiest tofu without deep-frying. In this recipe, you then simply roast it: Heat the oven with a sheet pan inside, so that the pan is dancing-hot before you even add the oil. Then, carefully place frozen and thawed tofu slabs onto the hot, oiled pan — you should hear a sizzle — and cook until deliriously crisp.

There are many reasons to freeze your tofu. Maybe you just got back from the store and don’t know what to cook with that block you just bought. Or maybe you appreciate the meaty texture that freezing creates, strengthening the delicate but resilient sponge.

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