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So, you’ve been dabbling in the world of meat alternatives and you’ve given tofu a try, but maybe it didn’t work out so well.
You sautéed and sautéed, and it never got crispy. You poured in sauces and spices, but the cubes of tofu somehow dodged every drop of flavor you threw at them. You were left with something that looked and tasted like it came straight out of the package, despite your best efforts!
The reality is, tofu needs a bit of TLC to crisp up (and flavor up). The best way to get its crispy texture and chameleon flavor to shine? Pressing!
Consider this your guide to making the most of stir fries, curries, and kabobs — all with the magical art of tofu pressing.
Packaged tofu contains a lot of water, and this water makes it difficult to change its texture and to infuse any flavorings. Wet tofu not only won’t cook to its crispy potential, it can even crumble apart under the weight of its moisture. But remove the water and voila! your bean curd is ready to hit the heat for firm, flavorful results.
All you really need to get started pressing are a few household items. Or, if you want to get fancier, designated pressing tools are available that make the process easier and cleaner.
Once you’ve got a good system for pressing, a few go-to marinade recipes will help you masterfully prepare this meatless protein.
Just note: The pressing rule does not apply to silken tofu, since silken is typically used for recipes where you want moisture, like smoothies and creamy pastas.
You likely already own a combination of kitchen and household items that will help you MacGyver your way to ready-to-cook tofu.
Start with a block of extra firm, or at least firm tofu — again, anything softer is better suited for adding creamy texture to desserts or for egg substitute recipes.
For the most basic version of tofu pressing, you just need two flat things (like a cutting board and a cookie sheet, or two plates), something to soak up moisture (like a kitchen towel), and some heavy weights that will distribute pressure evenly. These could be anything from a large book to several cans.
Ready to get pressing? Simply place your first flat object on a stable surface (we’re guessing you’ll want to use your kitchen counter).
Next, wrap your tofu in a kitchen towel or paper towels and set it on the flat object. Balance your second flat object atop the tofu and weigh it down with canned tomatoes, a copy of War and Peace, or anything else heavy.
The weighted objects will press the water out of the tofu block onto whatever flat surface is holding it. Aim to drain this water into the sink a few times during the 30-45 minutes of pressing.
You’ll also want to make sure the weight and top plate/baking sheet/cutting board are centered and don’t start to slide off the block of tofu. (Otherwise, you could end up with an oddly sloped, half-pressed block.) You may need to watch and occasionally adjust to ensure even pressing.
Once you’ve dealt with pressing tofu by hand a few times, you might feel a little frustrated by the delicate balance of weighted plates that can tip or roll, leaving your tofu with a top vaguely reminiscent of a mullet. (Short in the front, long in the back.)
Or you might find dealing with tofu-water-soaked kitchen towels is an extra hassle your dinner prep doesn’t need. And if you’ve tried paper towels, you might lament using half a roll just to press tofu.
Luckily, there are gadgets out there that make the whole process so smooth and convenient that you might find yourself stocking up on tofu and dreaming of your next marinade.
One awesome option: this tofu press by TofuXpress.
Place the tofu in its see-through plastic box and the spring-loaded top plate immediately begins to apply pressure. As the plastic plate presses down over a period of a half-hour (or a few hours, or even a day in the fridge), water rises to the top, ready to be poured down the drain at your convenience.
Once you’ve drained out the water, you can remove the spring top, add your favorite marinade, and return the press to the fridge with just a cover. After you’ve marinated the tofu, it’s up to you if you’d like to press one more time for super firm and crisp-able tofu.
A less expensive option by Tofuture offers a similarly compact, mess-free pressing experience. Two stretchy rubber loops pull the top plastic cover downward, applying pressure to the block of tofu and causing water to press out. You can also use this gadget to add marinades, post-press.
Speaking of marinades…
Now that you’ve got some beautifully pressed tofu, you’re all set to dress it up with tasty recipes like these:
Get yourself a supply of tofu, pick a method for pressing, and stock up on marinade ingredients. Treat that tofu right and you’ll be rewarded with meals full of this tasty and versatile plant protein!