It can be challenging to cook with tofu, as you’ll want to control the amount of moisture. If your tofu is too moist for the recipe you’re preparing, you could end up with a soggy mess instead of firm and delicious cubes of flavor.
Pressing tofu before cooking will enable your tofu to absorb better the flavors of any sauces you want to use. The less the water content of your tofu, the better it will soak up marinades and sauces.
It isn’t difficult to press tofu, and the results are really worth it. You don’t need any special tools, although there are some available for those who wish.
Make sure your tofu is the right type for the recipe
For best results with baked or fried tofu, you’ll want to start with medium, firm, or extra-firm tofu. These tofu types are the ones to press and fry or bake, and pressing them will allow you to achieve crispy and firm textures.
Soft or silken tofu contains quite a lot of water and has an entirely different texture, and lends itself better to blended recipes. If your recipe calls for a smooth or silky texture as a final result, you will want to use soft or silken tofu without pressing it.
Why you want to press out the water
Water will prevent your tofu from browning nicely, because the water from the tofu will turn into steam and make your tofu soggy. If you bake your tofu, it will come out soft rather than crispy if it still contains a fair amount of water.
It’s just a matter of pressing out the water. You can do this easily with minimal effort with a tofu press such as the one at https://tofubud.com or a plate and a heavy pot.
The additional advantage of pressed tofu is that it will give a firmer mouth-feel. If you prepare dishes with meat substitutes like tofu, then pressed tofu will provide you with that satisfying non-meaty yet consistent texture.
If you want to fry your tofu in oil, pressing it first will allow you to do that without oil splatters from the excess water. Pressing tofu will give you a crunchy texture outside and a tender and delicious inside.
How to press the water out of your tofu
First of all, remove the tofu from its packaging and drain off any excess water.
If you’re using a tofu press, put the tofu into the press, turn the knob, and then walk away to do other things for the next 15-20 minutes. The press will do the work for you, and you won’t need to check it afterward (see below). You also won’t have to worry about your block of tofu breaking or cracking. Tofu presses also get more water out of tofu than other methods.
If you’re using a plate and a pot, grab a few paper towels. Put the tofu onto the plate with paper towels above and below it. Place the pot on top – select a heavy pot with a level bottom so that the tofu is pressed evenly. Wait for the same amount of time – 15-20 minutes – and remove the paper towels. You’ll need to check to make sure you’ve gotten out as much moisture as you can. Drain the water from the plate and give your tofu another press to get out any remaining water.
You could also use two chopping boards, putting the tofu between them and putting heavy books or a cast-iron skillet on top.
If you don’t want to use paper towels every time you want to press tofu, you could use cheesecloth, muslin, or cloth towels.
Once your tofu is pressed, blot it on all sides to remove any traces of water.
Your tofu is now ready to soak up the flavors of your favorite marinade, sauce, stew, or topping.
Other notes on pressing tofu
The amount of time you press your tofu also depends on what kind of recipe you’ll want to use it for.
- Press it for 15-30 minutes for cubes to use in stews or soups.
- Press it for 1-2 hours if making pastries, pies, quiches, and casseroles.
- Press it for 4 hours or even overnight if you’re using it for stir-fries, kebabs, fried or baked tofu.
Experiment with how you like your tofu. You may find that you won’t need to press it for long to get the texture you prefer.
Enjoy your pressed tofu!