Does the advice to press, drain, and dehydrate tofu apply to silken tofu? Ever felt like a fool for not knowing? Learn about the dangers of pressing tofu and what to do about it.
In 1936, Irving Naxon invented the Naxon Beanery, a kitchen appliance that transformed American kitchens and culinary habits. Irving’s Lithuanian mother grew up making “cholent”, a traditional Jewish stew, using the cooling oven at the local bakery while the family observed Sabbath.
Inspired by the story, Irving invented a slow-cooking heating element that surrounded a pot. The result was a cooking appliance better known as the “Crock-Pot”.
The Crock-Pot is beloved because of its “set it and forget it” approach. With minimal preparation, you have a dish ready to eat without turning on the stove, which is a big plus during the summer heat.
This “Crock-Pot philosophy” is the same reason I love cooking with silken tofu. There’s minimal — if any — preparation needed. There’s usually no cooking required to enjoy silken tofu. And most importantly, unlike regular, “block” tofu, there’s no pressing required.
Let’s learn why you don’t need to press silken tofu in this article and how this is one of its greatest advantages.
What is silken tofu?
As a quick refresher, silken tofu is made with a coagulant which produces a jelly-like texture. In contrast to the traditional style of tofu, also known as “regular” tofu or “brick tofu”, silken tofu does not have holes visible to the naked eye.
Think of it more like a ball of fresh mozzarella rather than a block of feta that has holes and crumbles easily.
RELATED: Read more about silken tofu in the post Silken Tofu vs. Soft Tofu: What’s the Difference?
Why do people ask whether you should press silken tofu?
I read a lot of tofu preparation advice that recommends pressing tofu to get excess water out. There are many techniques to press tofu, including salting the tofu and placing it between two sheets of paper towels to absorb the water. Some advice includes putting heavy books or pots and pans on the tofu to further squeeze it.
The rationale behind pressing tofu is that excess water:
- makes it harder for the tofu to absorb marinades and sauces
- makes it harder to fry the tofu to a crisp
- makes baking tofu take longer because of the extra moisture
However, the advice to press tofu rarely tells you whether the recommendation applies only to “regular”/brick/traditional tofu or whether silken tofu should also be pressed.
Should silken tofu be pressed?
What would happen if you squished a block of jelly (or jello in American lingo 😀 )?
Imagine the same happening to silken tofu.
What happens if you try to press silken tofu?
Step 1: 2 samples of tofu – 1 cube of silken tofu and 1 cube of regular firm tofu
Step 2: A sheet of paper towel for absorbing the liquid
Step 3: Press with heavy books
Step 4: Observe the changes
After reshaping the tofu with some gentle pushing, the regular tofu resumes its original shape albeit with imperfections. The silken tofu is unsalvageable.
Silken tofu turns into a squished mess when you press it. It didn’t crumble gracefully as the regular tofu did.
You can use the regular tofu to stir fry or bake it. Even though it got a bit crushed, it would still hold its shape fairly well.
On the other hand, the silken tofu is broken into segments which makes it harder to pick up and eat. It’s probably only good for smoothies or baking where you would blend the silken tofu further.
Conclusion: There’s no need to press silken tofu.
But there may still be recipes that call for draining or dehydrating silken tofu to remove excess moisture. How do you deal with silken tofu in this case?
How to dehydrate or drain silken tofu
Even though you don’t press silken tofu, there could still be a benefit to draining it to remove excess moisture.
RELATED: Check out the post Does Tofu Melt?
For soups and stews, there’s little benefit.
For smoothies or baking, excess water can negatively affect your recipe. (Did you know? Silken tofu is a common egg substitute for vegan baking recipes.) You can easily drain silken tofu with the following technique.
To drain silken tofu:
Place your silken tofu on a plate and let it sit for a few minutes. The water should naturally pool, and you can easily pour out the water. If you want to speed it up, you can zap the tofu in the microwave for 30 seconds.
Some cooks recommend patting the tofu with paper towels. You’re welcome to do it but I think it’s a wasteful use of paper towels. I simply pour out the water as best as I can. If you want to stir fry tofu or bake it until it’s crispy, you should use regular (“block”) tofu, not silken tofu.
RELATED: Check out the recipe for Stir Fry Tofu and Broccoli with Hoisin Sauce
After all, like making stews in a Crock-Pot, the silken tofu’s biggest appeal is that it requires almost no work. Once you prep your ingredients, you simply need to incorporate the silken tofu and soon you have a moist and creamy meal to enjoy.
Do you need to cook silken tofu?
No. As long as the package of tofu doesn’t have any holes, it should be aseptic. So, you should feel about confident eating the silken tofu straight from the box without getting sick.
Vegan smoothie recipes use raw silken tofu as a substitute for milk or yogurt.
I frequently eat raw silken tofu. I like dropping cubes of raw silken tofu into miso soup. I also create a soy sauce and sesame oil dressing and pour it over raw silken tofu as a refreshing summer dish.
How long can you keep silken tofu once opened?
Store the unused silken tofu in the fridge. Cover it with a plate (eco-friendlier) if it came in a plastic box. If it came in a carton, you can put it in a container to avoid drying out the tofu. You don’t want it to develop a crust that ruins the texture.
Andrea Nguyen, in an interview with The Kitchn, suggests you should use silken tofu within a day or two.
I will leave some silken tofu in the fridge and let you know at what point it becomes too gross or dried to use. Update coming soon.
Has this post changed the way you use silken tofu?