Tofu is a highly nutritious and versatile food if you know how to make it. If you don't, your tofu is likely to come out tasting bland and dull, swimming in water. And we don't want that!
A note on soy and health: When we say tofu, we are talking about - ideally - organic tofu. Organic tofu has many health benefits, and if you eat it in moderation, it can be an excellent source of quality protein for anyone on a vegetarian or vegan diet. It also works well for meat-eaters who are trying to cut down on meat.
It's essential to get organic tofu when possible because most of the soy grown in the US is GMO (genetically modified). GMO soy has more allergens and protein digestion inhibitors for fewer nutrients. What's even more crucial to know is that GMO soy is sprayed with Monsanto's Roundup - a weedkiller that is a known carcinogen and can even cause fertility and digestive issues. After all, weedkiller is designed to poison, not to nourish! So get organic when you can.
Now on to our ultimate guide to pressing tofu! The first thing to know is when NOT to press tofu.
When you don't need to press tofu
If you are using silken tofu for vegan desserts, quiches, smoothies, or cheeses, you don't need to press it. Silken tofu is designed to give your food a smooth consistency while providing protein, so you want to use its soft texture to blend it into these types of recipes.
When you do need to press tofu
If you are using a firm or extra-firm tofu for stir-fries, baked tofu dishes, BBQ skewers of tofu, or other recipes that require your tofu to stay firm, then you will want to press it before cooking.
Pressed tofu will hold its shape better - so your tofu cubes won't fall apart.
The other benefit of pressed tofu is that when you remove the excess water, your tofu can soak up flavors from spices and sauces for your recipes. Marinated tofu, for instance, tastes much more flavorful when it has been pressed first.
How to press tofu
You'll want to press out the excess liquid for at least 15 minutes, but 30 minutes is ideal.
If you don't have a tofu press
If you don't have a tofu press, you can do this in your sink. Here's how:
Remove the tofu from its packaging and tip out the excess water. Wrap the tofu in a clean dishcloth or towel (or paper towels, but you'll need several layers) and put it in a colander in your sink.
Press any heavy object on top of your wrapped tofu, such as a large can or jar. You can use anything, the heavier, the better.
Prepare the other ingredients for your chosen recipe while your tofu drains - remember that if you drain it for at least 15 minutes, it will work, but 30 minutes is best for maximum flavor absorption.
When your tofu has drained, unwrap it and then cube it or slice it for your recipe. If you are making a tofu scramble, tofu chili, tofu tacos, or another recipe where the tofu has the consistency of scrambled eggs or ground meat, crumble your dried tofu with your hands for best results. (If you have children, they will love to help you with this step!)
If you do have a tofu press
If you have a tofu press, the pressing process is straightforward.
Using a tofu press means that your tofu will be done faster - you can have fully drained tofu in as little as 5 minutes. You'll be able to press it more evenly, and of course, you won't have messy towels to clean up afterward.
Tofu presses are amazingly useful if you want to use tofu often. If you want to check out what a tofu press is like, click here for an example of one that's easy to use.
Other things to consider
If you have opened your tofu packet, but you don't want to press it right away, keep it stored in the fridge in the water that it came in.
If you don't have a colander, you can press your tofu between two plates, putting weight on the top plate. Remember, though, that you'll need to drain water from the bottom plate from time to time if you use this method.
If you want your tofu to be even chewier, so if you have meat-eaters who want that denser texture - try freezing it first. To do this, freeze your tofu in its packaging, or you can put it in plastic wrap without the water. When you are ready to use it, thaw it first overnight in the fridge and then press it.