How to Soften Refrigerated Paneer
Paneer, also known as cottage cheese, is a staple ingredient of many popular Indian dishes. Whether you are making shahi paneer, paneer pakoras, kadhai paneer or paneer parathas, you must have noticed that it will taste best only if it is soft and supple. Whether you make paneer at home or buy it from the market, it has a short shelf life and needs to be kept refrigerated to prevent it from spoiling. But most of the times, refrigeration makes paneer hard and firm, due to which your dish does not achieve the desired texture. Read this oneHOWTO article to find out how to soften refrigerated paneer.
Bring it to room temperature
The first step is to take it out from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature before you use it in your recipe. Refrigerated paneer is cold and hard and it will soften automatically when it is warmed up. So, whenever you wish to use it in your dish, take it out from the fridge at least 2 hours before. Doing this will give it enough time to come to room temperature, and it will soften a bit on its own.
Immerse in warm water
If the paneer has not softened even after reaching room temperature, perhaps due to too much cold in the weather or winter season, you can soften it by keeping it immersed in warm water. Warm up water in a bowl on a stove or microwave oven, cut the paneer into cubes, and immerse them in this warm water for a few minutes. The water should be enough to cover all the paneer cubes completely. Do not keep the paneer in warm water for more than 5 minutes, as you may think that it will soften better. Immersing the paneer in warm water for too long can make it too soft, and it will start breaking when you use it in your recipe. So, keep a balance and soften your paneer by keeping it immersed in warm water for around 5 minutes, no longer than that.
Another way to soften refrigerated paneer is to expose it to steam. To do this, you will need boiled water, strainer, paneer cubes and a lid. Add some water in a bowl and bring it to boil. Turn off the flame, put a strainer on top of it, and evenly spread the paneer cubes on it so that steam reaches the paneer cubes from the boiling water underneath. Put a lid on top of the paneer cubes so that the steam cannot escape. Keep steaming for around 10 minutes after which the paneer will become soft.
Keep it covered
One very important tip is to always keep your paneer covered in the refrigerator. The best thing you can do is to use all the paneer that you have bought, and buy some fresh whenever you want to make a dish with paneer. But if you need to refrigerate it, never keep it uncovered in the refrigerator. Always store your paneer in a container or box, and keep it inside the refrigerator. Doing this will not expose your paneer to the harsh and cold temperature inside the fridge, as it can rip off all the moisture from your paneer and make it hard, firm and rubbery.
Add paneer in the end
Even if you have softened your paneer by bringing it to room temperature, steaming it or immersing it in warm water, you should never add it to your dish in the beginning of your recipe if you want to keep paneer soft while cooking. If you add paneer in the beginning itself, the cooking process will overcook the paneer and it will become rubbery and hard. One nice tip is to keep the paneer aside until you cook all other ingredients, and add it to the recipe in the end. Doing this will not only keep the paneer soft, but will also keep its nutrients intact and enhance its taste. For more information, you would be interested in finding out when to add paneer to curry.
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