Ah, tofu. How could mushy soybeans be pressed into something so satisfying and so versatile? Tofu and the reasons to press it before you cook it are listed below. From stir-fries to burgers, few dishes would not benefit from the addition of tofu.
From traditional Asian cuisine to modern vegan recipes, few cultures do not take advantage of its many uses. Either as a meat-replacement, ingredient, or center stage, the possibilities for using tofu are pretty much endless.
Despite the popularity of tofu increasing exponentially, one little tidbit seems to be left behind. In fact, it is possibly one of the key components of successfully cooking with tofu: pressing.
Pressing tofu only really works for firm or extra-firm blocks. Extra-soft and silken tofu are typically used in recipes that benefit from the extra moisture, like smoothies.
Pressing tofu allows you to drain the excess water from the block. There are a number of reasons why pressing tofu before cooking it is critical to the outcome of the dish. Here are a few key reasons:
1. Holds its shapes
While you might think that simply buying extra-firm tofu is good enough, even the firmest blocks are packed with extra liquid to help keep it moist while being stored.
After pressing the block, you will be amazed by how much firmer the tofu can become. This helps it hold its shape while being cooked and mixed around in dishes like stir-fry.
2. Cooks more evenly
Pressing tofu helps to create a more unified texture that allows the block to cook more evenly. There is less question whether the tofu has been cooked all the way through. This is especially valuable when cooking larger blocks rather than small cubes.
3. Less water, more taste
Perhaps the biggest benefit of pressing tofu is that the less water the tofu is full of, the more room there is to absorb new flavors. Tofu is notorious for absorbing the flavors of the food it is cooked alongside. This is especially the case when you take time to marinate your tofu before cooking.
When it is full of excess water, all those delicious flavors of your sauces and seasonings stay on the surface. After being pressed, the tofu becomes like a sponge, ready to absorb whatever is thrown its way.
How to press?
There are numerous ways to press your tofu. The Chinese like to boil it and then drain it; others soak it in salt to absorb the moisture. Feel free to explore new and interesting ways to press your tofu, but if you are going for convenience, there are basically 2 options.
Pressing tofu does not need to be complicated. Wrap the block in a towel or several paper towels and place it on a plate. Place something large and somewhat heavy on top of it.
It should be large enough that the weight is evenly distributed. This could be something like a thick wooden cutting board. For extra pressure, place some books or a pot of water on top of the cutting board.
Leave the tofu alone for at least 20 minutes, but the longer, the better. This method works great, but it quite messy, uses quite a few tools, and requires quite a bit of time to really get all the moisture out of the block. However, if it is your only option, it is convenient and effective.
If you are a regular tofu chef, it may be time to invest in an actual tofu press. These are simple devices that are the easiest and most convenient option for getting the best-pressed tofu. They are easy to find online, and some companies like TofuBud specialize in this product.
It is extremely easy to use. Simply open the box, place the tofu inside, close and lock the press. Leave it on the counter or in the fridge for 20 minutes and find a perfectly pressed block of tofu, ready for your culinary masterpiece.
This is definitely the most comfortable option and maybe a worthy investment if you are regularly working with tofu in your dishes.
Tofu is a staple in many cultures, homes, and recipes. There is little that it cannot do. It is time to do your tofu and your dishes justice by preparing your tofu properly.
So next time you are prepping for your tofu dish, grab your towel and cutting board, or go straight for the tofu press and get to squeezing!