Do You Really Need To Press Tofu?

If you've just discovered vegetarianism, veganism, or if you've never cooked with tofu before, you might have just discovered that the internet is full of tips on how to cook this high-protein wonder. Many of them start by instructing you to "press tofu... and set aside for [a set number of] minutes" per Serious Eats. And while the sheer number of recipes out there that remind you to "press tofu" might be enough to make you wonder whether a tofu press is worth the investment — there's something you should keep in mind. 

First of all, know that as an ingredient, tofu is highly versatile and is generally sold in different levels of densities that range from soft and silky, to extra-firm, per The Kitchn. How it is packed will indicate how the ingredient is best used, and as a result, different types of tofu correspond to different cooking methods, and all are meant to allow the ingredient to shine.

Ask yourself how the tofu is used before deciding if it should be pressed

The Washington Post suggests a good way to determine whether or not tofu needs to be pressed, is to think about how it will be being used. Cookbook author Andrea Nguyen says that "In some recipes, it doesn't matter," and raises the example of using tofu in soup, where all that needs to be done is to drain the water the tofu came in before cooking with it. The Kitchn says medium tofu — which is described as dense, yet delicate — is best for this.

Another instance, per Serious Eats, is when you use soft and silken tofu, which is packed with water and ready to be consumed after it is drained. This type of tofu is creamy, and can be used to make desserts and smoothies, sauces, and salad dressings, with the best type of soft tofu sold in plastic tubs (via The Kitchn). Applying any pressure to this tofu will leave you with a squishy mess, and like medium tofu, its best to simply drain, or blot dry, the tofu before use.

But this moisture is a problem if you are using tofu in dishes that have plenty of sauce, because the water in the curd could end up diluting the dish. Moist tofu also works against a cook if the ingredient is meant to be crisp and caramelized, per The New York Times. For times like this, getting rid of moisture is a must.