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Do I Have to Soak Beans Before Cooking?

Beans 

Do I have to soak beans before using them in a dish?

You don’t have to soak beans before preparing them in a dish, although soaking beans will enable them to cook about 25 percent faster.

A widespread culinary conviction asserts that soaking beans will make them more digestible by breaking down complex carbohydrates in the bean to form more readily digestible carbohydrates — thus reducing flatulence. According to food scientist Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, this commonly used method does cut back on the gas — but it also leaches out some of the beans’ flavor and nutritional benefits, such as vitamins and antioxidants.

So, instead of pre-soaking, if you have the time, avoid throwing the nutrients out with the bean water by simply cooking dry legumes a little longer. Doing so will help break down the complex sugars while retaining the nutrients, flavor, color and antioxidants to boot. Cover the beans with just enough water — about 3 parts water to 1 part legumes — for the beans to soak up as they cook; any more and the extra water will still wash away some nutritional perks.

Always cook beans, especially kidney beans, until they’re fully tender; undercooked beans can cause illness. To avoid that danger, pre-cook beans before adding them to dishes that will simmer in low-temperature slow cookers. Learn more about safely cooking beans at Be Careful With Red Kidney Beans in the Slow Cooker.

Photo by Fotolia/Svilen Georgiev: Beans, beans, the magical fruit — what’s the best way to reduce the “toot”?
hugh
8/26/2015 8:55:35 AM

I've also heard that adding a little baking soda in the soak water helps to rejuvenate beans that have been stored for a long time.


judy
8/17/2015 11:40:00 AM

Soaking beans helps get rid of the phytates & other natural plant pesticides, and should absolutely be done. In fact, you should also sprout them til you see a tiny sprout poking through, then either cook them or continue sprouting & use in salads. Do not sprout kidney beans. This method (of soaking & sprouting) should be done for raw nuts & grains, too, (which are ALL seeds) because unsprouted grains decrease 7 of the 12 most important hormones in your body. Sprouted grains also have plant hormones that are good for the people that eat them. For info on soaking times & sprouting, just google it.
J.Hall, M.G., Horticulturist


mainedruid
8/17/2015 10:05:17 AM

Of course beans and other legumes need to be soaked--and for at least 24 hours. It is well known that they are naturally coated with phytates, which have deleterious health effects. Soaking, with periodic water changes, reduces the phytate level significantly. Do a search on "phytates" or "phytic acid" to learn more. Incidentally, grains need to be soaked as well, for the same reason.


blenderbender
8/17/2015 8:31:35 AM

what about salt? Seems to be mixed feelings about salting or not salting prior to cooking.