Christmas Lima Beans before and after overnight soak, photos by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Dried beans and salt. Dried beans and soaking.  Ask some chefs and they’ll tell you add salt in the beginning and the beans will never get soft.  Some chefs have suggested that salt slows the rehydration of beans.  Others say, the slower the rehydration, the better the finished bean (fewer broken ones), so it’s important to soak them overnight.  Others say it doesn’t really matter, or it depends.  One thing that is demonstrably true is that you don’t have to soak your beans overnight; if you want beans for dinner, put them in water and cook them till they’re tender or at least edible, no soaking, no blanching, just put them in a pot and cook them.

Wanting to get to the bottom of this, though, and having little scientific knowledge of bean cookery myself, I wrote to my friend Russ Parsons about this.  Russ is a long time food journalist, editor of the Los Angeles Times food section and author of excellent books, How To Pick a Peachand How To Read a French Fry, the latter devoted to exploring food science questions. He wrote back:

“I don’t think there’s a definitive word on anything about dried beans.  Seriously. It’s all pluses and minuses. You don’t need to soak them, but soaking them will cut cooking time, and some argue that it helps the beans hold their shapes. Not soaking them, on the other hand, really improves the flavor I’ve found.  After doing my experiments, I started salting at the beginning rather than at the end and I think that makes a big difference in flavor as well (seasoned beans rather than salty broth). But Steve Sando”—Steve is the country’s bean guru, owner of Rancho Gordo, purveyor of awesome heirloom beans (those are his Christmas Limas, above), author of Heirloom Beans as well as an excellent bean blog at ranchogordo.com— “who originally did the same, now says that he salts roughly halfway through cooking.  He says this gives him the same flavor result but fewer broken beans.  I’ve tried that and it certainly doesn’t seem to hurt. Besides, Steve cooks beans every day, I just cook them a dozen times a year.

“The whole bean thing has always seemed kind of perverse to me. For example, almost every cook in the US soaks their beans before cooking, while very few cooks do in Mexico—where beans are a part of the daily diet. At the same time, very few cooks in America soak their rice, while all over Asia and India, that’s regarded as a necessary step.”

Customary sagacity and perspective from old Russ.  I next wrote to Steve, and he replied with many comments on the finer points of cooking beans he’s observed, but for him, it comes down to intuition, to kitchen sense.

“Despite the virtual daily cooking of beans,” he writes, “I still don’t salt until, forgive me, the beans are my bitch, so to speak. There is a magical moment when the pot stops smelling like just mirepoix and water and starts smelling like beans.  You can taste one.  It’s not done but you know you’ve won. There’s no turning back for the bean. This is when I salt. It’s about three-quarters of the way through.”

Of course we now have a new food science and cooking encyclopedia, Modernist Cuisine, to go to (my NYTimes review of it seems to have caused a small but healthy brouhaha on the internet). Let’s see if it can help us. Lo! Yes, indeed! It suggests a test. Cook beans in water with some baking soda to make it alkaline. Cook other beans in tap water and in distilled water. The beans cooked in alkaline water will get mushy. The beans cooked in tap water, if it is especially hard, may never get tender.  Beans in distilled water should cook just right. True to its exhaustive nature, the book also suggest cooking beans in deionized water, which is not pleasant to drink, it says, but will result in tender but not mushy beans (why you would cook food in something that tastes unpleasant, the book does not say). But the book comes through: if your beans never seem to get tender, it may not be the salt, or the soaking, but rather the minerals in your tap water!

Hope you’re all full of beans this weekend! (And watch the Sando video below.)

How To Cook Beans:

Soak them for 6 to 24 hours (or don’t).

If you soak, use the soaking water for cooking as well. (If beans gives you or your bed partner serious gas, Harold McGee suggests that blanching and rinsing can reduce resulting gas, but will also reduce flavor. Not recommended. Gas is natural, probably good for you—or at least indicates lots of healthy gut bacteria—and when properly released can result in much good humor.)

Flavor your cooking pot by sauteing aromats—onion carrot garlic—in a little olive oil or butter (or don’t).

Add the beans to the pot and cover with water by about an inch (this is not optional).  Simmer gently tender—it can take hours depending on the bean. If you cover the pot, you probably won’t have to add water, but keep an eye on them anyway; if you don’t cover it you will likely have to add water. When the beans are your bitch add salt, enough salt so that the water tastes properly seasoned.  You can serve as is, with the pot liquor and some cheese and acid (lime juice or red wine vinegar).

Here’s a great 3 minute How To video by the Bean Kingpin himself (Steve, you need a bigger cutting board! But I love that cooking pot! Where can I get one?! I’ll trade you a proper Boos board for it!)

Ruhlman’s Beans & Bacon

  • 1/2 pound/225 grams bacon lardons (or cut into strips as you like)
  • 1 large onion, small diced
  • salt to taste
  • 16 ounces/450 grams dried Christmas lima beans, or other big hearty bean, cooked and drained from above, pot liquor reserved if you wish
  • 2 cups/500 millliters tomato sauce
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano to taste
  1. Brown the bacon over medium low heat in a medium or large sauce pan.
  2. Add the diced onion. Hit the onion with a solid pinch or two of salt.  Saute until the onion is golden and soft.
  3. Add the beans and saute to coat beans. Pour the tomato sauce into the pot, raise heat, bring to a low simmer for 15 minutes or so. You can also add some of the bean pot liquor if you wish.
  4. Taste and add more salt of necessary. Serve with grated Reggiano, lemon, lime, or vinegar for seasoning.

Serves four.

If you liked this post on beans, check out these other posts:

 

Key comments on this post:

Steve Sando’s comment

Russ Parson’s comment

Paula Wolfert’s comment & question

© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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74 Wonderful responses to “How To Cook Dried Beans”

  • Paul C

    Wow Rulhman … you sure know how to stretch a short handful of beans… :)

    450 grams dried Christmas lima beans
    500 liters tomato sauce

    • Erik

      It’s 500 liters before you reduce it down. You know, to get the umami and whatnot.

      Fwiw, I usually soak my beans, primarily to shorten the cook time (anecdotally, I’d say that it is better at avoiding having a couple undercooked beans when the rest are done, but I can’t say for certain). And I’ll either salt during the soaking or the cooking.

      Has anyone besides Cook’s Illustrated looked at brining dried beans? Their explanation of the process leads me to believe it may be a solution to the problem of hard water: http://www.cooksillustrated.com/howto/detail.asp?docid=12377&adminreq=houdinipreview

  • Mary at Deep South Dish

    Well, I have been cooking beans for far too long to reveal, so it’s a fact that I have my own tried and true methods, and they rarely agree with the experts! Nice post.

  • J.W. Hamner

    No comment on the Cook’s Illustrated suggestion of actually brining beans during the initial soak? I’ve tried it a couple of times and it seems to do a great job of seasoning as well as virtually eliminating burst beans.

    As an aside I find the idea that pressure cooker stock is somehow “Modernist” kind of weird… unless Lorna Sass recently had a conversion I hadn’t heard about. That book dates back to the 80′s and had a fairly similar recipe for pressure cooker stock IIRC (no blanching though).

  • Joanne

    I have always soaked my beans (I guess I fall into that majority of Americans), so I’m excited to see how much more flavorful they are when I don’t soak them!

  • Dawn Singh

    I’ve been buying beans from Rancho Gardo for about a year now. Steve is a hoot and he really knows his beans. They are the best. I soak mine overnight and throw in a big old smoked hamhock when I start the cooking process. I also add a tablespoon or two of chipotle sauce. We have beans a lot–couple of times a week.

  • Diane

    Thank you! This is very helpful! I have been cooking my beans without salt until the end, and this tip will help season them better. Also this is true for cooking farro–the soaking part as well as the salting part. I’ll try the distilled water too…

  • Steve

    When I do pintos, I like the texture, the pop, of a slightly undercooked bean. But not for the whole batch. So I start the cook with 2/3 of my beans. Then I add the rest after an hour or so of cook time so that they will still be a bit undercooked when the first part are fully done.

    Also, if I’m doing refired, I will separate some whole cooked beans and then mix them back in. This is much better texture-wise than partially mashing the whole batch.

  • Lisa from Glutenfreecanteen

    I don’t know how Donna does the photography magic – but taking a Pyrex measuring cup full of (pretty) beans and making it beautiful food art is a gift. Kudos. Glad she is photographing your new book. And now to go find some beans…..

  • Three-Cookies

    I use the soak method. I always cook extra which I freeze. Beans freeze well and this cuts the cooking time to almost nil!

  • Edsel Little

    I think the reason deionized water tastes unpleasant is that it is missing all of the minerals one normally finds in tap water or bottled water.

    It has a weird slippery fell on the tongue. It’s unpleasant on its own, but I can see how it might be a good choice for cooking beans if your tap water is hard.

  • Cecelia Heer

    Is it really necessary to soak beans overnight? Several of my chef friends (Latin) say no. I did in the past, but no more.

  • Sammie

    I was always afraid of dealing with dried beans because the way to prepare them vary so greatly. I guess I’ll just have to get out there and try it a few different ways and see what works best for my tastebuds!

  • P. Channon

    Even if you want to cook the beans on the same day, you still have to start them very early before your meal. I made that mistake once, thinking they would take an hour or so. Never again!

    The best is to make extra beans and make a dip the next day.

    P. Channon
    pchannon.blogspot.com

  • Ritu

    I wondered if you heard or read anything about the efficacy of kombu, which is commonly recommended in the macrobiotic / natural foods world as a solution for improved digestibility and less gas (the same thing?) in bean cooking. Also it likely contrbutes a hit of minerals to the finished product… But the straight Sando method works great for me every time.

  • jen

    After much frustration with burst beans (fine if they’re going into soup, but I’m very particular about my bean-busting), I’ve been following this method from the paupered chef: no soak, put ‘em in a dutch oven in a 250 degree oven for 75 minutes and check, if not done continue to check in 15-minute intervals. It’s so hands-off I love it, and my beloved Rancho Gordo beans have come out perfect for veggie chili.

    • Christina

      I love frijoles, and I did them on top of the range for a while, then one day I needed run out and instead of leaving them on the range, I popped them into a low oven. Eureka! I have never gone back to range top cooking of beans, other than to get them to a simmer. The texture was amazing and creamy, the beans left whole. I have found that I use less water cooking this way. I don’t soak either.

  • Carolyn Z

    Would this work with Great Northern beans? They have good depth of flavor. A nice basic recipe. Thanks!

    Carolyn Z

  • Steve Sando

    Thanks for all the attention. I feel so pretty!

    1. The pot was from the Spanish Table. I bought a really big one and that one and they haven’t had them since. They have some others.. We’re importing pots from Puebla but we don’t sell them online. Best source overall is bramcookware.com. They even sell and ship our pots when we have extra to spare.

    I always fly with a bean pot or come sort of clay pot on my lap. I can’t imagine going to Europe or Mexico without buying some kind of clay cookware.

    2. At the French Laundry xmas party, one of the chefs told me their preferred method is slow cooker now! Keller and Crock Pot? What a team. Isn’t that wild? I think it’s a great method but the pot liquor is rather dead so leave the lid off the last hour and allow some evaporation. I think the same is true of pressure cookers.

    3. Fresh beans, harvested within two years of consumption, don’t need to be soaked, pure and simple. But you can. Mostly I do. I think McGee says that most of the hydration happens within four hours and after that it’s minimal. I do know you can oversoak the beans and the effect is the same- they stay hard!

    We only sell beans less than a year old, by the way. this isn’t the norm.

    4. We have a new salt from Mexico that actually softens beans. I think chemically it works like the baking soda trick but it doesn’t have nasty taste that baking soda imparts. Just a pinch and you have soft beans. Too much and you get mush.

    After all this time, I don’t think there’s any one way. If it works for you, great. But bean cooks are like martini drinkers and they tend to think their way is the only way. Just not and smile and do what feel rights. You’ll find your best method!

  • David

    I make yellow split pea soup a lot, and can say that without soaking the flatulariance is ludicrously high and with soaking it is very low.
    I haven’t noticed a huge difference in flavour, and the fart-humour doesn’t last very long.

  • russ parsons

    my ears were burning and besides, i couldn’t resist a good snuggle up next to steve. back in the dark mists of time, i was known in the office as the “bean boy” (this was after “butter boy” but before “pork boy”; I don’t know what they call me know because I have a corner office. we’re all happier that way). But I digress.
    Here’s a link to the original piece I did way back when. IIRC, when i was talking to bean chemists, they said that hot-soaking did remove some of the sugars, but not enough to make an appreciable difference, unless you repeated it several times … at the end of which, you’d have nothing edible. And just for what it’s worth, all canned beans are cooked without soaking.
    My bean cooking has evolved in the intervening almost 20 years, but there’s some things that may still be useful, or at least amusing.
    http://articles.latimes.com/1994-02-24/food/fo-26607_1_soaked-beans

  • Richard

    I used to help my dad and a friend of his cook beans to serve with barbecue for weddings, so we’d be cooking enough beans for upwards of 250 people sometimes.The recipe was pretty simple. It involves a bunch of bacon (typically used “ends and pieces” because it was cheap) onions, bell peppers (no jalapenos because the last thing you want is a kid getting a piece of jalapeno), tomatoes, garlic, and salt and pepper. We never soaked them, partly because it was too difficult to refrigerate that many pounds of beans. I think I despise bland beans as much as Ruhlman despises bell peppers.

  • Natalie Sztern

    I am going to risk charming in by saying I know a lot about gas and Beano is very very good. 1-2 tabs with the first bite and u won’t feel or smell a thing for the next 24 hours…

  • Jose

    Crock-pot beans work.
    No popped beans, no mushy beans.
    And a beautiful method indeed except for the
    fact that at times they end up tasting as bland
    as Wonder bread. Or maybe beans out of a can.
    I will keep in mind taking the lid off toward the end.

  • Paula Wolfert

    I agree that the new world beans such as cannellini, and all white and red beans fromAmerica probably don’t need soaking. On the other hand, I still think that the old world fava beans and chick peas do need a long soaking. Why do you think this is so?
    I would like to pass along my experience with Mexican chickpeas which don’t need a long soaking. Do you think it’s the soil or filtered water?

  • Toni Hart

    Great post and comments. Since I cook beans every week, I thought I should weigh-in on “to soak or not to soak.” After years of dismal beans, I discovered Steve Sando and Rancho Gordo’s fabulous beans. In our kitchen, we follow Steve’s general cooking guidelines, which include soaking (for about six hours). Adding salt once the beans have reached the just barely soft stage, then adding homemade tomato sauce after the salt has had a chance to flavor the beans. And, most importantly, we always cook in clay pots!

  • Priscilla Shorne

    I reckon the pressure cooker is magic for dried beans. When I make hummous, I always cook the beans in the pressure cooker and it is so fast and it gets the chick peas really soft.

  • Wilma de Soto

    As one who has prepared dried beans, (granos secos), for her entire life I find gas escapes from beans soaked overnight unless one adds a pinch of baking soda to the soaking water. Rinse and do not use the soaking water for cooking.

    If you need them done within a couple of hours after you come home from work, dump them into a bowl. Clean and wash them well. Put them into the pot with all the herbs, meats, aromatics and everything except salt.

    Bring to a rolling boil for three minutes and turn down the heat. Check after an hour at simmer. The beans should be almost soft and the broth milky. When they are soft a few minutes later, add salt and season with more herbs etc. A half hour later they should be ready to serve.

    The exception to the rule are unsoaked garbanzos which will take at least two hours after you come from work.

    When one eats beans as much as we do…well either we are SO used to eating them or we know how to cook them quickly without so much “fartulence”.

  • Janet Nelson

    Just last night on the news there was much discussion of BPH from can linings leaching into our food. Rick and I looked at each other and said “That’s it for the canned beans.” Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Mike

    In “On Food and Cooking” (2004) McGee says “Cooking times can be reduced even more by adding various salts to the soaking water. Plain salt at a concentration around 1% speeds cooking greatly, apparently because the sodium displaces magnesium from the cell-wall pectins and so makes them more easily dissolved” (pg. 489). So sounds like another vote for soaking in a brine, although he doesn’t say whether it affects the ultimate taste or not. On the same page he also says baking soda can reduce cooking time 75% but leave the beans slippery and with a soapy taste.

  • Ellendra

    “Gas is natural, probably good for you—or at least indicates lots of healthy gut bacteria—and when properly released can result in much good humor.”

    For some of us with digestive issues, it is also very painful. I’ll sacrifice a bit of flavor if it means not being doubled over in pain the whole next day.

  • Laura

    So glad to have come across your blog, Michael!

    What a great examination of beans, with interviews from experts!

    Since several people mentioned pressure cooking beans, and no one mentioned the “Quick Soak” method, I thought I would.

    There are three ways to prepare beans for pressure cooking, the traditional “soaking” (8-24 hours, depending on the bean), the little known “quick-soaking” (10 minutes, really!) and some beans can even be cooked un-soaked in under an hour – though I do not recommend it because cooking them this way retains the indigestible sugars that are removed by both the “soak” and “quick-soak” methods.

    Here are step-by-step photos and instructions for quick-soaking beans:
    http://www.hippressurecooking.com/2011/01/pressure-cooker-canellini-and-mint-bean.html

    Sometimes google lets me stumble on a gem. I am your follower now!

    L

    hip pressure cooking
    making pressure cooking hip, one recipe at a time!

  • Pim

    I don’t know much about beans, but I do know rice. Russ is not entirely accurate when he said we soak rice as a matter of course in Asia. In fact we never soak Jasmine rice. We sometimes soak short grain Koshihikari rice. And we always soak Basmati and Glutenous rice.

  • Kathryn Yeomans

    Epazote, an herb used in Mexican cuisine, is a natural anti-gas. It is chopped and stirred into cooked beans as they are taken off the stove. It has a distinctive taste.

    It is sometimes difficult to find in the USA, but in Mexico, it grows as a rampant weed. It is very easy to grow, a small plant will grow to yield a year’s worth of epazote.

    Also, I’ve heard, and also my own experience tells me, that the more you eat beans, the more your body acclimates, and the less gas you endure.

  • Ken Albala

    Steve and all, Why doesn’t someone start a campaign to get all beans dated? I think all this controversy would disappear. It’s the nasty old beans that need extra cooking and then go mushy.

  • Jim Dixon

    I cook beans every week, and always in the oven without soaking. After reading an article about the Tuscan fagiole in fiasco (combining beans, water, salt, and olive oil in a wine bottle, then leaving it in the ashes of the communal bread oven overnight) with a quote from an old farmer about beans cooked in a metal pot being “not worth eating,” I started using a ceramic bean pot.

    Beans, roughly three times as much water, good pinch of salt, and a healthy glug of extra virgin olive oil (maybe 2-3 T); into a 200F oven until done, usually about 2 hours. If I can smell the beans, it usually means I need to add a little water. My old Wedgewood has a standing pilot that keeps the oven warm, and I’ve started the beans hotter (350F) just before bed, turned off the oven, and left them in all night with good results.

    These simple beans taste great just drizzled with a little more extra virgin at the table. If I’m making something like red beans and rice, I still cook the beans the same way, then add them to the other ingredients.

    But what beans you cook is almost as important as the cooking method. Heirloom varieties like those from Rancho Gordo taste much better than commodity beans, and beans that are too old may never get tender.

  • Tim H

    Rancho Gordo beans make a great gift. For Christmas, I either make caramel popcorn or hand out bags of RG beans. The RG packaging is very cool, invariably people laugh and end up cooking some beans.

    Two favorite preparations:

    1) My wife makes a version of Thai Som Tam (papaya salad) with beans. Instead of the usual thin strips of papaya, she rough chops the papaya and tomatoes, and makes a dressing of fish sauce, chilies, garlic, shallots, and lime juice. The beans look gorgeous with the diced tomatoes and green papaya.

    2) When smoking meat (I use a big green egg), put a shallow pot of beans under the meat with garlic, one chipotle, shallots, and salt. I let them go for hours along with the meat, then mash them up a bit before serving. Like refried beans (but better) w/o the refrying.

  • NMissC

    I quit soaking beans in reaction to Diana Kennedy’s strong anti-soaking rant in one of her early cookbooks. Discovering it wasn’t needed was a good thing.

    I highly recommend using some form of pork stock (I use a mixture of smoked ham hocks and whatever pork bones I can get); there’s something about the smell of the pork stock that cries out for beans.

    I also find that a really caramelized soffrito works well with bean dishes, particularly black beans.

  • Bill J

    Pish-tush and balderdash! My grandparents’ prized posession was their bean pot. It only took me 60 years to get back to cooking beans in a slow oven. (Keeps the house warm too in these recessionary times).

  • andy

    I never ever had success with beans until I soaked them all night and then simmered them for at least 45 minutes. I actually like simmering them in a lot of water with some sad vegetables- then I get beans and stock.

  • jonathan

    Ruhlman, you rock! Was just arguing this topic with two different bean people and none of us agreed on method. I am going to share this with them. Maybe next you can discuss soaking and not soaking rice.

  • Mike

    In the oven method people have mentioned, are the beans covered or not?

    • Bill J

      Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom says 3 cups water/liquid for 1 cup beans, covered casserole, overnight at 250 (or slow cooker on low). I’ve found that they can be done in 3-4 hours. I imagine that it will all depend upon the age and quality of your beans.

    • Christina

      When I do mine (I use a heavy porcelain coated cast iron dutch oven) I leave my lid askew.

  • harmonious

    Michael,

    I add some lard to the boil – got that tip from Rick Bayless. It really makes the beans creamy in the end. Not sure why. Any thoughts on the chemistry?

  • Dwight

    I have cooked beans for years and I just always look through them and get out any rocks or dirt balls, then wash them good, and then put them on to cook with about a tablespoon of salt and some bacon, or hamhock. Mine always come out delicious.

  • Michelle

    My family loves beans, we eat them at least once a week. For years, no matter how long I cooked a pot of beans, they never become completely tender. Finally, I ordered some Rancho Gordo beans, used distilled water (we have very hard water where I live) and cooked them in a Le Creuset pot in the oven. FANTASTIC!

  • Paul

    Here is a point that my wife taught me and it is really true. If you are cooking beans for later consumption, not just eating them the moment when they are done, then over cook them a bit because they will definitely firm back up as they sit. If you cook them to an al dente stage or even a perfectly done stage and then let them sit, they will taste hard when you eat them. Since I often cook a big pot of beans and then freeze them for later use, i always over cook them a bit and the result, days and even weeks later is perfect.

    It is also true that acids will harden cooked beans so never let beans sit around in an acidic broth.

  • David

    I just made Christmas beans with bacon yesterday (without having seen Michael’s blog, curse it all). I soaked them overnight (in filtered water) in a very light brine (1 tsp. salt to 2 c. water), then cooked them on the stovetop at a simmer, no lid, for just over an hour. The skins had just the littlest bit of tooth, but the insides were wonderfully soft. Rancho Gordo is fantastic, but if for whatever reason you’re looking for another source for heirloom beans, or want to buy some for planting and growing yourself, check out Seed Savers Exchange: http://www.seedsavers.org.

  • rob fettig

    Personally I cook my beans in a crock pot on low. It takes a long time but the low and steady heat keeps them from falling apart. I find this particularly useful for larger beans, such as Judion or Scarlet Runners. I live at 7000 ft and bean cooking can be trying

  • Ed

    While skimming I misread the beginning of Russ’ comments in the article as saying “It’s all pulses and minuses”…

    I’ve always used the “bring to a boil, let sit for a couple of hours then rinse” method, but next time I’ll try skipping the rinse. Also, I’ve found that the trick for me is to simmer *very* gently when cooking so that the beans don’t get too beat up and hold their shape.

  • Carolyn Z

    This might sound stupid, but one should do what works.

    For me, soaking the beans helped get rid of the sugars that I can’t digest.

    If I don’t have much time, then the boil them for 2 hours method is better.

    Enjoy finding out which way works for you!

    Carolyn Z

  • cherylk

    I’m not a soaker…boil for 2 minutes and let sit for an hour is how I’ve always done it. But I’m definitely trying the oven method. I always freeze what I don’t need, too. So nice to have them ready to use.

  • PaolaBri

    “Do NOT soak the beans first; the skin gives off an unpleasant flavor. Instead, throw out the book that tells you to do so” Dianna Kennedy

  • luis

    I am surprised no one mentioned using a pressure cooker?. Soaking them overnight results in the beans plumping up and hydrating. This tenderizes them nicelly

  • Molly

    The truth about beans is that you have to know your audience, your water the dish that is to be prepared and the beans themselves. I deplore the idea that there is one way to cook beans, there are hundreds of varieties, sources, and recipes. Imagine… only one rule for chicken?

    I cook a ton of beans we are an international family. Sometimes it’s Colombian Cargamonto beans, other times French Lentils or Italian White beans; but it’s for lunch or dinner even breakfast 7 days a week. I’ve been making hummus and dals lately too. All of them do better with different techniques.

    Generally, we don’ all have the same problems. If beans are bought off the shelf in a supermarket where no one cooks beans or find a pound of questionable vintage… soak’em and don’t try and use them for fancy french recipes that require “al dente” cooking. IF they don’t swell? they may be too old to eat. Bitter hard old beans isn’t going to make anyone a fan. From a farmer close by, less than a month dry? probably not necessary to soak. Sometimes I soak them because my mother-in-law is about the house and she believes they are toxic if you don’t soak them. But I know soaking beans in Mexico is a bad idea for three reasons: 1. They usually ferment 2. Most places the water isn’t drinkable right out of the tap and has to be boiled anyway, 3. They cook all day or more than 6 hours anyway.

    As for the water if you have lots of minerals, soaking will probably make them tough and you are better off with Distilled Water. But maybe in your area people are accustom to them without broken skins and not “smushy”. I soak them for my dal, not for the french lentil salad. I don’t soak’em for chili or long stewing recipes. Sometimes I use the cooking or soaking liquid and sometimes I don’t. I don’t like it in my humus, but it works great with Spanish Garbanzos for salad.

    Really, the best beans are prepared with a love food. from a good reliable relatively fresh sources and honestly…. practice, practice practice. No one has ever become an expert in a whole class of food in one weekend. I just want to encourage everyone to explore the different methods before making any bean manifestos. There is no one right way to cook beans.

    Thank you for having such a great forum for discussing these topics.
    -Molly

  • MRW

    Mmmm… beans. I am gassy just thinking of them. I like to make a lot of beans when I do. Need enough for breakfast!

  • Dis

    There is a trick to preventing gas – add ginger to the dish in the last few steps before serving. (Not enough to make it -taste- like ginger – eg 1/8 tsp for a pot of beans, or 1/8-1/4 for chili..) An enzyme in the ginger will help break down the gas-producing chemicals without affecting the flavor..

  • DaveMullany

    This is a fascinating and instructive discourse, but ultimately I guess the only thing it proves beyond doubt is that the successful preparation and cooking of dried beans depends not so much on the method, but on whether or not you like the finished result – which is a lot like most other cooking controversies. In other words: proceed with the way that works for you. Or, as Elizabeth David noted in another context in French Provincial Cooking – “As everybody knows, there is only one infallible recipe for the perfect omelette: your own.”

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  1.  Irish Food Bloggers Association | Blog | What We're Reading: 14 March
  2.  Roxy's Kitchen - Homemade Recipes – Beans with Smoked Sausages
  3.  Hummus « Hunter's Lyonesse