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No-soak beans, in the oven, in 90 minutes


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#1 Fat Guy

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 11:14 AM

It seems that in the past few years there have been a few monumental revelations of the "everything you thought you knew about cooking was wrong" variety. Most recently, the no-knead bread discussion, triggered by Mark Bittman's article in the New York Times, shattered the myth of kneading.

For me, however, the most significant revelation came in 2004 when we had a lengthy discussion regarding dried beans, where it was revealed that soaking beans is a waste of time. For this the world owes Russ Parsons a debt of gratitude. I fear the 2004 topic was so long and covered so much ground, however, that the no-soak, in-oven method of cooking beans may have gotten buried.

So, I would like to propose for 2007 a topic singularly devoted to the method of cooking beans in the oven without soaking. This is that topic.

I'm going to kick it off by giving a rundown of the method, derived from the Parsons method, that has been working very well for me. And remember, you don't soak the beans. You just cook them. It really works. I know, most of us were told all our lives that beans have to be soaked. It's not true. You can decide a couple of hours before dinner that you want beans, and you can have them. And if you cook them this way, they actually come out better:

- Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

- You'll need a pot with a tight-fitting lid. The one I use is a 5-quart saucier similar in appearance to this one, though the one I have is different (mine has a glass lid, which is great for this purpose because you don't have to open the lid to see what's going on).

- The beans I've been buying come from Bob's Red Mill and come in strangely sized packages. For example, the Great Northern Beans come in a package of 1 pound 11 ounces. Other beans they sell come in different configurations. So I've never come up with a reliable formula for water. I just go with the plan of emptying the beans into the pot, and covering with cold water to about an inch and a half above the beans. Sometimes I need to add a little water later. Usually not.

- I don't rinse, sort or do anything like that with the beans. I just do a quick visual inspection. I've found that beans from modern packers are clean and don't have any rocks. When I add the water, sometimes a couple of unfortunate, misshapen or broken beans float to the top. I throw those out.

- I don't pour boiling water over the beans. It's an extra pot or kettle that I don't need to deal with. I just add cold water to the beans, cover and bring everything to a boil on the stovetop.

- I add about a tablespoon of salt to a 1.75 pound batch of beans before cooking. Yes, another myth shattered: the salt doesn't harm the beans, and in fact makes them taste much better.

- Once the beans reach a boil, put the whole pot, covered, into the pre-heated 250-degree oven. Set your timer for 75 minutes (1 hour 15 minutes). That's right. This will in most cases take only about 1 hour 15 minutes for beautifully cooked, slightly al dente beans. When you add in the boiling time on the stovetop, it's about 90 minutes for the whole process start to finish.

- After about 40 minutes, inspect the beans. They may at this point be absorbing more water than you thought they would, in which case you should add some boiling water (thus, you will need a kettle if that happens). While you're in there, give them a stir. (The first time you use this method, you'll want to inspect more often, until you get the hang of the water ratio.)

- Seriously, after about 75 minutes your beans will be done. Once in awhile you get a freak batch of beans and they need to go longer, however I've done this many times and only had one such incident, with a bag of beans that had been languishing in the back of the cabinet and was probably 4-5 years old.

That's it. Russ Parsons's gift to humanity. Go forth and soak no more.

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#2 shellfishfiend

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 11:19 AM

Thank you for bringing this up again. I had never seen the original thread.

I use dried beans often and normally just set then in a bowl of water on the counter overnight. I thought I had to.

I will try this next time.
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#3 scubadoo97

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 11:39 AM

Thanks FG for reminding folks that beans do not need to be soaked and salt will not cause hard beans. pH is a factor though. acid causes beens to stay hard. I usually cook mine on the stove but with the oven there will be less stirring needed.

#4 zoe b

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 11:40 AM

NO WAY!!!!

and what other cherished belief is next?

That there are fairies at the bottom of the garden?

I can't wait to try this--thanks for bringing it up again.

Zoe

#5 annecros

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 11:46 AM

I use the same method with the crockpot instead of the oven since I read the original thread.

Was a real eye opener for me.

#6 Chufi

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 11:52 AM

Sometimes I soak and sometimes I don't. I feel (but I've never done an actual experiment with a side-by-side-test) that while no soak beans get cooked, and are perfectly good to eat, soaked beans are just a little softer, plumper, more lusciously textured.
I mean, the soaking is no hard work, it just means you have to plan a bit more.

Edited by Chufi, 11 February 2007 - 11:53 AM.


#7 dockhl

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 12:04 PM

I'm with you, FG. In fact, my husband and I disagree on this weekly :raz:

I do one thing else, tho. I wash them, bring them to a boil and then pour off that water. Cover again , boil and pop in the oven. I may be fooling myself but I think it reduces the gassiness of the beans. I haven't soaked beans in years.

And YES to the salt while cooking.

I made some yummy red beans to go with rice last weekend using this method. (Inspired by Brooks' recipe in the RED BEANS AND RICE thread.)

#8 russ parsons

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 01:03 PM

jeez FG, you're making me blush! thanks a lot, though. At one point I feared that my headstone would read: "did not soak beans."

i have refined the technique just a tad, after consultation with our own rancho gordo and several experiments. I now add the salt about halfway through the cooking time. I find this reduces the percentage of broken beans and still results in great flavor.

#9 qrn

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 01:31 PM

Its even quicker if you cook em in the pressure cooker...

Bud

#10 Dave Hatfield

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 02:35 PM

Works well for beans going into a cassoulet as well. I just boil them on the stove top for about 15 minutes.
Then turn the heat off & let them sit. For the cassoulet I then throw in my garlic, tomato puree & mirapoix & let that all soak while I get my meats ready.

Then everything gets layered in the cassole & away we go to the oven.

PS: I also am very sceptical about the need to let a cassoulet rest overnight. I find it hard to taste the difference if I make one & do the first cooking in the morning, let it rest & then heat up & serve that evening versus making it one day & serving it the next.
But.... that's another whole discussion.

#11 markk

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 02:57 PM

I also didn't see the original thread, but I'm glad you started this one. I can't wait to try it!
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#12 snowangel

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 03:49 PM

I've not soaked beans for much longer than any of the rest of you because when I need cooked beans, I need them the same day. Plan ahead, no way!

And, many years ago, watching my grandmother cook, she always added the salt during cooking. In later years, the advice not to salt puzzled me because her beans were always great!

Crock pot method is great if you work outside the home...
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#13 Abra

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 07:11 PM

FG, do yourself a favor and get some Rancho Gordo beans. They're so fresh and delicious you never need to soak them no matter how you cook them. I happen to do them in a crockpot overnight on Low, but I've never even thought of soaking them and they're always perfect.

#14 ninetofive

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 08:17 PM

After reading this thread, I tried a pot of black beans. I wanted to compare them with the beans I made on Friday with a pressure cooker, which is typically how I cook them. (The Friday beans were quick-soaked, then pressure cooked.)

The no-soak beans were far more flavorful (and yes, they were from the same bag as the Friday beans). They also held their shape better, but the most noticeable thing was that they held their color. The pressure cooker beans were verging on gray, while the no-soak beans stayed deep black.

Cooked with nothing more than a teaspoon of kosher salt, they were good enough to eat from the pot.

Also, perhaps this is TMI, but six hours later, no toots. :raz:


Thanks for reviving this topic, FG!
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#15 slo_ted

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 12:02 AM

I've always cooked beans on the stove top. I've tried soaking overnight, "quick soaking" (bring to a boil, cover, let stand about one hour), and cooking straight up without any soak. They all taste good to me, but the no-soak ones seem to have a slight edge in flavor. I will try this oven cooking method asap, and it does sould as thought it would lend itself to crock pottery if the oven had other plans. Thanks for the tip

#16 Pontormo

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Posted 14 February 2007 - 11:49 AM

You know, I can boil water real good but I have never had success with cooking dried beans without pre-soaking them first.

Oven-cooking, yes. I have switched over to this method exclusively since it really does seem to help reduce if not eliminate skin-splitting and breakage.

Nonethess, I have tried not pre-soaking only a few times and became disenchanted because the majority of the beans remained hard, many dividing length-wise. Granted, I was using a burner instead of the oven and beans from food co-op bins, though it was in both an era and a town with a large population of bean-eaters.

I've had more problems recently than I can recall with beans taking forever to cook even when pre-soaked. I'm not sure if it's because so few people bother to cook dried beans anymore, reaching for cans instead. Is it just because inventories get old as a result, or I'm not cooking replenished supplies fast enough? I live in a city with a large, mixed Latino population and tend to buy packages of Goya's beans if not from bulk at Whole Foods.

Just made a great batch of soupy black beans that had pre-soaked for days (not deliberately). It took FOUR hours for all of the beans to soften. Even though some had swollen and cooked through in 1 1/2 hours, most were a little al dente. While many of the beans changed color to a dark reddish brown as they cooked, glossy black ones retained their small size like stubborn, clenched fists. I finally gave up and took them out of the oven at 1 AM and achieved what I wanted after an additional hour of cooking while preparing a meal later in that day.

Edited by Pontormo, 14 February 2007 - 11:59 AM.

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#17 annecros

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Posted 14 February 2007 - 12:28 PM

You know, I can boil water real good but I have never had success with cooking dried beans without pre-soaking them first.

Oven-cooking, yes.  I have switched over to this method exclusively since it really does seem to help reduce if not eliminate skin-splitting and breakage.

Nonethess, I have tried not pre-soaking only a few times and became disenchanted because the majority of the beans remained hard, many dividing length-wise.  Granted, I was using a burner instead of the oven and beans from food co-op bins, though it was in both an era and a town with a large population of bean-eaters.

I've had more problems recently than I can recall with beans taking forever to cook even when pre-soaked.  I'm not sure if it's because so few people bother to cook dried beans anymore, reaching for cans instead.  Is it just because inventories get old as a result, or I'm not cooking replenished supplies fast enough?  I live in a city with a large, mixed Latino population and tend to buy packages of Goya's beans if not from bulk at Whole Foods. 

Just made a great batch of soupy black beans that had pre-soaked for days (not deliberately). It took FOUR hours for all of the beans to soften.  Even though some had swollen and cooked through in 1 1/2 hours, most were a little al dente.  While many of the beans changed color to a dark reddish brown as they cooked, glossy black ones retained their small size like stubborn, clenched fists.  I finally gave up and took them out of the oven at 1 AM and achieved what I wanted after an additional hour of cooking while preparing a meal later in that day.

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How hard is your water? Did this phenomena begin with your relocation?

#18 scubadoo97

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 11:04 AM

I cook a lot of black beans and I have had some bags that just didn't cook through. Many years ago I stopped buying the store brands. Sometimes they looked dusty and I've come across many that had on off smell that carried over into the cooked beans. This is a unique smell that I've experienced from many store brand black/turtle beans. Now I look for clean, shiny, fresh looking beans. I like some of the Latin brands like Goya and a few others.

#19 SheenaGreena

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 01:05 PM

I have a few bags of black beans and kidney beans laying around in my pantry. I will try this out and let you all know how it turns out.

I HATE cooking dried beans. I usually go for cans. I tried soaking and cooking beans (for 3 hours) a few times and every time I did, they tasted crunchy. If this works I'll be tremendously happy.
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#20 fiftydollars

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 03:35 PM

FG, do yourself a favor and get some Rancho Gordo beans.  They're so fresh and delicious you never need to soak them no matter how you cook them.  I happen to do them in a crockpot overnight on Low, but I've never even thought of soaking them and they're always perfect.

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His beans are definitely good, but the price is staggering. On more than one occasion I have stood at his stand in the Ferry Plaza, staring at the 1lb bags, wondering how I could possibly justify their price to myself.

#21 prasantrin

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 03:57 PM

His beans are definitely good, but the price is staggering. On more than one occasion I have stood at his stand in the Ferry Plaza, staring at the 1lb bags, wondering how I could possibly justify their price to myself.

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Well, for us the beans were even more expensive (we're Canadian, so once the exchange rate was factored in, they were outrageously priced for us), but according to my mother, the flavour and texture more than justified the price. She used all hers up, but she still thinks about them, and dreams of when we can visit SF again, just to buy some beans from Rancho Gordo.

#22 SheenaGreena

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 04:00 PM

AMAZING. it worked. I can't believe it, especially since these beans have been in my pantry for over a year...possibly 2. I cooked them for 1 1/2 hours in the oven with my dutch oven. To make the lid fit a little tighter I used some foil around the rim of the pot.
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#23 project

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 04:18 PM

For

So I've never come up with a reliable formula for water. I just go with the plan of emptying the beans into the pot, and covering with cold water to about an inch and a half above the beans. Sometimes I need to add a little water later. Usually not.

to get "a reliable formula for water", may I suggest that in your next trials, record the (1) weight of the beans and (2) the volume of the water. Then, for all trials that in the end had the right amount of water, report the ratios.

Adding water to "an inch and a half above the beans" will let both the weight of the beans and the pot diameter affect the ratio of water to beans.
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#24 fiftydollars

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 04:32 PM

His beans are definitely good, but the price is staggering. On more than one occasion I have stood at his stand in the Ferry Plaza, staring at the 1lb bags, wondering how I could possibly justify their price to myself.

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Well, for us the beans were even more expensive (we're Canadian, so once the exchange rate was factored in, they were outrageously priced for us), but according to my mother, the flavour and texture more than justified the price. She used all hers up, but she still thinks about them, and dreams of when we can visit SF again, just to buy some beans from Rancho Gordo.

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Ok... the next time I am standing there, I will buy a couple of bags in honor of your mother. I do love beans...

Edited by fiftydollars, 15 February 2007 - 04:33 PM.


#25 rancho_gordo

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 05:28 PM

FG, do yourself a favor and get some Rancho Gordo beans.  They're so fresh and delicious you never need to soak them no matter how you cook them.  I happen to do them in a crockpot overnight on Low, but I've never even thought of soaking them and they're always perfect.

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His beans are definitely good, but the price is staggering. On more than one occasion I have stood at his stand in the Ferry Plaza, staring at the 1lb bags, wondering how I could possibly justify their price to myself.

View Post


Hello? I'm in the room!!!
It's ok. Actually it made me laugh.

As someone who grew up on pintos, the first time encountered Anasazi beans in the supermarket I was a little confused by the price. Well, floored is more the word.

All I can say is the yield on heirlooms is different than a hybrid, they're harder to grow and it's much more expensive to grow and clean beans in California than Mexico and especially now, China. Growing smaller quantities means we can baby the beans and you're not dealing with old stock. And it's quite possible you're going to try them and decide it's not worth the extra money. But they're still pennies a serving and I'm doing a pretty good business so there is a market for fresh, heirloom beans.
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#26 Fat Guy

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 05:28 PM

AMAZING.  it worked.  I can't believe it, especially since these beans have been in my pantry for over a year...possibly 2.  I cooked them for 1 1/2 hours in the oven with my dutch oven.  To make the lid fit a little tighter I used some foil around the rim of the pot.

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It really is amazing. I've not encountered anybody who really believes it until he or she gives the method a whirl.

The only reported failures I've heard about, other than failures to follow directions, have had to do with too-old beans -- beans that are likely to be problematic no matter how you cook them.

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#27 russ parsons

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 06:28 PM

yeah, think about being the first guy to do it! (at the time, the other theory was that soaking reduced the amount of gassiness) honest, i ran the first full trial during the day, at home. ate them, then sat by myself for an hour or so waiting for .... well, you know.

#28 Fat Guy

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 06:41 PM

I can't even imagine. I mean, I've evangelized about this to maybe a dozen people, and it's exhausting. The vindication that comes later on is hardly worth the stress of being treated like a war criminal when you first present the procedure.

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#29 russ parsons

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 07:28 PM

people do take their beans seriously. as they should.

#30 maggiethecat

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Posted 15 February 2007 - 07:35 PM

The first time I cooked beans (I was. like eighteen) I hadn't read a recipe, and didn't know I was supposed to soak them. Yes, 90 minutes to perfection. I've never soaked bean one.

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