Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How to Press Tofu in Five Easy Steps.

Ah, pressing tofu: a daunting new skill that must be attained by vegetarians and vegans everywhere. When this was first presented to me, I was simply baffled. I think the first explanation I got involved cheesecloth; that didn't help matters much. And because I didn't have anyone to simply show me how the thing was done, I was overwhelmed by what is actually a very simple task. I'm putting this out into the cloud for anyone who, like I once did, needs a little bit of help that they cannot find amongst omni friends who think that tofu is weirdo hippie food.

Step negative one: buy some tofu. Our favorite by far is Nasoya Extra Firm.

Step zero: open the package and pour out all of the excess water. See, tofu is almost like a cheese made from soybeans. The tofu is the curds, and you have to drain off the whey. Kind of. You'll get used to handling the block of tofu. And by the bye, if you should ever come across a block that's gone bad, don't worry, there's really no question about it - you'll know.

Step one: Get set to press. Put your block of tofu, relatively centered, on a dinner plate that's completely flat, except at the edges where it flares up. You know the kind. Handle the block gently; it's important that it maintains structural integrity.

Step two: Make a sandwich. Place a second dinner plate equally as flat on top of the block of tofu, so that the tofu is sandwiched between the two plates and they are centered over each other.

Step three: Get heavy. Place an object that weighs approximately two to three pounds on top of the plate-and-tofu sandwich. If it's too heavy, it will simply squash the tofu to bits, which sort of defies the point. I like using textbooks because it distributes the weight across the plate.

Step four: Observe seepage. Watch as the liquid seeps out of your tofu. You don't have to literally watch; that would be like watching paint dry. But keep tabs on it; make sure that the top plate stays flat and re-balance it if it starts to tilt. Once a significant amount of liquid has accumulated you can remove the top plate+weight and drain off the liquid, then resume pressing.

Step five: Stop pressuring me! After about half an hour to forty minutes of pressing, the tofu will stop releasing liquid. It's pretty hard to over-press, so don't worry about doing it for "too long"; your only concern is not doing it for long enough. This can lead to soggy tofu, which is not exactly appetizing and doesn't work in most dishes. Simply remove the top part of the apparatus and dump the expelled liquid; your block of tofu is now pressed and good to go.

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Once you think that it's given up all that it's gonna, you can move on to your next step of preparation. Depending on what your end goal is, that could be any number of things, including mashing for a scramble, slicing for a fry, or cubing for a marinade. Tofu is quite versatile and readily absorbs flavors. When properly prepared, the sky's the limit as to what it will happily do for you.

Disclaimer: I did not make this pincushion! Scroll over (and then click on) the picture to be taken to another utterly delightful vegan blog.


liveandletdieaxl@aim.com said...

Thanks for the instructions! I love the knitted tofu!

melissa bastian. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

great post, super useful. thanks much. :)

Richard said...

very simple and very effective, mmmmmm. tofu. i love pie, and ... you?

melissa bastian. said...

Dear Richard,

Yes, I too love pie. :D

Schroomr said...

Thanks for the post. Tonight will be our first time with tofu...making spicy tofu with long beans.

melissa bastian. said...

Awesome! Tofu can be truly delish when prepared well. Please feel free to ask questions should anything come up! :)

Suzanne said...

Thanks for the info. I was considering buying a tofu press but now I can save my money .

Angie said...

and so what happens if i overpressed my tofu BEFORE i found your lovely blog? help :(

melissa bastian. said...

Overpressed as in crushed? Time for a scramble! If it is truly smooshed there is not a whole lot you can do unfortunately. Depending on the nature of the smoosh, you could try cutting the block in half through the middle (like as if you were gonna make a sandwich, and the tofu was the bread) and pressing the pieces individually.

But smooshedness does not in any way render the tofu inedible - it just means that the texture and shape might not be what you were intending for this particular dish. If you really want to get some more liquid out of it and by some miracle happen to have some cheese cloth lying around, you could try the following: wrap it in the cheese cloth, put it in a strainer in the sink or on top of a plate or bowl, and put a weight like a few bags of dried beans on top. Let sit for 20-40 minutes.

But really, you could go ahead and scramble away - there are tons of great tofu scramble recipes on das internets; they're fun and easy and tasty, and often let you use up the stuff sitting around your fridge that you don't quite know what to do with.

Good luck, and I hope you get to enjoy your tofu!

frighteyes said...

Thank you! Tremendously helpful (and entertaining.)

Lauren said...

I found this VERY helpful. I have also heard of freezing tofu to drain the moisture. Do you recommend this? How do you do it?

Lauren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
melissa bastian. said...

Hi Lauren! I'm so happy that you found the tutorial helpful. :)

As far as freezing tofu, I've actually never done it - I should really get on that. But I have many friends (including my husband) who enjoy that method as well. I believe all you need to do is drain off the liquid from the package, place the tofu in a freezer-safe container or otherwise wrap it properly for freezing (like you would any other food), and freeze. You'll of course want to let it thaw before trying to prep or cook.

It will need to freeze completely, so this method takes a good bit longer than traditional pressing - but less "labor", as it were - so good if you're planning ahead. From what I hear it produces a very different texture in the tofu, somewhat spongy, so I'd give it a shot as an experiment to see how it behaves before you break it out for a big dinner party or anything. ;)

Mike McCormick said...

Interesting! To begin with, I'd read 10 minutes, and the centre was still far too soft,

So the next time I tried about 25 minutes.. and It's still too soft.

I think next time, I'm going to go about it your way, and maybe leave it 30-45.. Also, the previous guides all called for the tofu to be wrapped in paper towels, which made it hard to see if the tofu was still producing water.

Cool! Ta!

melissa bastian. said...

Ha, yeah, I've been told the paper towel way too. I tried it once probably a decade ago, and it just struck me as really gross. I kept thinking, I don't want disintegrated wet paper towel mess in my tofu! I hope this method works for you. ;)

Anonymous said...

We have the same corell plates!