How to CookEssential Tools

Inessential Tools: Tofu Press

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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

Tags: Tofu, Vegetarian, Vegan