The 8 Best Tofu Presses
Tofu To The Rescue
These can be anything from a vegan replacement for feta cheese to a grilled tofu slab marinated to perfection and served like a steak.
To those of us who still have functioning taste buds that haven’t been firebombed by an endless barrage of unpronounceable chemicals, tofu has a very definite taste.
If your experience with tofu has been a predominantly negative one, then I apologize on behalf of whoever prepared it for you. If you prepared it yourself, then you only have yourself to blame. The good news is that, with a little guidance, cooking with tofu at home can result in some of the tastiest and healthiest dishes imaginable.
Let’s get one thing out of the way, however. Tofu is often described the way some people describe water: tasteless. Both assertions are deeply inaccurate, and often both come out of mouths that are used to taking in heavily processed foods when they aren’t busy spewing criticism.
To those of us who still have functioning taste buds that haven’t been firebombed by an endless barrage of unpronounceable chemicals, tofu has a very definite taste. That taste is, however, rather flexible, and that’s where the magic happens.
One thing about tofu that doesn’t jive with the chemical people is that it does require some patience. Cooking times on the stovetop or in the oven often exceed 20 minutes if you want to truly transform the stuff. Before that, you’ll have to get your tofu to drain.
With even more patience, you can transform tofu into a litany of comparable foodstuffs. These can be anything from a vegan replacement for feta cheese to a grilled tofu slab marinated to perfection and served like a steak.
Why Bother With A Dedicated Tofu Press?
Tofu comes packaged in water. Any bit of the block you don’t use after you open it you should store in water. That’s what keeps it from drying out and prematurely spoiling, but it’s also what makes it so hard to prepare.
If all you want to do is crumble some fresh tofu over your favorite salad, you could probably survive without a tofu press. But if you want to experience the full range of culinary expression tofu has to offer, you absolutely need one of these machines.
By applying gentle, even pressure across the block, you can safely and completely desaturate it.
The first major benefit to owning a tofu press is the amount of water they can remove from your tofu. By applying gentle, even pressure across the block, you can safely and completely desaturate it. That primes it for two things: marinating and sautéing. If you drop a wet block of tofu into a marinade, it could take upwards of 24 hours for the flavors to truly impart themselves, as the water already present in the tofu will resist the new juices. A dry block, on the other hand, will drink your marinade like a wanderer lost in the desert. Water is also anathema to hot oil, and dropping wet tofu in a sauté pan will not only decrease the temperature of that oil, it will send little dollops of the searing stuff out into the area around the pan, potentially burning you and any nearby pets.
The next major benefit of a tofu press is less culinary and more environmental. If any of you are already members of the tofu choir, you know pretty much everything we’ve covered so far. But you also might be like I was up until about six months ago, when I was still using paper towels to dry out my tofu. Not only did this process require more time and physical work than a tofu press requires, it also ate an unconscionable amount of paper towels. That’s an environmental impact I couldn’t continue to perpetrate.
I will admit that I resisted the idea of a tofu press at first. It seemed like a unitasker — an item that only serves one purpose —, and I hate having those in my kitchen. At first, I tried to employ a good old bench vise to dry my tofu out, and, while the tool proved moderately effective, I never really felt like the tofu came away completely clean.
Fortunately, it turns out certain of these devices have additional uses. Some have compartments that can function like emergency strainers if your son is wearing your only colander as a space helmet and you need to wash some veggies. Others work in a fashion similar to a vise, but with completely flat interiors that can accommodate the shape of a tofu block. These you can use to press other materials, from dough to eggplant medallions, saving a lot of work for your back and arms.
Two Great Tofu Ideas
Whether you’re new to tofu, or you’ve been cooking with it for ages, a new recipe or two never hurt. These are admittedly rather loosely written, but the intention is for you to make them your own.
Heat up a little coconut oil over a medium-high flame, and add some crushed red pepper and sliced garlic. Then, drop in a whole block of pressed tofu and mash it into large pieces with a wooden spatula. Stir only once in a while over the course of about 20 minutes, letting the tofu stick to the pan and even burn a little.
This will deglaze the pan, allowing you to scrape any stuck tofu or garlic from the surface as you lower the heat significantly.
Add a little more garlic right before you pour a shot or two of tequila over everything. This will deglaze the pan, allowing you to scrape any stuck tofu or garlic from the surface as you lower the heat significantly. Add in some black beans, diced tomatoes, and a can of vegetarian refried beans, then stir it all up, and you’ll have yourself a filling for enviable vegan tacos. Toss it in a toasted tortilla with some guacamole and enjoy!
Preheat your favorite oven to 400 degrees. Grab a couple blocks of pressed tofu and slice them once lengthwise. Then, cut them cross-wise every ¼-inch or so to create thin rectangles of tofu. Lay these out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Liberally apply sliced garlic, sliced tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Finally pour a bit of aged balsamic vinegar over the whole thing and shove it in the oven. 20 minutes later, you’ll have a hot vegan caprice salad. You can serve it while hot, or let it cool and toss it in the fridge for your party later that night. Just make sure you hit it with a fresh splash of balsamic before you serve it.