Soaking and Cooking Dried Beans
It’s National Chili Month and that means beans. Dry beans are a big part of my food storage plan, they are healthy, a great source of protein and store extremely well. In fact, if stored correctly they last for 30 years. Now, thirty-year-old beans might not be something you want to eat every day, but it is possible to still eat them!
The addition of beans in your daily diet just makes sense. Nutritionally and financially, beans have a lot to offer your family.
There are four basic methods for soaking before you are ready to cook dried beans.
- Ultra Soak
- Overnight Soak
- Quick soak
- Pressure cook without the soak
When to Add Spices
Let’s face it, beans can be pretty bland. Spices can make or break your bean meal and the addition of spices to my food storage has been crucial for my family to have a variety of flavors. For added flavor, you can even add spices during the soak. Just be sure to keep these tips in mind:
Tips and Tricks
- 1 tsp of oil per cup of beans will reduce the foaming that often happens during cooking.
- A pinch of baking soda in the cooking pot will help old beans get soft.
- Don’t add salt to the soak water or during the first hour of cooking, it will keep the beans from getting soft.
- Vinegar and acidic foods like tomatoes or lemon, should not be added to the soak or the first hour of cooking, they also keep the beans from getting soft.
Before the Soak –
No matter which of the soaks you are doing – wash the beans several times in cool water and remove any “funky” looking beans. I put mine in a colander and give them a good look over. Take out the wrinkled beans, and any others that are damaged or just don’t look right. I also look for pebbles or other objects that don’t belong.
The Day Before – Ultra 24 Hour Soak
Katie Kimball at Kitchen Stewardship recommends a 24-hour soak in warm water at 140 degrees. Here are her instructions from The Everything Beans Book:
“To soak, cover the washed beans with four times their volume of water. The optimal soaking temperature is 140 F, but I usually just use my hottest tap water…or you might simply heat water in a teapot shy of boiling. Blend with cold water if you get it too hot.” No need to refrigerate, soak right on your stove or counter. Katie calls this a nourishing soak and says it makes the beans more digestible and nutritious.
The Night Before You Need Your Beans – Overnight Soak: 8 to 12 Hours
Place your beans in the pot you will cook them in and add 3-4 times the water. Two cups of beans need six to eight cups of water. Most beans will more than double in size as they hydrate.
The US Dry Bean Council (USDBC) recommends a 12-hour soak in cold water before cooking to help hydrate the beans and shorten the cooking time. You can get away with 8 hours in a pinch. Ideally, beans should be kept in a cool place, or in the refrigerator, to avoid any fermentation taking place.
My take on it? I think the USDBC is being overly cautious and it is perfectly acceptable to soak your beans on the counter. That’s what I do. Just like Katie, we’ve never had any problem with our beans. I usually use cold water, but that’s just out of laziness on my part.
Soaking Beans, The Quick Soak – 1 to 4 hours
There is a way to get your beans ready “quickly” or as quick as is possible for a bean. Rinse and clean your beans a usual and then place them in a large pot with 3-4 times the water. Cook the beans until boiling for two minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and leave the beans in the hot water for between one and four hours.
You can then drain and proceed with the cooking process, changing the water for fresh. The risk with the quick soak method is of fermentation taking place if the beans are left for too long in hot water. This is an alternative to the traditional overnight soak, more useful if you are in a hurry or haven’t planned ahead.
“You can always find someone who says there’s something in almost any food that you shouldn’t be eating, but beans have a pretty clean reputation.” Katie Kimball, The Everything Beans Book
Once the Soak Is Done
Cooking beans on top of the stove is a simple but slow process. You want the time to allow the flavors of the beans and seasoning to mesh. If there is a disadvantage of this method it is that it requires you to be present, although not continuously involved, while the beans are cooking.
It’s best to cook beans in a heavy metal pot or saucepan. Stainless steel, cast aluminum, or cast iron are all excellent choices.
To cook beans on your stove-top, combine your soaked beans, fresh water, oil or fat, and seasonings. Bring the beans to a boil, reduce the heat, then cover and simmer until beans are tender. This takes 30 minutes to 3 hours, depending on the bean variety. Check them occasionally to see if they are covered with the cooking liquid and, if necessary, add very hot tap water to the pot to keep them covered.
Pressure Cooking Without the Soak
It is possible to skip the soak altogether if you have a pressure cooker. I have not tried this method myself, so here are a few other posts for you to review. It appears that you can cut considerable time off of your preparations if you just cook beans directly in a pressure cooker!
Basic Beans in Aromatic Broth. There is a great discussion at the bottom of the post from the Kitchen Stewardship readers about pressure canning beans too.
To pressure cook: The average time for cooking dried beans in a pressure cooker is 20 minutes. Some smaller beans such as black-eyed peas take less time, but the average bean needs about 20 minutes in the pressure cooker. Sometimes, you may have to cook them more after their stint in the pressure cooker, but you can save a lot of time by using this method.
A chart of pressure cooking times for various bean varieties. Use this detailed chart from Hip Pressure Cooking for both soaked and unsoaked beans.
Now you are a master at the art of cooking beans because you’ve mastered the soak. But, whether you are using the ultra soak method or skipping it all together in the pressure cooker, the addition of beans in your daily diet just makes sense. Nutritionally, financially, and tastefully beans have a lot to offer your family.