If you are a vegan or vegetarian and plan on maintaining the diet for years to come, investing in a tofu press may make a lot of sense for your kitchen. Buying tofu is expensive and sometimes the texture comes out mushy or soft. The water content is too high in most mass-produced tofu, so the way to guarantee crispy, delectable tofu is to make it yourself. More specifically, press it yourself.
Every longterm vegan seems to have an elaborate method for draining and pressing tofu. Most routines start by pouring off the water surrounding a block of tofu, wrapping the block in a clean kitchen towel (or paper towels), setting it in a strainer, and then balancing a few heavy things on top to weigh down the slab.
It basically becomes a semi-dangerous game of Jenga — cast iron skillets and jars of random ingredients piled high. Bottom line: if this sounds like you, it’s time for a better system. Enter the tofu press.
The one downside to the tofu press is that it’s a piece of single-use kitchen equipment. Therefore, it will take up space and only serve one function. But they do work if you’re willing to give them a shot.
A tofu press is essentially two slabs of food-grade plastic held together with two sets of bolts and grommets. You place the tofu between the plastic slabs, and then twist the tension knobs every two minutes or so for about 10 to 15 minutes, until no more water remains in the tofu block. Some presses use clasps and bands to keep the tension on the tofu instead of a crank mechanism. No matter which type you buy, leaving it in the fridge overnight in the press will produce a nice, dehydrated product that will crisp up nicely in a pan or under a broiler.
If you don’t want to leave your tofu in the fridge, you can still get good results quickly — after about 15-30 minutes of being pressed the tofu should be squished to at least half of its height. The resulting tofu is much denser and way less crumbly than something store-bought straight from the package. It cuts neatly and does result in a crispier end result when pan-fried. (toss it in some corn starch for a nice crust).
So is a tofu press worth the hassle? We say yes (though we don’t necessarily recommend replacing your meat with soybean paste). If tofu is already a staple of your diet and there’s no changing it, then yes, pressing it gives your food a better texture, which is crucial if it’s something you rely on multiple times per week for meals.