If you cook a lot of firm tofu, you may already know this: Pressing the tofu compresses it and squeezes out extra moisture, making it firmer and drier, meaning you get a denser, fine-grained interior and a wonderfully crispy finish. outside if you cook it.
It may not sound exciting, but it’s really worth it when you’re roasting or sautéing tofu. Let’s say you’re making a dish like Folami Prescott-Adams’s tamari-spiked barbecue tofu. You press the block for quite some time – a few hours – which means you get it really dry so that it cooks very quickly under a hot grill and the edges become crispy and chewy, sweet and caramelized.
Straining can also be useful if you’re making a quick tofu scrambled like Ali Slagle does, and you don’t want excess water to get into the pan early on and get in the way of browning. But you will really see the magic of pressing when it comes to frying! Eric Kim’s crispy tofu technique, which uses a potato starch dredger after a quick pressing, is a delicious lesson in getting tofu perfectly crisp.
Sure, you can buy a tofu press for $10, or more if you’re willing to splurge, but the truth is none of the serious and avid tofu chefs I know use a special tool for this. Instead, they get the job done with whatever they have on hand – books, tomato cans, sheet pans. These DIY tofu presses work beautifully:
Start with the tub the tofu came in – it’s already the perfect size! Perforate the bottom with the tip of a knife, cover the tofu with a clean tea towel and place a can on top. Place the setup on a quarter sheet pan, or something else, to catch the liquid.
Wrap the tofu block in a clean tea towel and place on a cutting board. Place a quarter sheet pan on top of the tofu, then place something heavy on the sheet pan – a cast iron skillet, a few cans, or some cookbooks. The tea towel tells you when it’s ready (she’s soaked!).
Just to be clear, you don’t have to press every tofu every time. In fact, please don’t! Tofu has such a range, and if you’re buying soft tofu for a dish like white soondubu jjigae or sook mei faan, that soft wobbling is exactly the point.
Crispy Tofu With Sweet and Sour Sauce
Go to the recipe.
one more thing
Hundreds of you sent photos of your own pantry along with tips for reorganizing mine (thanks so much!). I loved Lisa’s clever use of risers and stackable drawers to make the most of the space.
And check out Pats’ impeccably organized walk-in closet – the dream! — with space for large equipment.
Catherine’s self-contained pantry looks great against the stone floors and walls (and even has two adorable watchdogs!).
And I have some very nice news for you. On March 22, my colleague (and Veggie team editor!) Nikita Richardson will start her own new newsletter for subscribers called Where to eat: New York Citywhich is free to read for the first four weeks† Every Tuesday, she shares restaurant recommendations and when you’re in New York, you don’t want to miss them. Register here! Thanks for reading and see you next week.
Email us at theveggie.† Newsletters are archived here† Contact my colleagues at cookingcare. if you have any questions about your account.