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Cooking Dried Beans

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I need help.

I'm not quite sure why I do this to myself when I can buy them canned, but I've several bags of various beans lying about at the moment.

For chickpeas: Should I pre-soak? I always have before, but since I have a slow cooker I can just stick them in there for the whole day so in theory, it's like pre-soaking and cooking combined, right?


May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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I need help.

I'm not quite sure why I do this to myself when I can buy them canned, but I've several bags of various beans lying about at the moment.

For chickpeas: Should I pre-soak? I always have before, but since I have a slow cooker I can just stick them in there for the whole day so in theory, it's like pre-soaking and cooking combined, right?

It is my understanding that chickpeas are the only ones that you definitely need to pre-soak.

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I need help.

I'm not quite sure why I do this to myself when I can buy them canned, but I've several bags of various beans lying about at the moment.

For chickpeas: Should I pre-soak? I always have before, but since I have a slow cooker I can just stick them in there for the whole day so in theory, it's like pre-soaking and cooking combined, right?

It is my understanding that chickpeas are the only ones that you definitely need to pre-soak.

That's what I thought after I read 7 pages, so thanks!


May

Totally More-ish: The New and Improved Foodblog

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I never soak chickpeas, and they take only an hour or so to cook. Don't know if there's some other reason to pre-soak...

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Not having eaten a lot of beans growing up, I'm a bit of a bean-newbie. I've been buying beans in cans because I've either been too lazy or too time-pressed or whatever. I thought it might be tastier, healthier, and more economical to start cooking dried beans myself. Lots of great advice & tips in this thread - I've been reading it avidly.

But a couple questions:

-To "cover the beans with water", are we talking about scantly covering them? Or have the water come up an inch over the beans? Half an inch?

-Will the water be completely absorbed by the beans?

-Do I let them simmer on the stove with the lid on or off?

-What's a nice, forgiving bean for bean-newbies to start with?

-Has anyone tried cooking them in those automatic rice-cookers?

I think I'll try the no-soak method that previous posters talked about. I guess that'll take about 60 to 90 minutes cooking time?

Thanks, folks! :smile:

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There are glowing testimonials to the no-soak oven method upthread, so that would save a lot of time. Seems like the general consensus is that runner beans need some soaking. I can't recall if there is a recipe above anywhere for the old-fashioned stove-top method, but I pretty much follow Rancho Gordo's direx for that, with a coupla additions. Whether oven or stove-top, the pot is always covered tightly.

I rinse beans and soak for 5-6 hours. Then I rinse again and drain them. In a heavy pot like a creuset I saute in olive oil one small minced onion a few minutes. Then I add about a cup total of finely minced carrot and celery, and then two or three minced garlic cloves and a sprig of fresh thyme. I add the beans to coat, then add water and broth to cover by 1 to 1.5 inches. Bring to a medium boil, cook 5 minutes uncovered. Then lower to a teensy flame, throw in a couple of small dried red chilis, cover, and simmer as gently as possible for about 2 hours or until almost just right. Then I add some salt, and finish another 15 minutes.

This recipe works great for 2 cups of Rattlesnake beans. I think the amount of water and cooking time may vary a bit depending upon type of bean and quantity. If you find you don't have enough bean likker during the cooking you can add more liquid. The Rattlesnake is a smallish heirloom bean, a little bit like a pinto only way better; more tasty, creamy and holds its shape. I've cooked Anasazi beans recently and found they soak up considerably more liquid. I usually use about two cups of smoked ham broth and the rest water. That adds a little salt at the front end.

I'm very into Rancho Gordo's very plain way of eating them, usually over rice with just a little sea salt, minced white onion and a sprinkle of lime juice. My husband always kicks it up with a squirt of Tapatia.

A local veg market here now sells six or seven types of heirloom beans in bulk, but check out Rancho Gordo and Purcell Mountain Farms for an amazing selection of beans you can order on line. Purcell has a selection of organic beans as well.

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I received my first order from Ranchp Gordo yesterday afternoon.

I did a pound of Black Calypso beans (no soak). Just rendered a little bacon; sweated some mirpoix added a few cloves worth of minced garlic, and a couple fresh bay leaves from the garden. maybe 1.5 tsp salt from the outset. 1.5 hours later these were done to my liking. I then added a little pepper a bit of smoked cayenne and a can of muir glen organic chopped tomatoes.

Really, really tasty.


Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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On a somewhat unrelated note, I've recently been hearing rumours that red beans have more anti-oxidant content than blueberries (which are, so they say, quite high on the AOX scale). Are high levels of antioxidants found in other beans?

And, please forgive my ignorance on the subject (most of my experience with red beans involves steamed buns and/or Sir Mix-A-Lot), but are red beans a suitable alternative to pinto-type beans?

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6ppc, I'm glad you liked the black calypsos. I think they are great with bacon. And just to make sure you know how hip you are, Metropolitan Home named them number 60 in their Design 100. It's kind of silly but I'm happy they get their due.

50$ re the health: Last week it was black beans and next week it will be pink. I'm hearing rumblings about white lupini as well. I think all the beans are a super food and they tend to pick one when they do these studies but not compare it to other beans. They're all Phaselous vulgaris and of the same family (except for runners, limas and teparies) so I doubt there's that much of a difference. But I'm no scientist. I eat them because they taste so good.


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6ppc, I'm glad you liked the black calypsos. I think they are great with bacon. And just to make sure you know how hip you are, Metropolitan Home named them number 60 in their Design 100. It's kind of silly but I'm happy they get their due.

50$ re the health: Last week it was black beans and next week it will be pink. I'm hearing rumblings about white lupini as well. I think all the beans are a super food and they tend to pick one when they do these studies but not compare it to other beans. They're all Phaselous vulgaris and of the same family (except for runners, limas and teparies) so I doubt there's that much of a difference. But I'm no scientist. I eat them because they taste so good.

Thanks, RG!

I think I would eat them even if they were unhealthy, but I am quite glad that such is not so.

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On a somewhat unrelated note, I've recently been hearing rumours that red beans have more anti-oxidant content than blueberries (which are, so they say, quite high on the AOX scale). Are high levels of antioxidants found in other beans?

And, please forgive my ignorance on the subject (most of my experience with red beans involves steamed buns and/or Sir Mix-A-Lot), but are red beans a suitable alternative to pinto-type beans?

Just in case you're asking about taste instead of health benefits: I don't think that pinto beans and red beans are interchangeable in that respect. Their flavors are quite different, in my experience. If some red beans taste like pintos, or vice-versa, I hope the experts will set me (and you) straight.


Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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This will be my year of the bean! A few months ago I was told by a Southwest cowboy that when cooking dry beans, you put the salt in only at the very end to avoid toughness. Yesterday I was told by a woman from Mexico that you should put the salt in at the end because the salt slows the cooking process down.

Food scientists can correct these teachings (please), but regardless of what is really going on, it was news to me since I cook beans maybe once a year.

***

Now to the food science behind it. These two may be saying the same thing, but the latter explanation seems counter intuitive to this high-altitude bean boiler. It would make more sense that salt would speed the process, unless, the salt is toughening the skin of the bean, which in turn, would slow the process. Eeegad...a logic loop. Maybe they are saying the exact same thing. Anybody know the facts?


Chef, Curious Kumquat, Silver City, NM

A recent write-up in Dorado magazine

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It depends on how you understand the cooking process and how salt contributes.

First, there is the oft-repeated but incorrect notion that adding salt raises the boiling point of water. Yes, this is true, but to such an infinitesimal degree that it is meaningless in the context of cooking.

Salt can "speed up the cooking process" in conditions where the food already contains plenty of water. It does this by hastening the breakdown of that food item. For example, if you cook chopped fresh tomatoes without salt, the pieces can retain most of their integrity even when fully cooked. If you add salt at the beginning, the tomato pieces will break down because he salt helps to draw the water out, etc.

Legumes, even when fresh and certainly when dried, are dry and full of starch that needs to be softened. This is the opposite from cooking a tomato. Beans are also finicky because the only way for water to get inside and soften the starch is through the skin of the bean. If you add certain things to the cooking water (acid, sugar) this can reinforce the structural stability of certain substances in the bean and slow or prevent them from softening entirely. As for salt, adding salt to the cooking liquid slows the rate at which legumes are able to absorb water and therefore leads to longer cooking times. The solution to this is to add the salt at the end, after the beans have fully softened. Interestingly, McGee says that adding salt at 1% to the soaking liquid can greatly speed cooking times by increasing the solubility of cell wall pectins. However, he also points out that salt reduces the swelling and gelation of starch granules within the beans and will produce a mealy texture rather than a creamy one.

According to McGee, the best way to sped legume cooking times outside of using a pressure cooker is to blanch the beans in boiling water for a minute or two to fully hydrate the seed coat and soak for 2-3 hours in cool water, after which time the beans will have absorbed approximately double their initial weight in water. Since fully hydrating the bean is the major hurdle in bean cookery, starting with fully hydrated beans makes a big difference.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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There is a thread on cooking beans and this contribution by Russ Parsons seems to say it all:

"for a while, i was afraid that my tombstone would read "did not soak beans". here's what i believe about beans:

1) you do not NEED to soak them. soaking does speed up the cooking process and, i think, result in slightly more uniform cooking among the beans. not soaking, of course, means you don't need to plan the night before about what you're going to fix for dinner. also, and maybe more important, not soaking the beans results in a very, very flavorful broth. this is much more like mexican-style beans than, perhaps, french.

2) salt them right away. try them unsalted and salted side-by-side and you won't believe the difference. salted beans are seasoned all the way through. salting at the end you just get a very salty broth and bland beans.

3) acid is somewhat problematic. it does delay cooking. add tomatoes, etc., only after the beans have begun to soften.

4) alkaline substances are VERY problematic. they'll stop cooking cold. this is why boston baked beans you add the molasses at the very end. it's also why in certain cities at certain times of year, beans will never soften (alkaline salts in the water).

5) i do believe that beans need to be started slowly and cooked slowly. the starches soften and dissolve in order rather than all at once. cook them too quickly and you'll find that more beans break up.

6) there is almost nothing you can do about the "digestive unpleasantness" issue. certainly, soaking has absolutely no effect. i talked to a scientist who had measured the sugars left in beans after soaking. cold soaking removed only a very negligible amount (the sugars are the stored energy the beans will need in their role as seeds--growing new plants; soaking is the first stage of germination, it would make no sense to purge sugars at that point). hot soaking removed about 10-15%, if i remember correctly. and, he said, if you repeated the hot soaking three times, you actually reached a decent level. of course, beans that were hot-soaked three times in a row lacked something gustatorily. beano, the product, is an enzyme that dissolves the specific sugars that beans contain. it does work. on the other hand, part of the musical nature of beans is that they are very high in fiber, which the american diet is very low in. beano does nothing for this. the only thing that works is eating beans frequently; your system will adjust. note that in mexico and central america, where beans have always been eaten in abundance, 1) they never soak beans and 2) rarely experience digestive distress.

cook more beans. "

:biggrin:


"Flay your Suffolk bought-this-morning sole with organic hand-cracked pepper and blasted salt. Thrill each side for four minutes at torchmark haut. Interrogate a lemon. Embarrass any tough roots from the samphire. Then bamboozle till it's al dente with that certain je ne sais quoi."

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If I recall (I'm going to try and find it), Cook's Illustrated did one of their experiments on cooking dried legumes. The results were that salting at the beginning of the process adds a little to the cooking time but a lot to the flavor of the finished product.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I'll be interested to do some experiments with texture. I will say that I have been frustrated a time or two with beans that should be creamy but came out mealy no matter how long they were cooked. I wonder if salt was the culprit.


Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I'll be interested to do some experiments with texture.  I will say that I have been frustrated a time or two with beans that should be creamy but came out mealy no matter how long they were cooked.  I wonder if salt was the culprit.

Could be that the beans were old and/or not stored under optimal conditions. And maybe some varieties just never attain that creaminess that you're looking for?


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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you know me well enough to know that nothing I say is based on science ..but I can tell you....it is hard because cooking the beans at differing altitudes is what really matters..especially with pintos for some reason ..there is an art to getting that bean perfectly cooked ..intact with a nice caramel sauce...when I am in Santa Fe I never add salt in the beginning ..the beans do stay tough and take for freaking ever to cook!!! and we are always using very fresh locally grown beans...

here at sea level even with not so fresh beans it does not seem to matter if I salt early on or later on the beans cook much faster and become tender quicker!

so there you have it ..I tend not to cook beans with salt ..I finish them with salt ..if I add salt pork or a ham hock it is half way through the cooking and I go low and slow (sometimes even precook the ham hock and add the salty water and cooked meat part way through the bean cooking when the water level goes down anyway)

may not be what everyone does but I love my beans intact and not mush


why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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I'll be interested to do some experiments with texture.  I will say that I have been frustrated a time or two with beans that should be creamy but came out mealy no matter how long they were cooked.  I wonder if salt was the culprit.

Could be that the beans were old and/or not stored under optimal conditions. And maybe some varieties just never attain that creaminess that you're looking for?

Possible, certainly. Although these were pretty reliable beans I had made other times with good results. I'm just wondering about McGee's statement that cooking with salt can result in a mealy texure. Thinking back, the times I've had a resolutely mealy texture were times I was cooking the beans with salty meat (confit, Spanish chorizo, etc.) from the beginning using the no-soak method.


Edited by slkinsey (log)

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

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I'll be interested to do some experiments with texture.  I will say that I have been frustrated a time or two with beans that should be creamy but came out mealy no matter how long they were cooked.  I wonder if salt was the culprit.

Could be that the beans were old and/or not stored under optimal conditions. And maybe some varieties just never attain that creaminess that you're looking for?

I agree. I have had a problem with cooking some pinto beans for 2 - 3 times longer than normal and them never cooking properly. I doubt that salt was the cause. I believe they may have been both old and improperly stored. These have always come from bulk bins. My best success has been with those packaged by Goya and bouight in a store with rapid turnover.

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John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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I always salt in the beginning...the flavor of the beans is much better.

Something akin to how bland pasta is if you don't salt the water...

Bud

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So, it sounds like some people are saying to salt in the beginning for flavor and others are saying not to do this because it toughens them. What about boiling the beans with an onion instead of salting? That would give some flavor back, right?

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My beans get a modest salting at both ends. I think the flavor and texture of beans depends on two things: the type of bean and the use of stock instead of just water. I use a light ham stock that's only moderately salty (I soak the shanks in cold water for an hour first to remove excess salt) and then add a bit more salt after the beans are tender--about two hours--and then cook another ten or fifteen minutes. I do soak my beans for five or six hours first, so I am pretty much following Rancho Gordo's method. If I do vegetarian beans (as I must for certain relatives) I salt in the beginning and try to use a veg broth as well. I'm at sea level if that matters.

I don't like mushy beans--I like them to be creamy and hold their shape. My favorite bean right now is the Rattlesnake bean, which I think is an heirloom cousin of the pinto. Some beans I find to be less flavorful than others and to have less of a toothy texture, so I do think the type of bean makes a difference.

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Not only do I add salt at the beginning, for some beans, such as cannellini, I actually soak them in a brine overnight -- a trick learned from Cooks Illustrated in their recipe for Hearty Tuscan Bean Stew, in March/April 2008.

There's a detailed little explanation about how the brining helps the beans to cook up with softer skins, something to do with sodium ions. No matter...I like the results, and if I have the time, I do it. If I don't, I don't bother.

In any case, I *always* get my beans from Rancho Gordo, and then I know they'll come out perfectly, no matter what I do to them. But then I don't have high altitudes to contend with...

- L.

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