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How To Press Tofu: The Home Cook's Quick Guide

Tofu is an Asian delicacy that's prepared by coagulating soy milk to form soy curd, which is then pressed into solid tofu blocks. The pressing process relies on a tofu press, which is a mechanical contraption that applies pressure to a tofu block without distorting its shape and forces the water trapped within it to drain out.
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Why Do You Need to Press Tofu?

1.  To Change the Firmness
Pressing tofu releases the moisture within it, increasing the firmness. This allows the tofu to retain its shape during cooking. Extra-firm tofu is highly recommended when working with recipes that require stir-frying, scrambling, or baking.
2.  Improving Flavor Absorption
When tofu is pressed, it becomes more absorbent, allowing it to act as a sponge to soak up flavors, marinades, oils, and spices from the ingredients paired with it. These flavors get trapped in the tofu, and they complement its existing nutty flavor.
3.  Improving Texture And Smell
Pressing tofu releases the trapped water in it, enhancing its texture from silken to a soft-firm texture. The liquid in which the tofu was packed in can also have a strong soy-like smell, pressing the tofu will also reduce this smell, ensuring that your tofu absorbs the aroma of other ingredients in the recipe.

How Long Does It Take To Press Tofu?




How long it takes to press tofu will depend on the technique and equipment you are using for the job.
1.  Homemade tofu weight press (2lbs):  1- 4hrs depending on expected firmness
2.  Dual plate mechanical tofu press: 15- 45 minutes depending on expected firmness and size of the tofu block
3.  Dousing with hot, salted water: 15 minutes draining time after dousing the block with the hot, salted water
4.  Freezing the tofu followed by quick defrosting: 24hrs or less of freezing time and time to defrost

How to Press Tofu At Home

If you need to change the firmness of tofu at home, there are a couple of methods that you can rely on. These can be split into either using a tofu press or other kitchen hacks to press tofu without a tofu press.

Pressing Tofu Without a Tofu Press

Tofu Press Using Weights
In order to apply pressure on the tofu block, you will require a flat-surfaced weight such as heavy skillets, books, flat granite slabs, or cans of food. This process will take around 1 to 4 hours, depending on the expected firmness and the size of the tofu block you are working with. This method is most recommended for the firm and extra-firm tofu, which can withstand moderate pressure without falling apart.
Equipment Required
1.  Two cutting boards
2.  Paper towels and a clean dishcloth
3.  A heavy object such as a heavy skillet, books or water-filled bowl to act as a weight
1.  Wrap the block of tofu with paper towels, ensuring that every surface is covered with the towels
2.  Wrap the clean dishcloth around the already wrapped block to add a secondary layer of absorption
3.  Place the wrapped on the first cutting board, which should be placed on a flat counter
4.  Place the second cutting board on top of the wrapped tofu block
5.  Gently line up the weight so that it sits directly on top of the tofu block on the upper cutting board. This ensures that the pressure is applied evenly
6.  Allow the setup to apply pressure for 1 hour before checking if the tofu has attained the required firmness


Freezing The Tofu

When tofu gets frozen, the water content forms ice crystals, which expand in size, pushing the protein network outwards. Upon thawing, the ice crystals melt and drains away, leaving the tofu with a spongy consistency in the pockets that were occupied by ice crystals. This texture also makes it much easier for the water to drain out.
Equipment Needed
1.  Kitchen knife
2.  Cookie sheet
3.  Parchment paper
4.  Paper towels
1.  Slice the tofu block into half-inch-thick cubes
2.  Line the cookie sheet with the parchment paper or wax paper to prevent the cubes from sticking to the cookie sheet when they freeze
3.  Place the individual tofu cubes on the parchment paper and transfer it to the freezer
4.  Allow the tofu cubes to freeze for 24 hours before taking them out
5.  Place the frozen tofu cubes on paper towels and allow them to thaw
6.  After the water has drained out, gently press the cubes with additional paper towels and a small weight to squeeze out any extra water

Boiling In Salted Water

Boiling tofu in salted water will draw out the moisture trapped within it into the concentrated salt solution. While this method might have an impact on the overall taste of the tofu, it is recommended if you are looking for a meat-like consistency.
Equipment Required
1.  Pot
2.  Two tablespoons of salt for every 2 cups of water
3.  Paper towels
4.  Kitchen knife
1.  Cut the tofu block into half-inch cubes
2.  Bring the water to boil over medium heat and add the salt, stir until its fully dissolved
3.  Drop the tofu cubes into the boiling water and allow them to simmer for 10 minutes
4.  Remove the tofu cubes and place them on paper towels to dry

Tofu Press Method

A mechanical tofu press relies on applying pressure on a tofu block, which is placed in between the two sliding plates, thus forcing out the water. Most tofu presses are equipped with tension knobs to increase the pressure gradually. A tofu press can press a 100g block of tofu in just 15 minutes.
Equipment Required
1.  Kitchen knife
2.  Tofu press
3.  Bowl
4.  Cutting bowl
1.  Use the kitchen knife to cut a block of tofu that can fit in your tofu press
2.  Place the block in the middle of the tofu press and use the tension knobs to bring the two plates together to apply pressure
3.  Adjust the pressure according to the firmness of your choice and allow the water to drain out for about 15 minutes
4.  Remove the pressed tofu block and cube it as per your needs



How to Make Crispy Tofu



This recipe is inspired by, head over to their website for information!
Ingredients Required
  • Pressed, extra firm tofu
  • One tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari
  • Two tablespoons nutritional yeast
1.  Preheat the oven up to 420 °F
2.  Cut the pressed block of firm tofu into half-inch cubes
3.  Add the tofu cubes into a large bowl and mix with sodium tamari and natural yeast until they are fully coated
4.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat and place the cubes on it taking care to leave space between each cube
5.  Bake the tofu on the top rack of your oven for up to 20 minutes
6.  Take out the baking sheet and flip the cubes and bake them for another 20 minutes depending on how crispy you want them to become
7.  Serve while hot, leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week

How to Season Tofu

The preferred seasoning method will depend on the specific recipe you are working with. This is because each recipe will have varying seasoning ingredients as well as the cooking method.
1.  Oven-baked tofu: marinate the drained tofu for 30 minutes before baking
2.  Sautéed tofu: season the tofu as it cooks in the pan
3.  Boiled tofu: season the tofu after it's been boiled just before garnishing


Common Tofu Press Questions

Why Should You Press Tofu?
Tofu should be pressed to reduce the amount of water content in it making it firm and much easier to handle while cooking.
When Should You Press Tofu?
You should press tofu while preparing it to be cooked.
Can You Drain Tofu Without a Tofu Press?
Yes, you can use weights to drain tofu or freeze it if you do not have a tofu press.
How Do You Use a Tofu Press?
Simply place the tofu block in between the plates and tighten the tension knobs to apply pressure on the tofu.
How Long Do I Need to Press Tofu For?
This will be determined by the level of firmness you are looking for and the type of equipment you are using to press the tofu.
How Do You Press Tofu Quickly?
You can use a tofu press to drain tofu quickly in just 15 minutes.
Do You Need to Press Tofu?
No, tofu can still be cooked without pressing, but if the recipe requires extra firm tofu then it's encouraged to press the tofu before cooking it.


Can you Drain Tofu With A Microwave?
Yes, cue the tofu block and place the cubes on a plate and microwave for 10 to 20 minutes.


Other Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Cook Tofu?
Tofu can be cooked by either baking, frying or boiling depending on the recipe.
Why is Tofu Bad For You?
Tofu contains soy milk which is extracted from soybeans, avoid it if you are allergic to soybeans.
What is The Fastest Way to Remove Water From Tofu?
Using a tofu press makes it much faster to drain the tofu in about 15 minutes
Can You Eat Raw Tofu?
Yes, any tofu can be eaten raw especially the soft and silken tofu varieties
What Do I Eat With Tofu?
Tofu can be added to salads, soups, pudding, tacos, stews and can also be sued in burgers or simply eaten with bread or rice. 
How Do You Dry Out Tofu?
By pressing it or placing it on an absorbent material such as paper towels.


Interested in learning more about tofu? 
Check out these articles:
Recommended Tofu Products
What Does Tofu Taste Like?
How Long Does Tofu Last?
Can Tofu Be Eaten Raw?
Types of Tofu
Tofu Press
Can Dogs Eat Tofu?
Is Tofu Keto?

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