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How to Press Tofu With or Without a Press
DIY Beginner’s Guide

Rafid Nassir
Published by Rafid Nassir
Fact checked by Markus Oliver, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: February 11, 2021

This amazingly versatile vegan-friendly food has been around for about 2,000 years and we’re still learning new tofu recipes and surprising facts about it, including different methods of how to press tofu and make it even more appetizing.

If you’re new to cooking and using tofu in your menu, no need to stress out -  there’s a way to press it and make it perfect even if you’re a beginner who’s stuck without the tofu press.

Should You Drain Tofu?

tofu bits

Tofu, also known as bean curd, is a rich source of plant-based protein that can be easily incorporated into your healthy diet, but is tofu pressing always necessary?

If you don’t mind bland and soggy taste and texture, you can get on with cooking straight away, but generally, if you’re after a crispy texture, you should not skip this step.

Not only is tofu soaked in water when you get it from a grocery store, but the best tofu is also full of liquid, so you need to press the tofu to get all the excess moisture out.

If you’ve been wondering how to press tofu without using a tofu press, we have good news for you - you don’t need any kind of expensive gadgets to press tofu like a pro.

Does All Tofu Need Draining?

No, not all types of tofu require pressing, but it really depends on tofu’s consistency and, of course, recipes. In most cases, pressing tofu is a critical step that enables it to hold its shape and absorb more flavour when cooking and marinating it.

Silken and soft tofu are too delicate for pressing, medium tofu can be pressed very gently, just to squeeze out some moisture, while firm and extra-firm tofu really do benefit from pressing, so make sure to use the right tofu for the recipe.

Some dishes, like tofu scramble, sauces, and mousses, are best made with soft tofu, but if you are planning on baking, grilling, or frying it and getting the most flavor out of your tofu recipe, then you shouldn’t be lazy about pressing it.

‘’Some brands of firm tofu, particularly smoked or flavoured ones that are vacuum packed, may not need pressing. If you’re not sure, dab the surface with a clean tea towel and see if it picks up moisture. ‘’

 

- Miriam Nice, bbcgoodfood.com

5 Step Process on How to Press Tofu Without a Press

pressing a tofu with a knifeboard

If you need some tips on how to do it and what’s the least painstaking way to press tofu without a tofu press, here’s an easy diy method that involves only a clean dish towel or paper towel, a frying pan or cutting board, and something heavy to weigh it down.

Required time: 30 minutes

  1. Tofu usually comes in a package filled with water, so you’ll need to get rid of that first. Open a package of firm or extra-firm tofu and drain excess liquid from the package.

 

  1. Wrap the tofu block in a clean dish towel or use a flooded paper towel and place it on top and underneath the block of tofu, then put it on a plate to catch the excess water and prevent making a mess on your kitchen counter.

 

  1. Grab something heavy, like a few books or cans of food and place it on a cutting board, in a frying pan, or in a cast iron skillet and put it on top of the wrapped tofu block to add some weight. Paper towels will help absorb liquid and speed up the process, but if you don’t want to use them, you should drain the water from the plate every 20 minutes or so.

 

  1. Let tofu sit for 30 minutes, but if you’re in a hurry, 15 minutes should do the trick as well. The longer you let it sit, the firmer and drier tofu you’ll get.

 

  1. After your bean curd has been pressed, remove the weight from the top of the cutting board or skillet, unwrap the paper towels, cut the tofu and get on with your delicious recipe!

 

If your block of tofu is super-thick, you can slice it in half lengthwise, like a book, before you start pressing, so that water can drain thoroughly. Place a paper towel layer between the blocks and weight it down as described above.

If you are planning to use cubes or slices in your recipes, you can cut the block of tofu before pressing it [1].

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How to Press It With a Tofu Press

Although the diy method is free and easy to apply, it can be challenging to balance everything, especially if you want to put your tofu block in the fridge overnight. It also doesn’t drain as much water as a tofu press.

If tofu is frequently on your menu, or if using paper towels and heavy objects is not your thing, then getting a gadget like tofu press can be a good option.

You can start by checking out these low-cost but efficient tofu presses:

  1. Tofuture

This compact kitchen tool comes with a convenient water catching container so it can press without making a mess. Tofuture applies pressure evenly and you can easily store it in the fridge.

  1. EZ tofu press

This affordable press drains tofu in just under 20 minutes, but since it comes without a water catching container, you would have to put it in the sink or place some paper towels under the press.

  1. Yakko Tofu Presser

A very convenient and simple design pressing device for firm and extra-firm tofu to press dry your plant-based protein-packed block in no time.

How to Use Pressed Tofu?

tofu with sauce and sesame seeds

Now that you know how to press tofu, the question is what’s the best way to use it. Here’s what you can do:

1. Put it in a freezer

After you have pressed your tofu for at least 30 minutes, you can slice and freeze it. Freezing tofu will change its texture, making it more absorbent and firmer. This works great in recipes where the tofu needs to hold its shape, like grilling, baking, or stir-frying.

2. Marinate it

Pressed tofu will suck in more marinade but you can also coat it with some dried spices to make it extra-flavorful.

3. Bake it

If you love using crispy tofu in your recipes, this option is for you. Just place your marinated slices of tofu on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown.

There are a plethora of ways to use pressed tofu in cooking, and it’s easy to throw it into all kinds of vegan recipes, from noodle soups to baked tofu steaks.


References

  1. https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/how-press-tofu

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