Pressing Tofu: a How-To Guide

If you've decided to make a move to eating a more plant-based diet, you've most likely started researching tofu. Tofu is an incredibly healthy and versatile food made from soybeans, which can be used as a meat replacement in all sorts of recipes.

However, versatile as tofu is, it can be a tricky one to prepare. Tofu doesn't have much taste on its own, but its party trick is its fantastic absorbency. To unlock this, you'll need to learn how to press your tofu properly.

Why do I need to press tofu?

Tofu is generally stored in water to keep it fresh and prevent it from drying out. However, the water can get into the tofu itself, and pressing tofu removes this moisture. When the tofu is drier, it can absorb flavors much more efficiently.

Additionally, tofu that has too much water in doesn't stick together as well, which might mean that your dish falls apart when you try to cook it!

How to press tofu:

You will need either a dedicated tofu press, or a homemade press consisting of plates or chopping boards, paper towels or dish towels, and something heavy to press tofu. Here are instructions on how to use both.

How to use a homemade press:

If you aren't sure if you're going to cook much tofu and just want to try it out, you could try a homemade tofu press before investing in one. To make a tofu press, follow these instructions:

  1. Gather together two plates or chopping boards, some kitchen roll or clean dish towels, and something heavy (a few tins of soup works well);
  2. Wrap the tofu in paper towels or dish towels, and place it on one of the plates or boards;
  3. Place the other plate or board on top;
  4. On top of this, place some tins of soup or other heavy items. There should be some pressure on the plates and tofu, but not enough to make the tofu crumble;
  5. Leave it in the press for half an hour, and then carefully dismantle and unwrap the tofu;
  6. Your tofu is now pressed!

There are some disadvantages to this method. It's quite fiddly, and most of us don't have clean dish towels or paper towels on hand 100% of the time. Furthermore, it doesn't work quite as well as tofu presses do - it takes out a lot of the water, but not quite as much as a tofu press.

How to use a tofu press:

Tofu presses are a worthy investment if you're planning on cooking a lot of the stuff. You'll end up with better food, as the flavors will absorb more, and it will generally be a hassle-free process.

Each tofu press is different, but the main instructions for using one are:

  1. Take the tofu out of the package and place in the press.
  2. Tighten up the press according to the instructions.
  3. Leave the tofu for the designated amount of time – some presses give the desired result in just 10 minutes. You may need to keep tightening the press every so often to absorb more moisture.
  4. Enjoy your pressed tofu!

As you can see, it is a lot less fiddly than the homemade avenue!

How long should I press tofu for?

As you can see, different techniques need to be pressed for different times. You should press tofu for 10 minutes at a minimum, but the general rule is if you have more time, use it - some tofu is best when it is pressed for up to an hour. Tofu can't really be pressed for too long, but if too much pressure is put into it, it could crumble.

Do I need to press all tofus?

No. Silken and smooth tofus shouldn't be pressed, as they will just disintegrate. These types of tofus are normally used in desserts and sauces. If you have purchased extra firm tofu that is vacuum packed, you probably also not need to press it. Try placing the tofu on a dish towel and see if any moisture comes off. If it doesn't, your tofu is dry enough!

If your tofu has been stored in water and your recipe calls for the tofu to be cubed or cut into strips, you will most likely need to press it - but don't worry, most recipes will tell you whether pressing is essential!

To sum that up

Tofu is the staple of many vegetarians' diets for a reason - it's a fantastic ingredient to create delicious meal components that can really easily replicate meat. However, to make sure that the tofu acts in the way it is meant to, it usually needs to be pressed!

Whether you choose a store-bought tofu press or go the homemade route, pressing your tofu will ensure that you can enjoy delicious and flavoursome tofu-based meals.

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