Veganism has long conjured up images of lifeless tofu on a plate. Tofu has a long and fabled past and many know what it is even if they’ve never eaten it. Even the hit Nickelodeon kids cartoon Doug mentioned tofu in the hit song by The Beets called Killer Tofu. It’s suffered highs and lows in modern American culture. It is currently still popular despite some debate as well as common misunderstandings that it is flavorless and overall unappetizing.
Tofu, when well pressed and prepared, can be marinated and stir-fried, grilled or baked into delicious dishes that would impress even the most leery eaters. Tofu is an amazing nutritional powerhouse that when well prepared can give you a nutrient dense flavorful meat alternative. It’s obvious just how crucial a good knife can be, or how transformative a high-speed blender can be for food preparation. A good tofu press is just as beneficial to any vegan kitchen where home-cooked meals abound.
Brief History of Tofu
Tofu has a long history of being enjoyed, as far as over 2,000 years ago in China, where tofu is thought to have originated. It was later introduced in Japan, and many years later it became well known in Europe. Many, many years later, roughly in the 1940’s during World War 2, tofu made an appearance in mainstream American culture. Tofu was available prior to this mostly in big cities with large populations of Chinese or Japanese Americans. The 1960’s counterculture movement brought tofu back into the limelight as the desire for natural, healthy foods was popular and growing, and vegetarianism was on the rise. By the 1980’s, tofu had established itself as a food that everyone knew and considered healthy and was already widely available outside of big cities.
The Tofu and Soy Debate
In the past decade or so, tofu and soy have come under fire from many sources claiming that it is not a true health food. They claim that it is bad for hormonal health as well as bad for overall health as much soy is GMO. The truth about soy is far more complex than it is simply good or bad. It is true that much soy in the United States is genetically modified. However, not all are and anything that is certified organic by the organic standards set forth cannot contain genetically modified organisms.
As far as soy being bad for hormonal health, the debate is that soy contains phytoestrogens. These are plant estrogen that mimics our own. Phytoestrogens can cause a slew of health problems such as contributing to cancer growth and impairing thyroid function. However, the truth is that most studies indicate that unprocessed soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame) can actually decrease the risk of cancers for most people. (Some people with specific cancer mutations or markers are the exception). It’s also been found that for people with healthy functioning thyroids, soy has no negative impact at all. Research also found that soy reduces hot flashes in menopausal women.
Tofu Health Benefits
It’s clear to see that soy has many benefits outside of the modern debate. And as with all foods, eating it in it’s whole or minimally processed form is ideal for benefits. Outside of the benefits above, soy has long been known as an exceptional source of protein, containing all the essential amino acids. Tofu is a high-quality high protein source without the cholesterol making it far superior to meat. Tofu also contains some fiber as well as copious amounts of calcium, iron and a bit of magnesium. It’s a nutrient dense food that gives you a lot of bang for your buck.
Healthy for you tofu is only as good as it tastes. This bean curd made from coagulated soy milk can sound and taste extremely unappealing if not pressed and marinated properly. If you don’t know how to prepare this food, you could end up with a mushy, flavorless substitute that would make you run from it forever. All firm and extra firm plain tofu come packaged in water. Thus, it needs to be pressed as it retains much moisture. Tofu needs to be pressed to make sure it can absorb flavors from marinades when cooking. Pressing also helps tofu maintain its shape. If tofu can be pressed without any special tools, why buy a press?
Let’s consider the methods people use to press their tofu without a press. Some people slice their tofu, put it between paper towels and put something heavy on top of it to sit on the counter for an hour to get the water out. Others bypass the slice and use paper towels and a combination of plates and heavy bowls to weigh their tofu down. If impatient, others may even try to hand press over the sink. All of these methods are a bit messy, create extra waste and require many different kitchen items to get the final product. Tofu presses offer a relatively easy method to press your tofu extremely well with minimal effort. If you prepare tofu regularly or even every few weeks, it’s worthwhile to consider investing in one of these tofu presses as they’re relatively affordable and can really step up your tofu game.
Genetically Modified Soy
Soy is the number one genetically modified crop in the world and in the United States. 94 percent of the soy grown is genetically modified. We do not support genetically modified food as it bad for the environment and insects and also because there is not sufficient evidence to prove it is safe for humans. Check out “GMO Myths and Truths”, an extensive, evidence-based report on the true research available about GMO’s.
Organic Tofu Brands We Like
Because most soy is genetically modified, it is best to seek out organic options to ensure it is free of GMO’s. There are quite a few organic tofu brands on the market and we’ve rounded up a few of our favorites that are relatively easy to find.
Woodstock Farms – Available in both a firm and extra firm tofu, this is available at most health food stores and is pretty reasonably priced.
Nasoya – Nasoya has a wide range of tofu, from already cubed, sprouted and cubed, to silken, firm and extra firm. This company is widely distributed and very affordable.
Wildwood Sprouted Tofu – Wildwood makes a variety of tofu products but their sprouted tofu is completely unique. The soybeans have been sprouted for easier digestion, making this a great product for anyone who tends to feel bloated after eating tofu. Wildwood offers this tofu in silken, medium soft, firm and extra firm.
Tempt Hemp Tofu – This product is absolutely genius and perfect for those with soy allergies. Made like traditional tofu, this product replaces the soy with hemp seeds and provides ample protein. This product is more expensive, a bit harder to find, and is not certified organic. Tempt Hemp Tofu is available only in extra firm.
Tofu Presses We Like
Now that we’ve shared our favorite tofu brands, it’s time to get into our favorite tofu presses. There are a variety of styles and presses available for every budget! When purchasing your press it’s important to consider both your budget as well as how often you’ll be using your press. If you don’t intend to use it often, maybe once every few weeks, then a cheaper model would be a good choice unless of course, you like all top of the line models, then splurge! If you prepare tofu often in your house, such as weekly or more, a higher end model such as the Raw Rutes model would be a worthwhile investment. Read ahead for our thoughts on each model and why we chose it.
Brand: EZ Tofu Press
Press Style: Tension with Plates
Cost: $20.99 on Amazon
Why it’s a Good Choice: This model is extremely affordable and accommodates a variety of tofu block sizes. It has centering plates for even pressing. Since it has a flat bottom plate it can just be placed in the sink while draining, requiring no extra dishes get dirty. It is very fast working and removes a lot of water from your tofu (really, we mean it!) There aren’t springs with this model meaning there is less to crack or break. It is both BPA free and dishwasher friendly.
Possible drawbacks: This model relies on tension being increased, meaning that it is constantly adjusted every 2-3 minutes by the user. Potential for screws to mis-thread and wear out. The plates can potentially crack.
Brand: Super Tofu Press by Tofu Presser
Press Style: Tension with Plates
Cost: $28.95 on Amazon
Why it’s a Good Choice: This model is pretty affordable and accommodates a variety of tofu block sizes. It has centering plates for even pressing. Since it has a flat bottom plate it can just be placed in the sink while draining, requiring no extra dishes get dirty. It is very fast working and removes a lot of water from your tofu (really, we mean it!) There aren’t springs with this model meaning there is less to crack or break. Uses solid plastic plates instead of hollow plates making them less likely to crack. It is both BPA free and dishwasher friendly.
Possible drawbacks: This model relies on tension being increased, meaning that it is constantly adjusted every 2-3 minutes by the user. Potential for screws to mis-thread and wear out.
Brand: Tofuture Tofu Press
Press Style: Box style press with tension handles
Cost: $29.95 on Amazon
Why it’s a Good Choice: This product is fairly affordable and fits standard 1lb blocks of tofu. The lid locks into place creating a lot of pressure and dramatically forces water out without the user needing to do anything once it’s locked. The box itself doubles as a storage box for your tofu once pressed or as a marinating box. The box is BPA free and dishwasher safe.
Possible drawbacks: This product only works for standard size 1lb blocks of tofu. The lid handles and bands have the potential to snap off easily. (Although the company does send out replacements upon contact).
Brand: TofuXpress Gourmet Tofu Press
Press Style: Box style press with spring
Cost: $39.95 on Amazon
Why It’s a Good Choice: This box style press is very user-friendly and hands off removes water quite effectively. Once the tofu is in the box you simply latch down the spring top and the tofu presses without the need for anymore adjusting. The box comes with a lid to also serve as a place to marinate your pressed tofu. This press is dishwasher safe.
Possible drawbacks: This product only accommodates standard size tofu blocks. Due to it being made of plastic with smaller parts requiring tension, it has the potential to break and replacement parts can be hard to obtain.
Brand: Raw Rutes Tofu Press
Press Style: Box style with weighted lid
Cost: $105.00 on Amazon
Why it’s a Good Choice: This press is by far the most durable of all tofu presses. It is made of stainless steel with zero plastic on it and using no springs, bands or handles. This press is also visually stunning, making it appealing to have on open shelving in a kitchen. This holds a standard 4×6 block of tofu and drains well due to the holes in the bottom. This simply needs to be set in the sink for draining with no need for extra dishes.
Possible drawbacks: This press only holds a standard 4×6 block of tofu. It doesn’t always get out all the water, requiring extra effort and muscle to press down hard to remove more.
We feel confident no matter your choice, your life will become far easier when it comes to preparing your tofu, and far tastier too.