Essential Tools

Inessential Tools: Tofu Press

April  8, 2015

As home cooks, we rely on our instincts, our knowledge, and our curiosities—but we also have to rely on our tools. Some we couldn't cook without (knives, pots, pans). Others we don't necessarily need, but sure are glad we have around. Here, we talk about those trusty, albeit inessential, tools.

Today: Sure, I could press my tofu without a TofuXpress, but why would I?

Tofu broke my French press.

Actually, my roommate broke my French press, but she was preparing tofu at the time. She decided to use the glass canister to weigh down a cutting board that was smushing the tofu. A sudden rush of water from the tofu block caused the glass to lose balance and plummet to the counter, where it met its untimely demise. 

That was it—I'd had it with tofu. As an impatient vegetarian—the type who calls on tofu about three nights a week—I used to find myself dreading the pressing process. I hated wasting paper towels, taking all of my heaviest objects down from their resting places, and watching the tofu ooze its liquid onto my counters and wreak havoc on my other appliances.

Then came the TofuXpress. I did not buy this object for myself, nor am I sure I would have, but it has made my relationship with tofu healthier. The Xpress, as I like to call it, works by very simple physics: A spring places a lot of pressure on the tofu, which is sealed in a little containment cell underneath, and this causes the block to release water. The liquid is siphoned into a space above the tofu, where it can be easily poured off.

Tofu pressed in the TofuXpress, left, versus a block of extra-firm tofu straight from the package, right.

The Xpress works faster than a make-shift textbook press, and it applies pressure more evenly. It also makes for mess-free pressing, and the whole device will easily fit into your refrigerator. Get out a block of tofu in the morning, tuck it into the Xpress, pop the whole thing into your refrigerator, and when you're ready for dinner, the tofu will be unbelievably compact and eager to absorb any marinade or sauces you douse it with.

More: Searching for ways to use up your perfectly pressed tofu? Look no further.

I know I don't need this tool in my already-too-crowded kitchen, but I also know that it makes pressing tofu easy and it makes it possible to achieve the Holy Grail of tofu stir-fries—a crispy outer coating—every time I cook. Go ahead and laugh at me and my silly little tofu machine—I'll just be over here, amazed by how much liquid has already drained away.

Do you have kitchen tools that you don't need but that you're glad you have? Share with us in the comments!

First photo by Bobbi Lin; second by Mark Weinberg

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16 Comments

AntoniaJames January 22, 2018
I recently discovered Andrea Nguyen's tip, in her banh mi cookbook, to pour boiling water over tofu in a bowl, letting it sit for 15 minutes before using, to firm it up. I tried that last night, cooking the tofu cubes without even pressing them dry, in a non-stick skillet with just a touch of sesame oil, and over medium low heat, just leaving the cubes alone for a good long while. The edges crisped up beautifully. You could actually see the moisture from the cubes evaporating, due to the change in structure caused by the boiling water soak. You get a lovely custardy, flavorful interior. ;o)
 
AntoniaJames April 9, 2015
For a different perspective - I don't press, ever. I bake my tofu on plain parchment in a hot oven, which gives it a slightly chewy exterior, and puffy, almost creamy interior - and makes it perfect for snacking, too! I use the baked tofu in stir fries, dishes with sauces, noodle soup recipes, etc. with much less mess, as there is no spattering whatsoever. For more information, see this (symbiotic tofu and bread baking, something I stumbled on in my quest for greater efficiency and more environmentally responsible kitchen practices): http://instagram.com/p/0_1P-QmBy8/ <br />And these two threads in comments on tofu-based recipes: https://food52.com/recipes/11358-grilled-peanut-tofu#comments<br />https://food52.com/recipes/34075-peanut-sesame-soba-with-bacon-egg-and-tiny-greens#comments<br />So yes, I would agree that the tool is inessential, but not because you can Macgyver some other method - because pressing itself just isn't necessary. <br />;o)
 
Robin C. April 9, 2015
I have one of these, and it works great for pressing fresh, homemade cheese.
 
Mitra K. April 9, 2015
Not only do I swear by this device, but my husband also hid my engagement ring in there and tried to propose. I thought it came with the tofu xpress so I threw the ring box aside and never gave it a second thought!
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. April 9, 2015
What?! That is a CRAZY story. Best Tofu Xpress ever!
 
David L. April 9, 2015
Thankfully one can buy pre-pressed tofu in supermarkets in Singapore. It is known as tau kee here.
 
Jackie P. April 9, 2015
I thought you were going to say she broke the French press because she was using it to press the tofu; I mean, hey, that could work! Press it and then pour off the liquid? But yes, tofu press looks more suited. Wouldn't mind one of these. I currently, don't so much press, as wrap in paper towel and again in clean dish towels and just set in fridge x8 hours to drain. Couldn't this also be used to shape homemade tofu?
 
Panfusine April 8, 2015
Man, This would be perfect for making Paneer!
 
Lindsay-Jean H. April 8, 2015
My Japanese pickle press works essentially the same way, and I never thought to use it on tofu -- one of my inessential tools is no longer a single-use tool! Thanks SJ!
 
Kathi A. April 8, 2015
I've had my TofuXpress for a couple of years and use it all the time. Really, a simple, quick, easy way to drain tofu
 
Tashipluto April 8, 2015
Hey, this is actually essential -- I have broken heavy jars full of beans, cracked tiles on my kitchen floor from heavy objects tumbling off the tofu, and worried about the chemical content of paper towels getting into my tofu. I totally need this!
 
aargersi April 8, 2015
Want. NEED. I LOVE single use kitchen gadgets that would make Alton Brown go apoplectic! Hello spaetzle maker! How're shakes ebelskiver pan? Specialty cheese knife set! Wassup? Lookin' good weird twisted wire whisk like thing for mixing bread!!!<br />plus - Christmas for both sisters is now in the bag.
 
Kristen M. April 8, 2015
LOL
 
daveta C. April 9, 2015
I have all the gadgets you mention. Don't know whether we should be a community or a 12-step group. LOL
 
Dustimily May 11, 2015
If only I didn't live in a tiny apartment... I totally want an ebelskiver, and an egg separator, and those cute egg/mushroom slicers I always see at the store. I cant help the insane attraction to these perfectly devised tools but at the same time I hate clutter even more...
 
The J. April 8, 2015
I hope Inessential Tools is a series!