How to make a heavy-duty, steel tofu press

I am often asked where to find non-plastic tofu presses. There are a couple of places you can get wooden ones online, but the really nice ones are stainless steel and seem only available in Japan. I have a wooden one that I got in Japantown in San Francisco, but I’m not even 100% happy with that one because I use such heavy weights I’m afraid it’s going to fall apart. It’s a bit wobbly. So I thought I’d make myself a heavy duty tofu press and show you how to do it at the same time.

Here’s what you need:

2 medium (about 8.5″ x 4.5″) loaf pans: the cheapest you can find; they need to be able to nest
a drill, with 1/8″ and 7/32″ bits (or thereabouts) that are good drilling for metal (the ones I bought said “soft metals” and worked fine)
sand paper

Unless you plan to make more than a pound of tofu at a time, don’t buy large loaf pans. Your tofu curds won’t fill it deeply and you’ll end up with very flat tofu. I usually start with 8 to 10 ounces of soy beans (ending up with about 12 to 14 ounces of tofu) and the medium pans I bought are the perfect size.

I had a helper, by the way:

Optional materials:

that little pointy thing you tap to make indents so you can center the drill; I don’t know what it’s called

Finding cheap loaf pans was the hardest part of this project, oddly enough. It’s easy to find inexpensive pans – these were $4.99 each at K-Mart – but they are much thicker, heavier, and nicer than the old, cheap tin pans I was trying to find. You can try scouting out thrift stores for old, thinner pans that may be easier to perforate. These worked fine, though, so don’t go nuts looking for something lighter. You also need a matching set so they nest, which may be harder to find in thrift stores.

While I was at K-Mart, I called up ole Fortinbras to confirm with him that drill bits that said good for “soft metals” would work on fairly heavy loaf pans. Fortinbras is in Florida and did not answer the phone. He’s supposed to be my handyman, at my beck and call, ready to answer all of my tool questions at any time. Damn him! I took a chance and bought the bits without his counsel. They were fine.

How awesome is my drill, by the way? It’s older than I am!

It was my grandfather’s. He died when I was very young but I remember him and he was the greatest. I’m very attached to his drill. Even if you can see sparks inside it while you’re operating it and it has big vents my hair could get caught in, getting tangled around the motor and catching fire on those sparks. So I get excited when I have projects that involve drilling. I tried to think of a way to do this without a drill in case some of you don’t have one, but drilling seems to be the fastest, easiest way. Hopefully most of you at least know someone who has a drill you can borrow.

Prepare the drill by inserting the smaller bit. The picture depicts the larger bit. Pretend it’s the smaller one.

I marked where I wanted to put the holes by tapping indents with this doohickey using a hammer. That’s optional, and you could also use a marker of some sort.

Hullo, Brachtune. This was just before I turned the drill on and she ran away, though when Mark came home and flopped down next to me, she decided she loves Mark more than she is scared of the drill.

VERY IMPORTANT! WEAR SAFETY GOGGLES! Or failing that, onion goggles, as I did:

Not only should you wear goggles any time you operate a drill because bits can break during use- it’s happened to me – but drilling metal will cause a lot of metal shavings to fly around and you do NOT want that in your eye.

Drill holes with the smaller bit, using the indents as your guide if you made them …

… then re-drill the holes with the larger bit:

Here I’ve marked all the holes I want to make on the bottom of the pan:

Then I drilled all the small holes …

… including a row around the bottom of the sides of the pan:

Then I drilled my big holes:

At this point in time Fortinbras returned my phone call and upon hearing I was playing with power tools advised me to drink a beer. According to Fortinbras, the operation of any power tool is enhanced by the consumption of beer. Fortinbras knows much more about power tools than I do, so I take his word on these things. I retrieved a beer.

When the holes are all drilled, the next thing to do is sand them smooth, on both sides.

Now, Fortinbras was on the phone with me when I began this step and he started saying something about how I wanted Raymond Burr to clean up the holes but I don’t know what he was talking about. I think it involved me buying some sort of additional power tool. In my opinion, if my grandfather’s drill didn’t come with a Raymond Burr attachment, it can’t be necessary. And sand paper worked just fine. In fact, sanding the holes was much easier than I expected, because the drill removed most of the metal from the hole instead of just pushing it aside. See, here’s the first tofu press I made, a long time ago, before I had the wooden press:

(Wow, it looks so primitive!)

I didn’t use the drill because I was a sissy back then. It’s hard to see, but what I did was hammer nails through the pan, which caused very sharp edges inside the holes. That was annoying. You probably need Raymond Burr to clean those holes up.

Anyway, the drilled holes were pretty smooth to begin with and a brief session with the sandpaper finished them right up in no time. I did start turning into the tin man in the hand area though:

Do any of you watch Black Books? It’s the best show ever so you should. Looking at my hands after sanding my holes, the only thing I could hear in my head was the Cleaner saying, “dirty, dirty. Everything is very dirty.”

Since everything is so dirty, wash the pan (and your hands!) and dry it.

Then vacuum or sweep up all those metal shavings. They’d be no fun to step on barefoot!

And that’s it! The press is done. I’ll show you how to use it in a little bit. Next, if you don’t have one, you’ll want to make a lining for the press. Use a lightweight, cotton or nylon, very porous fabric. Probably not dyed. I like muslin or chiffon. Muslin is easier to finish the edges of. To figure out how large you want the lining to be, measure the length, width, and depth of the pan.

For my 8.5″x4.5″x3″ pan, I multiplied 4.5 by 2 (once for the top and once for the bottom), then multiplied 3 by 2 (once for each side), then added that plus 2 inches for overlap, which gave me 17 inches for the width. For the length, I took 8.5 once (because the width is wide enough to cover the top, this dimension doesn’t need to be doubled), but rounded it up to 9, then added 3 x 2 (for the depth of the top and bottom) and added 2 inches, which also gave me 17 inches. So I made a 17″ x 17″ square. You don’t have to be quite so fancy with your calculations. Just make it large enough that it can wrap the pan neatly without a lot of excess fabric.

It fits in the pan and would completely cover the contents, without too much left over to bunch up:

Then I just zig-zagged the edges to help prevent unraveling.

The finished lining:

Now to use it. You can read my tutorial on making tofu for the details, and I’ll just show you the new press in action with photos.

I set the perforated pan in the sink to drain the whey.

Then I line it; I think it’s easier to wet the fabric so it stays put.

Then fill with the curds:

Fold the fabric up:

Place the non-perforated loaf pan on top:

Then add weights. I use a couple of cans, then my steam pan (the cast iron skillet I didn’t season and use for steaming bread) and a molcajete. I like very firm tofu. For a less firm tofu, just use less weight.

After half an hour or so, remove the weights. You can see how far the top pan has sunk:

The flattened tofu:

I use the edges of the liner to lift the tofu out:

The finished tofu. There are ridges where the curds seeped up into the folds of the liner.

I trim them off and reserve them in case I want to throw them into something.

This vintage glass loaf pan/refrigerator dish is the perfect size and shape for storing the tofu. Just cover the tofu with water:

Place the lid on, and refrigerate!

This tofu turned out better than my tofu has been lately, and is so firm I’ll be able to stir fry it without it falling apart. My tofu press was a success! Total cost: $9.98 for the loaf pans and about $2.50 for the drill bits, which I bought just because I wasn’t sure any of the ones I already had were good for drilling metal. That’s a lot less than I spent on my “real” tofu press and this one will take a lot more abuse. It’s also much easier to apply the weights. This project has saved me a trip to Japan to buy a stainless steel tofu press! Er, wait…that sort of backfired, didn’t it?


  1. Jes Said,

    May 9, 2009 @ 4:59 pm

    You’re so crafty! And I do think cats are a necessary tool–what would tofu be without some cat hair in it?

  2. Jain Said,

    May 9, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

    It’s a beautiful thing and just might inspire me to try my own tofu!

  3. kibbles Said,

    May 9, 2009 @ 6:27 pm

    Why didn’t you do this sooner? I hate the wood press I bought! Ah!
    It’s not your fault though, I will still make one of these. It looks so much better and is so small.

  4. Josiane Said,

    May 9, 2009 @ 10:46 pm

    Neat! I’ve just bought a plastic one, but I’ll remember this post if ever I end up not liking it, or I find I need something that is more heavy-duty.

  5. Steffi Said,

    May 10, 2009 @ 5:54 am

    neat tutorial! I love Black Books, we’ve started a tradition to have a girly red wine + vegan cooking + black books watching night every month or so.

  6. Mom Said,

    May 10, 2009 @ 7:49 am

    Glad to see you zig-zagged those edges!

  7. natalie Said,

    May 10, 2009 @ 2:26 pm


  8. Amy Said,

    May 12, 2009 @ 2:00 am

    This is really really awesome!!!!!

  9. Meg Said,

    May 17, 2009 @ 4:34 pm

    After having been reading your blog for a goodly amount of months now I’ve naturally been wanting a tofu press for just about that whole time. Then you went and posted this. So then I tried to make my own press. Boy-oh-boy, did it take more elbow grease than I’m used to expending on a Sunday. I started off with the drill spinning in the wrong direction (as if to remove a screw) and did about 1/3 of the holes that way. Fun. And by ‘fun’ I mean ‘way more difficult than having the drill set to spin in the appropriate direction.’ My holes aren’t nearly as evenly spaced as yours and when I used that, um, divot tool it sort of mashed in the entire bottom and a little on the sides because of the force. But yours is all curved out beautifully still! I even managed to step on a metal shaving and lightly cut my heel (I think this was my fault for having skipped the “grab a beer” step – I know better for next time). Thanks for this post, I’m very excited to use the press and am glad I got to make something that I’ll have kicking around the kitchen for years to come.

  10. renae Said,

    May 17, 2009 @ 7:16 pm

    Meg, ugh, I’m sorry it was such a trial! I hope it was worth it in the end!

  11. Meg Said,

    May 17, 2009 @ 11:15 pm

    Oh – worth it for sure! Didn’t meant to make it sound otherwise. I really think it would’ve been much smoother sailing if not for the drill having been previously set on the backwards setting. Ya live and ya learn, sometimes the hard way. If I were a man my Man-Sense would’ve alerted me to the backwards spinning drill but, alas, I’m merely a woman and know nothing of drills. And, really, when you get down to it, it’s no fun to make stuff if it is way too easy and doesn’t become an unexpected adventure/challenge. And now I know how to go about it for if/when my friends want to make one. So I really am very appreciative of this post, after all the bad things I’ve read about wood presses I was sort of at a stand still and didn’t really know what to do next. I had borrowed “The Book of Tofu” from my best friend and will try to dig up from it a coagulant out of items I have lying around. I’m jazzed/stoked/etc., another bonus is that now my husband can’t use up a birthday present for me on a tofu press! So that’s like a whole extra present, basically! Small question – sorry for the long comments… I picked up some chiffon on sale a couple of months ago when daydreaming about a press but in this post you went back to the muslin lining… Since I now have both (I constantly have excessive muslin yardage… at $1.49 who wouldn’t?!), which would you advise I stitch up for a lining? Or should I do one of each so I can alternate? I’ve never sewn chiffon but have heard it’s slippery stuff to work with. Do they make Raymond Burr attachments for sewing machines?

  12. renae Said,

    May 18, 2009 @ 10:28 pm

    I’m lucky my drill doesn’t have a backwards setting or I’d probably be doing the same thing all the time! As for the lining, it doesn’t really matter if you choose chiffon or muslin. I tend to prefer chiffon for the okara bag; it seems a little easier to squeeze all the milk out of the pulp using chiffon, but the difference is pretty negligible. I used muslin for the press liner because it is much, much easier to finish the edges of muslin and the chiffon liner I have is a raggedy mess because I didn’t bother trying. If you have a bunch of both, I’d just try them both and see which you prefer.

  13. rizo Said,

    June 8, 2009 @ 4:56 pm

    hey, thanks so much for this tutorial!! i’ve been looking for a couple days on the web for a good tut, and i should have come here 1st.

    so, it’s time for me to stop lurking around your site and bookmark it so that it’s part of my daily visits!

    thanks, again!

  14. Xiaolu Said,

    June 12, 2009 @ 9:59 am

    I just made this (with just a little help from my boyfriend hehe), but unfortunately we didn’t read carefully and used large loaf pans. Other than flat tofu, is there any major downside to using a larger pan? We live in the DC area as well (Arlington near Pentagon City), so I was also wondering if you get your coagulant locally? I know it’s available online but I’d like to avoid the shipping/packaging if possible. Thanks a lot!

  15. Xiaolu Said,

    June 12, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

    Actually I just ordered some online from because I found another post where you said you got yours online. I have a new question though. I just bought 16 oz. of nigari, which I imagine will take quite a looong time to use up. Do you know if it ever goes bad and/or what the best way to store it is? Many thanks!

  16. renae Said,

    June 12, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

    Hi Xiaolu, glad to see a fellow Virginian here! As you found, I do order my coagulants online. I’ve never seen nigari available locally. Although there is a shipping cost, GEM Culures does not use any excess packaging (a pet peeve of mine).

    I find that I go through a pound of nigari faster than you’d think I would, but I use a lot (2-3 tsp per 8 ounces of soybeans) and I make tofu just about every weekend. I’ve therefore never had a problem with it going bad, which I don’t think it will do as long as you keep it dry. I store it in an airtight glass container, which works well. You won’t encounter any problems using the larger loaf pan as long as you make a big batch of tofu (the better to use up that nigari!) When I was using the larger pans, I was soaking a pound of soybeans per batch, and that fit well in the pan. It just made more tofu than I really needed at time since I’m only feeding my husband and myself and it has a limited shelf life.

  17. Michelle Said,

    July 2, 2009 @ 3:05 pm

    Wow. I thought I would never be able to make my own tofu. And with your help I can. The photos help alot. !Thanks!

  18. Michelle Said,

    July 2, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

    I asked my uncle what that sharp thingy was…. it is called an Awl. go figure.

  19. Valerie Said,

    August 28, 2009 @ 5:45 pm

    It’s a center punch!
    When I worked in aircraft mechanics, I had one like yours, and an automatic spring-loaded one.
    And its official use is: punching an indentation in which you can center your drill bit for drilling a hole. Go figure!

  20. Steve in W MA Said,

    October 15, 2009 @ 3:09 am

    Thanx for the awesome, fun to read howto! I am totally going to make one of these. Especially since my 15# bag of organic soybeans will be arriving any day now!

    To those concerned about nigari going bad, it is just a couple of chemicals, I doubt it will go bad or stop working as long as you keep it dry, at room temperature or below, and out of the light (to slow down any potential reactions).

  21. Laura Said,

    October 31, 2009 @ 6:56 pm

    I’m going to ask my husband to make me a press like this for Christmas. It’s the best design I’ve seen.

    A different question on tofu: I only started making home made tofu about 6 months ago. I use a soymilk maker to make the milk, so in theory it is “easy.” But I find it so time-consuming and it’s a bit discouraging. Make 4 batches of milk, coagulate and pour in mold, clean up. Three hours have gone by and I have enough tofu for one meal! Making bread is far less time consuming… what am I missing–?? Thx!

  22. tatto designs Said,

    January 15, 2010 @ 2:02 pm

    This is amazing! I have been making tofu for quite some time now and shaping them has always remained a problem for me, good thing I found this post! Thanks a lot for this wonderful idea.

  23. Honey Said,

    March 17, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

    Hi! Vegan family of 5 here in Ohio. Excited about the press. Question…I’ve neve made my own tofu, but I’ve a recipe that calls for using Epsom salts as a coagulant… What are your thoughts?

    Also…have you ever made tofu out of anything else? My daughter & I became allergic to soy during my pregnancy with her & we can tolerate only a small amount. I miss my tofu!!!!! Any ideas to make a tofu out of something else?

  24. renae Said,

    April 3, 2010 @ 3:36 pm

    Hi Honey, I’m sorry I didn’t respond sooner! I’ve never used Epsom salts as a coagulant, but I’ve seen it suggested in several places. I like nigari because I think you get the firmest results, but Epsom salts are much easier to find and soybeans are pretty cheap, so I’d say give it a shot and let me know how it goes! I’ve never made tofu from anything but soy, but I’d imagine any non-dairy milk will coagulate. You could perhaps try it with unsweetened almond or rice milk?

  25. Brenda W. Said,

    April 10, 2010 @ 7:44 am

    Thanks so much for a GREAT post!! Wonderful, clear directions (pictures add SO much!!)

    I have added a link to this page on my web page on how to make tofu.

  26. Cindy Said,

    June 21, 2010 @ 2:24 am

    FABULOUS!! You should sell this 😀

  27. San Said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 11:30 pm

    When I have time I like to do thing at home such as cooking and burning food sometime smell good sometime bad and complaint. However, I like your posting and instruction, a cat! I love it. Thank you very much for posting this just like Cindy said.

  28. hcaham Said,

    March 11, 2012 @ 12:46 am

    I spent a couple days searching for a tofu press in Calgary with minor success. Happily, I came across your website and read your instructions. Of course….something as clever as this never crossed my mind. It took about a 1/2 hour to complete and turned out great.
    Thank you.

  29. jojo Said,

    April 21, 2012 @ 5:32 pm

    Really fun spirited instructions! I assembled my cat, beer and power tools and now am looking forward to making my own tofu. My only suggestion is to have a magnet on hand to pick up the metal filings. Wear gloves and clean the filings off the magnet with a paper towel. This way, you don’t have filings moved around your house via a broom. (And magnets are fun;) Loved your personalized side notes. Thank you so much for sharing.

  30. Amanda Said,

    May 11, 2012 @ 5:17 am

    What a great, simple idea. Thanks for the tutorial 🙂

  31. The Soybean Saga – Part 2 – Almost All We Need to Know about Tofu and its Relatives – A Homemade silken tofu/ Tau Fu Fa sweet soy curstard dessert/ tofu All-in-one Recipe | Faraway from Home Said,

    June 2, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

    […] […]

  32. Jeff Said,

    June 13, 2012 @ 8:39 am

    Wow you have just inspired me to make a plastic tofu press, its a little more easier to drill into plastic.

  33. Country69lover Said,

    June 19, 2012 @ 11:37 pm

    I liked your idea! and I had one of my own. I found a meat loaf pan set and the inner pan already has holes in it to drain off the fat. All that has to be done is make some side holes and your done.
    Thanks for your idea – it’s a good one!!!

  34. Angel Iulian Popescu Said,

    September 19, 2012 @ 2:45 am

    You are a genius. While I was searching for the net to invest into a tofu box, I found your experience which is absolutely great! Thank you very, very much. If you need any book on traditional Chinese medicine or any informations about nutrition, sports, etc., medicine, I would be happy to send you the documentation. I wish you a great day. Angel Iulian

  35. Alan Said,

    January 9, 2013 @ 9:23 pm

    Thanks for this! I’m gonna hit the goodwill right now to try to find some old tins!

  36. Solange Said,

    March 23, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

    Just brilliant!. Best solution ever.
    Thanks for your idea!!!.

  37. Linda Said,

    March 29, 2013 @ 8:06 am

    I’m just wondering what fabric you used for your pressing cloth. Awesome site!

  38. Lisa Said,

    February 16, 2014 @ 10:33 am

    I love the idea of making the press from loaf pans. I have scads, being a bread baker.
    I love the drill and that it was your grandfather’s. I have my grandfather’s hand tools and love using them.
    Love the photos of the process and what compelled me to leave a comment is the iron skillet in one photo…. it is indeed in a sad state. Curious, any reason you haven’t seasoned it and kept it conditioned? I have my grandmother’s and use it all the time, one is JUST for cornbread.

    The other item that caught my eye was the mortar you set on the iron skillet for weight… I need that. Where did you get it, find it, buy it?
    I know the post is a few years old but am hoping to see a response on the mortar as I have not been able to find one in that texture or size… I live in South Florida… if that makes a difference.

    Have drill, will create a tofu press

  39. renae Said,

    February 16, 2014 @ 3:10 pm

    Hi Lisa,

    Oh, I have several antique cast iron skillets, including one of my great-grandmother’s, that I use daily and they are seasoned and much loved. The skillet in the picture is a cheap modern one I bought specifically to leave in my oven to use for steaming when baking bread. There’s no point in seasoning it since I’m always pouring water into it. I don’t use it for anything other than steaming and as a weight when making tofu.

    The mortar in the photo is a molcajete, which is a Mexican mortar and pestle. You may be able to find one locally in a Hispanic market, but they are also available at Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table. Molcajetes need to be seasoned, in a process totally different to seasoning cast iron. Basically you keep grinding uncooked rice in it over and over again until the rice remains white instead of turning gray and the basalt surface becomes smooth inside. Here’s a blog post explaining: I have a large and a small molcajete. The small one I seasoned myself; the large one, which is the one in the picture, I bought actually pre-seasoned, I believe at Sur la Table. The vast majority are not pre-seasoned, so you may want to prepare yourself for a lot of work! But I recommend them highly; they are fun to use, beautiful, and will never, ever, ever break. 🙂

  40. Lisa Said,

    February 16, 2014 @ 5:49 pm

    Thanks for a speedy reply and great info. Using the iron skillet in the oven to steam baking bread is a great idea. Currently I have a heavy duty jelly roll pan… yes, it lives in the oven awaitng water baths…

    I wil be looking into the molcajete. There are somethings that just aren’t done in a blender/grinder/machine thingy!

    Picked up a new set of drill bits for my tofu mold pan project.

RSS feed for comments on this post

Leave a Comment