If you cook firm tofu a lot, maybe you already know this: Pressing the tofu compresses it and squeezes out extra moisture, making it firmer and drier, which means you can get a more densely closegrained interior and wonderfully crisp exterior when you cook it.
It might not sound that exciting, but it’s really rewarding when you’re broiling or sautéing tofu. Say you’re making a dish like Folami Prescott-Adams’s tamari-spiked barbecue tofu. You press the block for quite some time — a couple of hours — which means you get it really dry so it cooks very quickly under a hot broiler and the edges get crisp and chewy, sweet and caramelized.
Pressing can also be useful if you’re making a quick tofu scramble like Ali Slagle does, and you don’t want any excess water in the pan early on, which gets in the way of browning. But you’ll really see the magic of pressing when it comes to frying! Eric Kim’s crispy tofu technique, which involves a potato starch dredge after a quick press, is a delicious lesson in how to get tofu perfectly crisp.
Sure, you can buy a tofu press for $10, or more if you want to splurge, but the truth is that none of the serious and enthusiastic tofu cooks I know use a dedicated 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 dish towel then place a can on top. Place the set up on a quarter sheet pan, or something else, to catch the liquid.
Wrap the tofu block in a clean dish towel and set it on a cutting board. Put a quarter sheet pan on top of the tofu, then put something heavy on the sheet pan — a cast-iron skillet, a few cans or some cookbooks. The dish towel will tell you when it’s ready (it’ll be soaked through!).
To be clear, you don’t need to press every tofu, every time. In fact, please don’t! Tofu has such range, and when you’re buying soft tofu for a dish like white soondubu jjigae or sook mei faan, that soft wobble is exactly the point.
Crispy Tofu With Sweet-and-Sour Sauce
Go to the recipe.
One More Thing
Hundreds of you sent pictures of your home pantries along with tips for reorganizing mine (thank you so much!). I loved Lisa’s clever use of risers and stacking drawers to get the absolute most out of the space.
And check out Pats’s impeccably organized walk-in pantry—the dream! — with room for big equipment.
Catherine’s stand-alone pantry looks great against the stone floors and walls (and even has two adorable guard dogs!).
And I’ve got one more bit of really cool news for you. On March 22, my colleague (and Veggie team editor!) Nikita Richardson is starting her own new, subscriber-only newsletter called Where to Eat: New York Citywhich is free to read for the first four weeks. Every Tuesday, she’ll share restaurant recommendations and, if you’re in New York, you won’t want to miss them. Sign up here! Thanks for reading, and see you next week.
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