14 Things to Know About Cooking Beans

It's taken a long time, but a few years ago, I finally got to a place where cooking a pot of dried beans didn't make me run for the hills. Much of my education is based on trial and error, with a little help from bean experts such as Rancho Gordo's Steve Sando. During my schooling, I've noticed a dramatic increase in bean interest not only because they're a cheap form of protein but because they're good for you. (Hello, fiber, amino acids and calcium!) Below, the 411 on cookin' beans based on the lessons I've learned and secrets whispered to me along the way.


1. The general rule of thumb is to soak beans for at least four hours. Scoff all you like, but those beans will take forever and a day to cook otherwise.

2. Types of beans that require no soaking whatsoever: Lentils, split peas and mung beans, all of which have a thin skin and are softer from get-go.

3. Type of bean for which there are not enough hours in the day to soak: garbanzos. Estimate an overnight soak, plus a full day at the office before even considering cranking up the stove.

4. When even soaking doesn't even make a dang bit of difference: Your beans are old and have been improperly stored. (Heat and light have a degenerative effect.)

Unfortunately, there's no way of deciphering the age of a bag of beans on the supermarket shelf, which is why I urge bean lovers across America to explore the world of heirloom beans - older, wiser and brimming with personality, yet generally sold within one year of harvest, which in the dried bean world is a pretty fresh bean. Check out the online offerings at Rancho Gordo (see link above), whose 20-plus varieties of freshly harvested beans have revolutionized the way I think about and cook with beans.

5. For a soak to be effective, cover beans with about three inches of water and keep an eye on water level, if possible. Beans do drink the water.

6. In summer and in warmer climes, soak beans in the fridge to avoid sprouting or even fermentation. I've seen this happen in my own kitchen.

7. Bring up to a hard boil, for five minutes. This little trick hastens the cooking.

8. But then, cook at a simmer, mostly covered. If the heat is up too high, the beans tear and look unsightly. They also tend to cook on the outside, but not on the inside.

9. Cooking liquid level should be one to three inches above the beans. Liquid will reduce during cooking, so be vigilant. Several inches of water not only increases cooking time, it dilutes the flavor of the beans.

10. Cook beans mostly nude -- as in without seasoning. I know this seems counterintuitive, but beans, for the most part, need to be left alone in the pot and do their thing. Flavorings such as a bay leaf, a cinnamon stick, star anise pod, herb sprigs are acceptable as they are relatively non-intrusive, while gently infusing flavor.

11. When beans are just about tender, start seasoning with your favorite stuff - onions, garlic, bell pepper, chiles, etc. If you add this stuff at the beginning, it's not a tragedy, but if you add acid -- tomatoes, vinegar, citrus -- you do have a situation. Those beans will take forever to cook.

12. Salt at the end, just before serving. Beans will turn into rocks and never soften if you salt early. Trust me on this one. How much salt is up to you. Try one teaspoon per pound of beans at first, then taste a few times. Add more if necessary.

13. Try sauteing onions, garlic and other aromatics in a separate skillet. Add herbs and ground spices too. The heat of the oil stimulates your masala and when poured into the soup pot will have an amped-up effect.

14. If you heed my advice, a pot of beans should take, on average, about two hours. If you're on hour three and your beans are nowhere near done, you may want to call it a night and pull the plug. I'm not one to give up, but with beans there is a point of no return -- particularly if you're still simmering with Letterman.

And as always, I invite you to spill the beans. Please share your tried-and-true beanery tips and tricks in the comments area below.

By Kim ODonnel |  February 13, 2008; 10:35 AM ET Hot Pot
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I've completely moved to the pressure cooker for bean cooking (and many other things). This way I don't have to think so far ahead.

Posted by: MaryB | February 13, 2008 11:01 AM

I agree on the pressure cooking comment. Kim, thought about doing a segment on pressure cooking? I use it primarily for beans but would love to branch out! Thx!

Posted by: WDC | February 13, 2008 11:41 AM

Could a rice cooker double as a pressure cooker? I love beans but have stuck to canned because dried requires waaaay too much planning because of the soaking.

Any other way to speed up the soak process?

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | February 13, 2008 11:53 AM

I know this has nothing to do with beans, but I need to comment on this from yesterday's chat:

"Veggie pasta: I liked your piece on the carbonara, but was wondering how I could make it without the bacon? Egg is fine, but we don't eat meat. I need a change from tomato-based pasta.

Kim O'Donnel: You might want to try the SmartBacon. I think a certain kind of smoke and texture in this dish. You could also do chopped peanuts, a la pad Thai..."

Kim, what were you thinking with this peanut substitution? In carbonara? For real? As someone who cooks frequently for vegetarians (but is not a vegetarian), I kind of hate to say it, but sometimes, meat is essential to a dish and no substitution will work (especially not peanuts, for cry pete). The pancetta or guanciale used for carbonara is not smoked, so adding a smoked flavor is not authentic - if you were committed to going this route, I'd recommend very small cubes of a firm smoked cheese added at the end (so they retain their texture), or a little bit of smoked paprika added to diced, sauteed white mushrooms, stirred in at the end, which might give the texture and flavor that suggest some kind of smoked meat. Again, though - that might suggest the meat component of the carbonara, but it introduces a smoked flavor that really isn't authentic.

If I were a vegetarian, I'd conceive of the dish very differently and add peas, sauteed mushrooms, diced asparagus, or that sort of thing, rather than striving to imitate the pancetta. But the peanuts, I think, would be revolting with the egg and cheese.

Posted by: sergio georgini | February 13, 2008 11:59 AM

I find it so interesting that Mexican cookbooks dispense with the soaking and vociferously campaign against it! Every other recipe from other cuisines almost universally recommends soaking, as you do here.

I certainly agree that it's critically important to buy beans from a source where you believe that the beans are not too old. If there's dust on the shelf, well, you know the product ain't movin'! I bought beans from a Latino market in my 'hood and was shocked that after hours and hours in my slow cooker they still were hard on the outside. Now I prefer low sodium canned beans in most cases honestly, unless I know that the beans are relatively young (as in bought at a farmers market). I will make baked beans on occasion as it's a good excuse to use my Le Creuset in the oven for a slow cooking effect.

Posted by: Sean | February 13, 2008 12:14 PM

Sergio - I will sometimes used unrefined cold pressed peanut oil (in small quantities!) to substitute for the depth of flavor that lard provides in mexican cuisine. You may want to give this a try in a 50/50 proportion with olive oil.

Beans - gotta love 'em. Last night I made the lentil and potato salad from last weeks food section. I used dried oregano from my garden as the dried herb that was called for and pan roasted garlic instead of putting in the oven. It's wonderful.

Though I cook other beans on a regular basis, they almost always split on me, and I do soak/simmer. I mostly use bulk beans from My Organic Market. They don't need a lot of cooking time (45+ minutes usually), so I suspect they are fresh.

Posted by: Arlington, VA S | February 13, 2008 12:25 PM

Hi Kim -- I just made the black bean chili in the recent Bon Appetite magazine -- and they didn't require soaking, just about 2.5 hours of cook time. I won't lie, I only made it because it *didn't* require the soak. Are black beans part of the group that doesn't need to be soaked? Or was this just a different recipe? If I wanted to substitute kidney beans or something else, would I need to pre-soak them?

Posted by: Veggie in DC | February 13, 2008 12:43 PM

I have to respectful disagree with the salt at end of cooking advice. It is the addition of acid, not salt that makes beans take longer to cook. I have made many pots of various beans and always add salt at the beginning. Be careful to add less salt than you think you need though because the liquid will reduce. But, the beans will taste flat if the salt does not absorb into the beans during cooking.

Posted by: Sweetie | February 13, 2008 1:32 PM

As a vegetarian, I have to agree with sergio. What you describe is pretty much what I do, although I don't call it "carbonara." Sautee mushrooms or whatever mix of vegetables I have, in a little olive oil and butter, add to the pasta and toss with the eggs (I like poached, but fried would work obviously). Top with parmesan. You don't really need "facon."

Beans -- I buy the Rancho Gordo beans and find that I can soak them for an hour, after bringing to a boil, then cook in about 3-4 hours. I usually end up pureeing some of the finished product and either adding veg stock to make soup, or breadcrumbs and egg to make veggie bean burgers. Oh, and I cook the beans with onions/celery/garlic (sauteed separately and added), and often some (jarred) sofrito, or whatever else is floating around!

Posted by: cc | February 13, 2008 1:41 PM

This is perfect timing. I was in San Fran last weekend and picked up some Rancho Gordo beans from the stand at the most amazing farmers market at the Ferry Building.

These tips are great, but I'm still a little confused about how to finish a preparation... If I was making chili, would I soak/cook the beans and, while those are cooking, prepare meat and veggies and then add to the bean pot or add cooked beans to meat and veggies?

Posted by: sus | February 13, 2008 1:56 PM

I never meant to claim that my suggestion of adding peanuts was mimicking a true carbonara. Smoked mozzarella is a great idea, but when I typed my response, I was thinking texture, and peanuts came out. Smoked almonds might actually be interesting.

To all of you sharing your on-topic bean tips, thanks for weighing in. By no means is my list set in stone; the tips I offer are what work for me, and so I pass on. I'm discovering that there are infinite ways to cook dem beans, and of course this is why I choose it as a blog topic. Keep it coming!

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | February 13, 2008 2:00 PM

I always use my crockpot to cook dried beans. I put them on in the morning before work and dinner is ready when I return in the evening.

Posted by: Florida | February 13, 2008 3:11 PM

Have you, Kim, or anyone else out there noticed that using store-bought stock, even if low-sodium, significantly slows the cooking of beans, just as I've always found adding salt/acidic ingredients up front does?

Posted by: Silver Spring, MD | February 13, 2008 4:35 PM

I have to agree with the pressure cooker enthusiasts. I use a pressure cooker to cook dried beans (black, kidney, red). They go from hard rocks in their bag to completely cooked in 45 minutes. A bag of dried beans can be transformed into refried beans in one hour. So really, there's only two things you need to know: 1)Use a pressure cooker. 2)Use enough water.

Posted by: davemarks | February 13, 2008 8:36 PM

When I cook beans, always soak then cook (after bringing to a boil on the stove) in a covered pot, no salt, in a very slow oven all day -- around 210 to 225. I check to make sure that they are not bubbling, but just a teensy bubble once in awhile. It works beautifully. I season when done.

Posted by: C. Mayo | February 13, 2008 9:54 PM

Pressure Cooker all day, baby! It cuts out soaking and even conventional stove top that could take up to 4 hours if not soaked!

WDC, you can use the pressure cooker for beefs, meats, stews, potatoes, certain rice dishes, etc... I love cooking and swear by one of my 3 vintage cookers.


Posted by: Flanboyant Eats | February 14, 2008 2:58 PM

I completly agree with your 14 things, everything mom, and grandma has taught me about my beans seem to have made it to your list. The only thing I would add is that I soak my for at least 8 hours, and I rinse the water I use for soaking. This my mother has always said, avoids any gas issues when digesting.

Posted by: Annandale | February 14, 2008 3:39 PM

We have been trying the beans from Barry Farms - they have a nice variety as well.

Posted by: Christina | February 14, 2008 3:43 PM

Kim, I am a little fascinated by Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon/Weston A Price Fdn and they specifically encourage fermenting beans before cooking for health benefits -- even rec'd adding lemon juice to the soaking water. You specifically warn against this, why? Taste or health reasons? Tx.

Posted by: MamaBird | February 14, 2008 10:14 PM

Surprised nobody has pointed out how toxic the soak water is. NEVER use it to cook the beans. I cook beans with a bit of seaweed (kombu or waksame) rather than salt - for flavor and the other f-word associated with beans!

Posted by: Bernard | February 15, 2008 12:29 AM

I am surprised that none of you are using your microwave. It cooks beans from the inside, much more tender, much less time, and uses far less power/oil/electricity. It works for me.

Posted by: kimo | February 15, 2008 12:32 AM

Cooking beans, even garbanzos, is not at all hard, unless you are one of those people who never come home. If you have an evening where you will come home at 6 and go to sleep at 11, or have a long stretch on a Saturday doing your housework, you are fine.

I don't presoak beans, esp. black beans, they lose their flavor completely. Rinse them well and then put them straight in the pot.

Pressure cooking also results in a loss of flavor.

If you can't be bothered to check the beans every hour or so, put them in a ceramic or clay bean pot (classic Maine variety) or high-walled, covered casserole, and put them in the oven at around 300 degrees F. The only important thing is to remember to turn off the oven when you go to sleep, you can leave the beans inside. If they're not done in the morning, refrigerate, then cook some more the next night. Don't be afraid...if beans spoil, you will know it (they smell grassy).

The Mexican herb epazote will break down the proteins in beans, so they're easier to digest (i.e., less farts). Or, some people add soda for the same effect. I typically spice with salt, pepper, onion, bayleaf, and maybe cumin, cayenne, and basil. Adding any pork product (salt pork, fatback, lightly sauteed bacon, sausage) is amazing, but you can throw in whatever pork, chicken, or beef scraps you have and it will be good. Navy beans with chicken and greens is a delight.

Once cooked, extra beans freeze excellently.

Posted by: haiku | February 15, 2008 1:11 AM

Kimo--Can you elaborate on your microwave method of bean cooking? I've never heard of doing it this way! I'd like to try it.

Posted by: CosmicCanine | February 15, 2008 1:20 AM

After soaking the beans for several hours, put them in the fridge. For some reason starting with cold soaked beans really speeds up the cooking process, even with old beans.

Posted by: reddog | February 15, 2008 1:33 AM

All is not lost if you didn't plan ahead to soak beans overnight. Quick soak method: Cover beans in pot with 2-3 inches of water, bring to hard boil and let boil one minute. Remove pot from heat, cover and let stand 1-2 hours. Rinse, and cook as desired. Once they're cooked, you can freeze them for use at your leisure. I keep cooked chickpeas for hummus, and my teenage son makes a lot of burritos with frozen black beans.

Posted by: harrisjp2 | February 15, 2008 1:40 AM

I live in Greece; my Greek friends make all manner of fantastic bean dishes. The beans are soaked at least 8 hours and there are 3 changes of water. They wouldn't dream of only one soak. No gas problems at all!

Posted by: Sophia | February 15, 2008 2:21 AM

All of you cooks who praise the pressure cooker and skip soaking, one question: do the beans keep their shape or do their skins crack and break up resulting in a mush? This doesn't matter for some beans--navy bean dishes or refried beans--but it is important for most successful bean dishes. Thanks!

Posted by: walden | February 15, 2008 2:24 AM

No Cubefarm, you can not use a rice cooker as a pressure cooker. However, rice cooks easily and fast in a pressure cooker.

Posted by: Amri | February 15, 2008 3:08 AM

Great advice, I wish I read this twenty years ago. I've dealt with my share of un-cookable beans.

The "salt latter" seems to work for me, I think it depends on the beans. Also I've had luck in using distilled water to get plump beans before cooking. (Though it's a haphazard observation, no methodical research involved, but theoretically water with no dissolved solids or salts should be at least a bit better at being sucked up by the dry bean.)

One other trick in my "this may work" arsenal of softening up the tough little devils: Put the beans in a mason jar, under half full, add cold water, leave an inch or two of air, screw down the lid, and warm in warm tap water. Leave out for an hour or two, then refrigerate. I believe the slight over-pressure helps to force water into the bean. It also serves to limit the quantity to a couple of good sized servings, so you don't end up with what seems like a 55 gallon drum of beans ...as I have on occasion.

p.s. be careful warming any closed container, maybe keep it wrapped in a towel.

Posted by: Paulie200 | February 15, 2008 4:54 AM

For cooking, boil them at low heat for a long time, a crockpot is handy. You can't miss. Add the salt at the beginning, they will taste better. Use plenty of water, and check that they don't drink it all in. If some split, that is OK, they make a gravy. Use onions too, and never sugar. You can start with the beans dry, without soaking, if you wish.

Posted by: frank burns | February 15, 2008 5:50 AM

If I remember to add baking soda to the soaking water, the bean soften faster. I always add a bit of lemon juice or vinegar to the water when I soak quinoa in order to remove the phytates - I don't know whether that should be done with beans, too.

Posted by: sfreiman | February 15, 2008 6:07 AM

Try adding ham hock when cooking in a crock pot. Delicious. Tip: If your beans are ever to watery, dip out about a half a cup of beans and mash with a fork, stir back into the beans and it will thicken them up.

Posted by: Glenna | February 15, 2008 6:45 AM

A Mexican friend happened to be at my house the last time I prepared to cook dried pinto beans. After watching in disbelief as I prepared to soak them, she finally asked why I was doing that. My explanation got nowhere. (I've been soaking dried beans for many years.) Finally, she took over the kitchen, poured out my water, put all her ingredients (garlic, onion, etc.) in with the hard beans, brought them to a boil, and reduced them to simmer. After about four hours, we had a delicious pot of beans. I'm still scratching my head.

Someone mentioned the "Mexican herb" epazote, which eliminates bean gas while adding interesting flavor. Although I grow it from nursery plants here in Texas, I have read that epazote is a common roadside weed in many parts of the U.S., including the Virginia/DC area.

Posted by: EDawson | February 15, 2008 6:54 AM

Hmmm, I just cooked a pot of beans (15 legumes). Soaked overnight, started with sauteeing four chopped up chicken breasts and one large onion, added the beans, brought to a boil, let is simmer for three yours. Add spices. That tasted good. It tasted even better after cooling the soup overnight.

Posted by: Dirk | February 15, 2008 7:32 AM

I tend to cook garbanzo beans in a crockpot overnight (no soaking required). And then I do step 13 in Kim's column (this is a traditional Indian way of making lentils, beans, etc.) by sauteeing onions and adding spices like salt, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper, and then diced tomatoes, followed by garam masala at the end. I like my garbanzo beans to have enough gravy in them so I can eat them over rice...but I don't like the gravy to be too thin. One thing my mom taught me was to mash a cup of the cooked beans with a potato masher and put them back in beans. This creates a nice thickness in the gravy.

Posted by: Shalini | February 15, 2008 7:49 AM

I've been breaking a few of these rules for decades, but getting decent results. I cook mostly pintos, soaking them for about 6-8 hours beforehand. I ditch the soaking water, rinse the beans, then add just enough to cover them in the pot (probably 1/2" or so), rather than 1-3". However, I also add other ingredients at the start (onion, etc.), which I have always assumed provided additional water as they broke down. Cooking time is about 90 min with the lid on, then about 20 - 30 min. with the lid off, all on simmer.

I'll try cooking beans-only, adding onion, garlic, and bacon later, to see if there's an improvement.

Posted by: GA Pinto | February 15, 2008 8:03 AM

I soak beans if I think of it--if I don't, I just cook them a little longer. Hot liquid or cold, eventually they'll soften up.

According to a cookbook I read, acid doesn't actually impede the cooking process--what it does is prevent the bean from softening and losing its skin. Alkaline substances do the opposite. It recommended adding a pinch of baking soda to help "mush up" the beans, and adding some acid to help them keep their shape, but otherwise not to worry about it.

I love beans to death--I eat them practically every day. Most of my beans go into soup, though, so I don't really worry about how much I soaked, whether I soaked, etc. I just make sure they're washed, rinsed, soaked if I thought of making soup the night before, and then they go into the pot with my dozen or so other ingrediants to simmer for a couple hours.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2008 8:06 AM

Some bean soup recipes call for chicken broth, rather than water. It's almost impossible to find sodium free canned chicken broth, so I use half water and half chicken broth, taking into account that the beans will need to cook longer. Seems to work for me.

Posted by: alice | February 15, 2008 8:14 AM

If you let the pressure cooker come back to temp naturally, ie let it sit for 30-40 minutes after cooking rather then running cold water over the pot, the beans tend to hold their shape better.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2008 8:17 AM

Epazote (Chenopodium ambrosioides) is a common weed in Baltimore, growing in vacant lots and between cracks in sidewalks. Leaves are very pungent, stronger than mint, more like turpentine (but in a good way).

Posted by: songquorunsunyen | February 15, 2008 8:50 AM

Given the economic news of late, this article should be cross-posted in the business section.

Posted by: nuno1 | February 15, 2008 9:20 AM

Food scientists such as Harold McGee have long since disproved the old wives' tale of "salt makes beans tough." Acid makes beans tough, salt makes beans flavorful. :-)

And FWIW, I have a lovely recipe for Boston Baked Beans that requires no soaking, and the beans turn out lovely and tender. It does cook for about 5 hours, though.

Posted by: Divine Ms. K | February 15, 2008 9:26 AM

In Brazil, where beans are a staple for just about every meal, most people use a pressure cooker. Then after it is mostly cooked, drain the water from the pressure cooker, put in clean water and boil the beans with no lid - this cuts out the gas causing agents.

I used to soak and boil until I learned that the pressure does the job quite well and more more quickly with no gas no boot!

Posted by: KL | February 15, 2008 9:29 AM

1- Soak beans
2- Cook with pressure cooker
3- When soft then add spices and fats

If cooking Azuki beans add Kombu and time required is cut in half

Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2008 9:37 AM

Best beans in the world are "Pinto Beans." 3hrs of soaking and medium heat for about 21/2hrs. will provide good results. For great "Charro beans": salt, black pepper, cumin,onions, bell pepper, serrano pepper, tomatoes,cilantro and/or pork rinds, pork feet. What a blast with flavor.

Posted by: mesquitex | February 15, 2008 9:50 AM

I totally agree about the pressure cooker for beans. The new ones are totally safe because they lock in the pressure, so the scary stories about the past are now just stories.

I highly recommend Lorna Sass' pressure cooking books-- they're really delicious recipes, and also walk you through how to use a pressure cooker, for a first-time user.

I strongly believe that using a pressure cooker *improves* the flavor of the beans or rice or whatever you're cooking.

Posted by: Neighbor | February 15, 2008 9:52 AM

Forgot to add the best aromatic herb in making "Charro Beans", Cilantro. Gracias

Posted by: mesquitex | February 15, 2008 9:52 AM

Kim, there is a faster way to soak beans. I have been using this procedure for years: Wash beans, cover beans with water in pot, bring to a boil for 2 minutes, cover and let soak for one hour. They are ready to cook after that....

Posted by: DJ | February 15, 2008 10:16 AM

Paulie200: You may have very hard water in your tap...maybe lots of iron. Anyone who cooks in such conditions should use bottled water for soaking and cooking beans.

Posted by: fancyflyer | February 15, 2008 10:20 AM

I buy my beans from Whole Foods (sorry for the plug) because they don't need soaking. They also carry a wide variety.

Previously I owned an old 1935 Chambers stove that refused to cook on very low heat without the flame blowing out. So I cooked the beans in the rice cooker, which did not burn them.

For pintos add onion and garlic and a couple of Serrano peppers. Wilt tomatoes and cilantro in the pot just before serving.


Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2008 10:24 AM

I second DJ's post about quick soaking beans. The way I do it is about the same (I got the directions from the Joy of Cooking). I boil water in the teapot, then pour it over washed beans in a pot, bring the water back to a boil, then turn off the heat and let the beans soak for an hour. Works every time.

Posted by: Brenda | February 15, 2008 10:28 AM

I love beans and like some of you have started using my pressure cooker to reduce cooking time.

I also use my pressure cooker for roasts, chicken, and all kinds of fresh veggies. A segment on Pressure cooking would be fantastic!! My pressure cooker has allowed me to cook meals during the week that I would normally have to prepare over a weekend (I work outside our home)!

Posted by: Bean Lover | February 15, 2008 10:37 AM

Add to the list of beans not requiring soaking: adzuki (aduki) beans. These small, slightly sweet Japanese beans cook up quickly without a presoak.

A staple of macrobiotic cooking, they're wonderful in soups and stews containing winter squash or pumpkin.

Posted by: magpie | February 15, 2008 10:44 AM

I never soak my beans. The secret is the crock pot, not the pressure cooker. Never add anything until the beans are cooked or they will stay hard. I put them on low in the crockpot with a couple of inches of water above them and leave them on overnight or all day while at work. They are cooked when I wake up or when I get home. Then in the separate saucepan saute the onion, garlic, spices, and then add that mixture and tomatoes to the beans in the crockpot. Leave them on low for a good long time to absorb the flavors to a nice chile.

Posted by: Pam | February 15, 2008 10:45 AM

I love all the suggestions, thanks. I never thought of using the pressure cooker but will try it. My standard is soak, change water, bring to a boil, then put in crockpot, salt and cook as long as it takes. The beans don't split and I get to enjoy the smell all day long.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2008 10:45 AM

I love beans. My only problem is that i get too gasy after eating them. Constantly farting while among family and friends is not fun! Any ideas as to how i can alleviate? Its down right embarassing!

Posted by: des | February 15, 2008 10:51 AM

The beans at Rancho Gordo are $5 a pound. Yikes!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2008 10:53 AM

In regards to the carbonara: "The 125 Best Meatless Pasta Dishes" has a recipe that uses sun-dried tomatoes in place of bacon. Super yum.

I never presoak my beans. I either use the crock pot or bring them to a boil, let sit for an hour and then go.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 15, 2008 10:55 AM

I read in Bon Appetite that ginger cuts the bean gas. Have been throwing ginger in with all bean recipes, seems to work.

Posted by: J | February 15, 2008 10:56 AM

Careful with the pressure cooker! My friends mom tried lentel beans and it somehow clogged the pressure relief valve. When the lid blew it completely redecorated her kitchen and ceiling.

Posted by: Steve G | February 15, 2008 11:02 AM

i would like to strongly support Paulie's remarks concerning distilled water. i have very hard well water and beans never cooked to a soft state. when i switched to filtered rain water, all of a sudden there was no problem at all, a most dramatic reversal!!

Posted by: arvo | February 15, 2008 11:06 AM

Down here most people don't soak. Just bring to rapid boil then simmer till you can't see the beans ( Pinto) through the liquid about 3 - 4 hours. Most people add bacon and garlic at the begining.

For boracho beans saute bacon, onions, tomato, serranos, (more flavorfull than jalapenos) a touch of comino, S & P, and some beer (optional) then add beans and liquid.

If you add beans to chili add them at the last seasoniong about thirty minutes before turning off the heat. Be sure to add some of the liquid also, it will help thicken the chili.

Posted by: Joe - So. Tx | February 15, 2008 11:24 AM

Those beans at Rancho Gordo are $5 a pound plus shipping. Them are costly beans, dude!

Posted by: Bartolo | February 15, 2008 11:26 AM

How to eliminate the gas problem? I worked at the USDA for a little bit and talked to a researcher who had actually done a study on the subject. Conclusion: Soaking beans gets rid of the gas-producing element.

Posted by: Beth | February 15, 2008 11:30 AM

For ham hocks, ham bones, salt pork, in legume receipes, substitute smoked turkey, skin removed. Less fat, less salt, excellent flavor.

During last half of cooking black beans, add a chopped onion and a green pepper sauteed together, then add a couple of handfuls of green Spanish olives, and at the end, vinegar and sweetebing agent of choice. Cook till very soft, or puree about a quarter of the potful to thicken. Cubans now this, but they don't tell anybody.

Home made "pork and beans" with smoked turkey instead of pork, sugar or molasses or sweetener, garlic, cumin, ginger, mustard, a little tomato paste, not too much, left in the oven all day or overnight at 250` will be infinitely better than the canned stuff, where a tiny cube of lard is what they call "pork," and cheaper two.

Posted by: DAvid | February 15, 2008 11:33 AM

I've read that sprouting beans before cooking makes them more digestible, and that they taste the same. any thoughts?

I've sprouted adzukis, lentils, and garbanzos with good results. These bean sprouts can be eaten raw.

Posted by: Brent | February 15, 2008 11:37 AM

I don't know what kind of beans Kim cooks that require all that soaking. I have been cooking pintos and butter beans for over 40 years and never soak them. Butter beans get salt and bacon from the beginning and pintos get salt, bacon and chilli powder, or chilli peppers. The butter beans usually cook in 1 hour, and the pintos usually take 2. I always buy fresh beans.

Posted by: Robert Gerstenberg | February 15, 2008 11:42 AM

Divine Ms. K is correct; salt does NOT impede cooking or toughen beans. Not only has Harold McGee stated so, but also Shirley Corriher, another widely respected food scientist. Furthermore, an article in this month's Cooks Illustrated recommends BRINING beans before cooking, not only for flavor but to achieve a creamy texture inside and tender skins outside. Adding salt at the last results in yucky, bland beans.

Posted by: Vivi | February 15, 2008 11:44 AM

Hello from Mexico!
The secret is the freshness of the beans. If they are "new" they practically don't need any kind of soaking, and you can cook them as you like.In a cazuela de barro they will gain a special flavor!
But if you are not sure of the freshness or prefer to cook quickly, the best way to do it is covering the beans with water overnight (not more than 6 hours in a very hot weather), discard the water and rinse them twice.
In a pressure cooker fry chopped onion, garlic and two diced tomatoes. Add dry oregano or epazote if you have them at hand. Add the beans, cover them with water and if at hand add some fresh oregano, epazote or mint (these herbs will help to cut the gases!).
Let it cook for 25 minutes, uncover the pressure cooker carefully taking the pression out running cold tap water over it, and add salt and return it to heat and let it boil for 3 minutes. And presto!
You will have what we call "frijoles de la olla"
To add flavor and acid (the best way to profit of the proteins of beans) dice fresh tomatoes with onions,jalapeño pepper and fresh cilantro, mix them with some drops of lemon juice add salt, and pepper and then add to the beans dish.
I hope you like them!

Posted by: Areli Carreón | February 15, 2008 11:54 AM

A number of legumes require soaking and thorough rinsing to remove certain mild toxins common to most of the family. Those readers who recommend combining soaking and cooking may want to consider this.

Posted by: Peter in Rome, Italy | February 15, 2008 12:00 PM

This has worked for me for years: Rinse beans, put in pressure cooker with water to cover by about 2 inches, bring to boil WITHOUT pressure for 10 minutes, let sit for an hour, RINSE and discard soaking water, put back in pressure cooker with bouillon cubes and herbs, cook under pressure for 20-30 minutes depending on the bean variety.
This way you only have the pressure cooker to clean.

Posted by: Ellen in Albuquerque | February 15, 2008 12:20 PM

The poster who claims bean soaking water is toxic and should be discarded before cooking is WRONG. Opinions on whether or not to change the water vary, but have nothing to do with food safety or potential toxicity. The soaking liquid is perfectly safe.

Posted by: ellen | February 15, 2008 12:23 PM

Add me to list of people who don't soak beans at all. People eat a lot of beans where I live, so I wonder if the beans I get are fresher? The difference between 2 hours of cooking and 3 isn't worth the trouble of soaking them from my point of view. I cook 2 pounds of beans at a time once a month or so on a weekend. I'm around the house anyway, so I don't mind the extra hour.

Posted by: mollyjade | February 15, 2008 12:38 PM

I generally make "fasoolia", Arabic for beans. It is seasoned with lots of onions and garlic, and some Lebanese pepper, bouillon and a bit of tomato paste.

I use "great northern" beans from Goya and let them soak for 12 hours. I also add baking soda to the soak. This seems to make them get softer and mushier more quickly. After this soak, the beans can be ready in 30-45 minutes, enough time to sautee onions, garlic etc for seasoning.

I've also been told the the baking soda in the soak will give you less gas when you eat the beans. Not clear if this is true.

Posted by: njbeanman | February 15, 2008 12:45 PM

I've been using my great grandmother's recipe for many years. I use a pressure cooker, placing 1 1/2 cups of pinto beans, filling the pressure cooker 2/3 full of water. I then add 1/8 of an onion, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and salt. Let cook for about an hour and half and you they are fantastic.

Posted by: Pedro from Mexico | February 15, 2008 12:45 PM

Hi there,
Never heard that Mexicans don't soak or recommend soaking. My mom always said you have to soak and then after the first boil you remove any of the foam from the top (this combination eliminates gas), cover and simmer at low heat. When done, you bring to a boil again, add the salt and let boil for about 5 mins. Then you can either eat plain or saute onion, etc to season to taste (never add pepper to beans!).

Posted by: DCMexican | February 15, 2008 12:50 PM

I cook Indian dishes and use lentils, pinto pink, black, garbanzo, and kidney beans all the time. The lentils are the only dry ones I use. It takes 5-10 minutes in a pressure cook for the lentils to cook real nice. And then the fun and fire works begin! For other types of beans, the canned ones are convenient. They are pre-soaked and ready to cook. One can do a yummy dish with pre-soaked ones under 40 mins.

Posted by: Gypsy | February 15, 2008 1:08 PM

I like to soak beans in salted water which seems to tenderize the skin.
On another subject lupini beans are rather unique in both flavour and texture but I think the week of soaking and changing water everyday is well worth the effort for a very interesting bean with regards to flavour and texture. Also it would make my search for lupinis at the market easier if more people were using them.

Posted by: Moe in Montreal | February 15, 2008 1:10 PM

Using all water to cook beans is okay but you'll be amazed at the complexity of substituting a few cans/bottles of dark beer for an equal amount of water. Profound difference in taste and texture.

Posted by: mike | February 15, 2008 1:14 PM

A thought on GAS. There is a sugar in beans with a large comples molecule, oligosaccharides ( I had to look up the name ). Unlike other sugars there is no enzyme in the human body to break this sugar up. It passes through the small intestine completely unaffected. When It reaches the large intestine, bacteria devoure it producing the CO2. Incidently, this type of sugar is also found in cabbage and other foods.

I doubt if adding spices or herbs will affect it. Boiling is probably not hot enough to affect it either.

You can buy the enzyme to take care of the problem it's called Beno.

Posted by: Joe - So. Tx. | February 15, 2008 1:18 PM

No need to soak, buy FRESH beans and sort (take out the rocks) and rinse well. Cover with water (you'll have to add more water later) and bring to a boil. Then salt and reduce to a simmer; the salt must soak in during cooking. If beans are old, they take much longer to cook. I've found pressure cookers to make them hard and tough. Depending on the type of beans, you have to cook them well. If you want pretty beans that aren't split but please the eye, then you nose will pay later. Peas and lentils don't take long, but pintos take half a day or more. Black beans take a whole day. This assumes you cook them in just water with salt. If you add grease, they will probably cook faster, but for me, most of them are best as is. Pintos, navys, northerns, we always cook plain. They are excellent as it, or with a good dose of fresh ground black pepper. Chopped fresh onions on Pintos, chopped pickles on navies and northerns for variety. For me nothing but black pepper on baby limas. Beans freeze great. Cook them 1st, and freeze servings of plain beans. Then use the remainder in your recipe. Peas and lentils are different: Lentils get fresh sliced carrots (bought with the tops on), onion and oregano a little while before they are done. I have added tomato sauce and onions to black eyed peas before they are done, and green peas are good with onion and carrots before done. For a complete meal, cook 1lb. baby limas with too much water. An hour before done, add a good cup of raw brown rice. Chile: saute 2 onions in olive oil, put in 3 cans tomato sauce and add a pack plus of Eve's ground "beef" and a good dose of GOOD chili powder and then add a couple good ladles of freshly cooked pintos with some juice: AWESOME. For my parents, beans were a staple and Mom would always start the pintos in the morning for my Dad when home from work. But to them, beans without meat or 'fat back' weren't beans. To me, if you are going to eat meat, you don't need beans, and meat taints beans anyway. Beans that dont have fat added probably take more calories to digest than they provide, so they are great diet food. Just cook them well and serve with fresh whole grain bread. Just my take on beans, which are a staple for me, too.

Posted by: Duane | February 15, 2008 1:23 PM

All in all, a very interesting discussion! It seems the salt vs. no-salt in the cooking water debate will continue. I found it interesting that a couple of posters said that in their hands black beans required no soaking and softened fairly quickly during cooking. I've found black beans to be among the more difficult to fully cook and that's after lots of soaking. I love cooking chick peas and they usually do well with about 2 hours of simmering after a 6 hour or overnight soak. I might also add dried black eyed peas to the list of little or no soaking required.

Posted by: sgmorr in North Texas | February 15, 2008 1:28 PM

I think the most important things NOT to add at the start are acidic things (tomatoes, vinegar, etc) and sugar (as for Boston baked beans) - both will impede the softening. But I have had no trouble with sauteed onions, smoked meat, and various spices added at the start. I agree with those who said that the soak water contains most of the gas-producing oligosaccharides; if you first cover the beans with water, bring to a boil, let cool, discard the water; soak in fresh water an hour, discard; and again soak for an hour and discard, the beans can be almost gas-free (tho inevitably you lose some flavor this way) but if you are as sensitive as I am, take Beano too. It's not just the gas, it's the pain that comes with it that makes beans less than my fave despite the good flavor.

Posted by: Catherine | February 15, 2008 1:32 PM

A bean recipe for eliminating gas passed down for generations in my family is to soak the beans overnight in water and baking soday, maybe a couple teaspoons per gallon of water. To speed up process, boil beans with baking soda for about 10 - 15 min., rinse thru colander, add fresh water and cook on medium heat. Baking soda does eliminate gas.

Posted by: carol burrows | February 15, 2008 1:39 PM

To de-gas beans
Rinse beans, put in pot, cover with water. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Add 2 T baking soda, stir. Cover. Soak for some time - 6-8-12 hrs whatever. DRAIN and rinse beans. Cook in clean pot, fresh water as usual. But beans will be cooked in anywhere from 20-45 min. Watch them carefully. Do NOT use the soaking water for anything - will cause incredible gas, but your beans will be just about gas free. I've done this for years.

Posted by: De-gas beans | February 15, 2008 1:42 PM

The author and nearly all who commented missed the most important rule for enjoying nearly every dried bean. Wash the beans and then soak, follow the soak time by DISCARDING THE SOAKING WATER, and rinsing the beans again. Then proceed with any recipe. This eliminates an enzyme that causes intestinal gas that give beans a very bad reputation with most people.

Posted by: Jan, a Seattle Home Economist | February 15, 2008 2:53 PM

Here's what Rancho Gordo guru Steve Sando has to say on a few issues debated in this here thread. The following is from an e-mail I received this afternoon:
"Re soaking, I like to soak but if I forgot, I'd still go ahead and cook
them. I think it improves the texture."

"A lot of readers mention pressure cookers. They change the density and texture and there is no evaporation, so it's really a very different process. I don't think it's a bad way to cook them but I'd let the beans cook about 1/2 an hour, open, after cooking to improve the flavor."

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | February 15, 2008 3:34 PM

One of your commenters mentioned change of water-- I can't believe it as never mentioned in the article!!

Posted by: dj | February 15, 2008 3:42 PM

Frozen cooked beans are so good to have in the freezer as is barley and other grains..available to turn into a dip, soup, salad, chili, or a recipe calling for maybe black eyed peas i recently made..Fabulous for cooler weather menus...just love beans anyway and eat less meat.
There are aat least a couple of hundred varieties!I used to eat too many because i could not get enough, now i am satisfied with normal portions. never have gas when you eat them regularly.

Posted by: gremolata | February 15, 2008 3:42 PM

The issue of passing odoriferous gases is really incoviniencing. My boyfriend and I have come up with an efficient way of eliminating these. We usually take some Activia right after devouring a bowl of them legumes. This not only reduces the frequency of emissions,but it also drastically cuts on the level of potency -thus leading to one very happy family.

Posted by: laurabird | February 15, 2008 3:59 PM

Yes I love beans, but OH BOY THE GAS! That is until my California nephew's grandmother gave me the word. After removing the 'skin' off 1 or 2 good size carrots, cook them with the beans and NO GAS!!! (Discard the carrots.) -rc

Posted by: Rick Charles | February 15, 2008 4:10 PM

I use the electric pressure cooker for beans and lentils and rice and whole grains. It is superior to the traditional pressure cooker that I have used for years. It has a digital timer and two degrees of pressure for you choosing. And, it is safer and faster than a traditional pressure cooker. My favorite is by Cuisinart.

Posted by: Anita Bangerter | February 15, 2008 4:37 PM

What a beautiful beany conversation going on here. If any of you are truly mad about beans, I would encourage you to buy a copy of Beans: A History. (By me, incidentally)


Posted by: Ken Albala | February 15, 2008 4:40 PM

In principle, beans would be a great, cheap source of protein. Most are cooked with too much salt, even though they can be quite tasty with lemon or vinager, pepper, and other spices.

But beans are a chore to digest, causing noisy embarrassments, sleepless nights, and other unpleasantries one cannot write here. Some firms sell an enzyme, alpha galactosidase derived from the fungus Aspergillus niger, that is supposed to help. Beano is the best known. But does it work? Maybe not always, not so well, and not in anything less than big costly doses. Does cooking wreck the enzyme, or could one mix it right into the recipes? Any way to buy it more cheaply? I see Web ads, but wonder if the products are real deals.

Whatever happened to the genetically modified beans that lacked the gaseous saccharides or came with the enzyme to break them down in the belly? Did the bean cartel quash the research or buy out the patents and bury the formulas?

Posted by: Jkoch | February 15, 2008 4:44 PM

I love beans! When I came home from three months in India I bought a pressure cooker right away so I could keep eating the delicious food I loved there. I don't know if I'm used to it or what, but I don't seem to have the gas problem everyone talks about. I do rinse my dried beans in a colander for a minute or two - maybe that helps.

Posted by: Julie | February 15, 2008 4:44 PM

Check out the Best Recipe, or issues of Cooks Illustrated. You do NOT have to soak; soaking only reduces time marginally, often at a loss of texture/shape. You MUST add salt near the beginning if you want flavor.

Buy beans from a source with high turnover. Old, stale beans are the main reason they don't soften or take forever.

I used to follow this advice (it was my grandmother's after all). I stopped. Now, I buy fresher beans and cook them the same day I want to eat them (or the day before if I'm going to work late). Have been doing so for about 5 years with many different kinds of beans, and nary a problem.

Posted by: smr | February 15, 2008 5:27 PM

I wonder why there hasn't been more discussion of slow cookers here.
I've been making a delicious refried beans recipe from the Gourmet Slow Cooker
by Lynn Alley (Ten Speed Press, 2003)which requires no presoaking.
I put the beans in the slow cooker with water, onions, garlic, chiles, and ground cumin and coriander- no salt- and leave it be for 6-8 hours. I add salt to taste later. Alley has beer in her recipe but I'd rather drink the beer myself as I eat my burrito.
Homemade refritos knock the socks off the canned kind- seriously awesome comfort food for a winter night.
As for gas- if you eat beans enough, I think your system adjusts to handle it.

Posted by: SoCal Girl | February 15, 2008 5:38 PM

I haven't read every post, so this may be redundant, but after soaking, discard the water and rinse well. Start the cooking with fresh water. Besides softening, this step reduces the...offensive...side effects.

Posted by: lively | February 15, 2008 5:41 PM

Back in the 1980's there was a Cuban restaurant in Adams-Morgan (I believe it burned down some years ago)that served the most fantastic black beans that I have ever tasted. Does anyone know their secret? I've tried countless Cuban black bean recipes but cannot come very close.
Thanks for the help.

Posted by: luke32 | February 15, 2008 6:55 PM

I have heard that if you soak the beans, then freeze them, they cook very fast after they are thawed. I've not tried it yet.

Altitude makes a big difference in how long your beans will have to cook. I live at over 5000 feet, so I usually put them in the crockpot 8 hours before I want them. They cook much faster at lower altitudes.

Posted by: sandradee | February 15, 2008 7:11 PM

In her book "The Way To Cook", Julia Child has a very surprising method that she passes on for cooking Boston Baked Beans. It really can be that simple. (Even though I still think they're better if you soak first.) I use larger quantities of the more traditional ingredients too - like molasses and brown sugar.

Go Red Sox!

Posted by: shannone | February 15, 2008 7:17 PM

I also add salt early on, after seeing an episode of America's Test Kitchen (no effect either way on texture, just flavor)

Pressure cookers are great. And, in response to another poster, the newer ones are very unlikely to explode. Haven't had split pea ceiling ever...

Posted by: Vienna, VA | February 15, 2008 8:07 PM

When I first tried to cook lima beans several years ago - had heard how nutritious they are - I used the soaking method. The recipe called for removal of the skin. The result was a big pot of shapeless mush. Then I tried pressure cooking them without much soaking, and found to my pleasant surprise that not only was this easier on the environment (uses less energy with such fast cooking) but it retained the shape of the beans. Just as important, it turned out that the skin, with its chewy texture, was really the tastiest part of the lima beans! Maybe just maybe that is where most of the fiber is too!

Posted by: cmdg | February 15, 2008 9:26 PM

I love beans but i have all but given up after my husband threatened to divorce me. Most people can torelate the occassional ripping but the unique foulness of this particular commodity kicks this experience a notch. Since Beano does nothing for me, i chose to totally forego.

Posted by: JillJ | February 15, 2008 9:58 PM

I have read that cumin and (fresh) ginger spices prevent gas associated with beans and cabbage. I have added both to bean and cabbage soup and have not had any unpleasant flatulent side effects associated with cabbage or beans. I even ate the leftovers for a week with no problems.

Posted by: H. | February 15, 2008 10:02 PM

Yes you can do all this to cook beans or by a Pressure cook pan and cut your time for exemple:split pea 15 min, black beans 45 min and other are the same, amd that is from the country of "feijoada"

Posted by: Manda Chuva | February 15, 2008 10:12 PM

Bernard: if the soaking water were toxic, I'd be long dead. Where did you hear that nonsense?

Soaking? Sure, if I remember to. If not, with fresh beans (meaning those that haven't been sitting on a shelf for who-knows-how-long), maybe I have to add an extra 30 minutes cooking time. Unattended, anyway.

Yes, Rancho Gordo beans cost more than supermarket beans. But they cook up reliably, have their own distinct flavors and characteristics (could you tell a supermarket canellini bean from a supermarket black bean, eyes closed? Ha, I thought not), and who cooks a whole pound at one time, unless you are feeding an army? I used about 1/2 cup each time for the two of us, which means I get about 8 servings from one pound, for 63 cents per serving. Is that outrageous? I don't think so.

Posted by: SuzanneF | February 15, 2008 10:51 PM

What a great article - I generally soak
the beans overnight and then in the am
"slow" cook the beans. I do not start
by boiling the beans. It takes 4-5 hours
(on simmer: the liquid slightly bubbles).
I also change the liquid every 1 1/2 hour
i.e. pour out old the water and add new
water. This takes care of most of the gas.

Posted by: C. Kayt | February 15, 2008 11:05 PM

Epazote not only reduces the gas effect of beans but is part of the secret of why Mexican beans taste so good. Look for it in nurseries or you can now buy the seeds on line. Once it gets started you will need to control it (much like mint).

Lard is a difficult subject for many people, but it is much maligned. Butter has more saturated fat and more cholesterol than lard. If you use drippings from a pork roast (strained and saved in the fridge or freezer) rather than purchased lard you can avoid the problems associated with hydrogenization common to manufactured lard or margarine. Using a tablespoon or two to brown up some diced onion before adding the beans water and epazote will give you real Mexican frijoles de la olla. It is a small indulgence, but does taste better than using olive oil or some combination of fats. Salt only when the beans are almost done.

Posted by: eeitreim | February 15, 2008 11:46 PM

A pressure cooker is definitely the way to go - Buy one from any Indian Store - dont get scared of the whistle.

takes about 15 mins. DO SOAK THOUGH!

Bon apetit

Posted by: Ms. Bean | February 16, 2008 12:04 AM

In India the people are very fond ond of eating bean curry with rice and this is the very process how they cook.Of course pressure cooking is a must.

Posted by: partap dhir | February 16, 2008 12:58 AM

In India the people are very fond of eating bean curry with rice and this is the very process how they cook.Of course pressure cooking is a must.

Posted by: partap dhir | February 16, 2008 12:59 AM

I am a famous Indian chef. My mother told me that there is no difference between canned beans and dry beans except hours in the pressure cooker.

Posted by: Suvid Sarad | February 16, 2008 6:31 AM

I make a black bean with seasoned chicken over brown basmati rice thats somewhat like a gumbo in consistency. I simply soak the beans rinse and drain and slow cook in a 50-50 mix of Diced Tomatoes & Tomato Sauce. I get the large cans from Costco as I make a lot of this because it freezes well. To this I add onion and FRESH jalapeno peppers and seasoning. I slow cook this over a saturday and sunday putting it outside overnight (winter time)I dubb my outbuilding as my West Virginia Refrigerator. Once it is finished I'll put a couple of well seasoned skinless boneless chicken breasts in my cast iron dutch oven cover with the black bean/tomato sauce and slow cook for 2-3 hours. Pour the contents of the dutch oven over a bed of brown basmati rice... I call it Tex-Mex Chicken Yummy

Posted by: Love Black Beans | February 16, 2008 6:39 AM

Go to a oriental store or an Indian store you will find all kinds of beans and lentils at cheaper rates and these tend to be fresher than what we get in super markets is what I learnt over time. I am not sure this is true but I also heard from my doctor that the longer beans soak the easier they are on your stomach with respect to bloating.

Posted by: Sue | February 16, 2008 6:44 AM

About a year ago I was reading about old Texas and Mexican bean cooking methods. Now I bake my pinto beans in a Dutch oven IN the oven at about 225 for five or six hours. I soak the beans overnight or at least five hours. For one bag of beans I use one stalk of celery, one green pepper, one onion, garlic, one box of veggie broth, one dry ancho, one dry chipotle, and a quarter teaspoon of really hot ground chilis if I want really hot. I put in some Cajun salt at the end, or at the beginning- it doesn't seem to matter. The beans baked slowly are always tender, uniform and a little creamy. If you use tomato you have to bake in a lined vessel like a Le Creuset, because of the acid. Before I gave up meat I would toss in a pork shank and use chicken broth: boy, that's good. I think the Mexicans would use a special terra cotta bean pot called a cazuela.

Posted by: Philip Tramdack | February 16, 2008 6:54 AM

RE question about black beans in Cuban restauarant in Adams Morgan:

"Secret" of Cuban beans is Spanish green olives, plus vinegar/sugar sweet/sour. See post above (to locate, search for "olives" or "Cubans.")

Posted by: David | February 16, 2008 7:56 AM

Good conversation about my favorite food.
1. Gas. The soluble sugars causing gas move into the soaking water. Use a lot of water to soak and then dump it. Except black beans, see recipe below.
2. I'm not bothered by gas, probably because I eat beans often and have built up bean friendly bacteria and eat yogurt often to keep the bacteria friendly. If you don't feed these special bacteria they die. They are your intestinal garden.
3. After a gazillion pots and pans, I use cast iron and various shapes of pressure cookers.
4. Old cookbooks say to blast the pressure cooker with heat. Don't do that. New cookers have thick multi-layered bottoms that can warp. Single thin bottom cookers can burn food unless everything is cooked like soup. My favorites are the Kuhn Rikon line with an affection for the 2L frying pan style (pot shapes also affect the finished product when cooking, especially rice).
5. I wash and soak beans overnight. Put the beans in the cooker with 2-3 times the amount of water. Bring up to temp and cook for a few minutes. Cool naturally and finish with the top off or loose. This gives better control, add sofrito, taste, stir, thicken. Sometime they need another pressure treatment before the finishing step.
6. Below is an unusual black bean favorite from a Peruvian college friend. Very light touch of spice, heavy on oil. (I ALWAYS use some fat in my beans. Try adding several tbls. of bacon grease to tasteless canned refried beans.)
7.Black Beans Peru (Juan Parodi)
1 lb black beans, dried
3/4 lg spanish onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp cumino, grind seeds (cumin)
1 med green pepper, chopped medium
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup up to 1 cup olive oil
1 Tbs vinegar
salt to taste
pepper to taste

1 Examine beans and remove defective ones, stones and dirt. Rinse briefly and soak for several hours or overnight. Water should be double the depth of the beans
2 Cook beans in the same (underlined) soaking water for about 1 1/2 hours at a low heat or add water and cook in a pressure cooker for 35 minutes at 15 pounds (seems long, perhaps 10-15 minutes with natural cooling, finish beans by simmering).
3 Prepare Sofrito.
4 Combine salt, pepper, chopped onion, minced garlic, chopped green pepper (1/2 inch on a side), bay leaf, comino (1/8 tsp. is correct, perhaps increase to 1/4 tsp) and 1/3 cup olive oil. Saute over medium low heat to soften but not to brown.
5 When beans are finished cooking, add sofrito and cook uncovered an additional 15 minutes over a low heat. Stir occasionally. Bean broth should thicken.
6 Add much olive oil, 1/2 to 1 cup is not too much. (Olive oil is used as the main seasoning. I questioned Juan about the amount of oil and was told it was necessary. If using a strong (virgin) oil, I would use less)
7 Add tbl. of vinegar, another important addition. (Perhaps lemon juice would work also)
8 Cook 5 minutes more, stirring and crushing some beans against the side of the pot. Serve as a soup or over rice. Chop rest of onion for a garnish. Has an excellent taste.

Juan's tip:
To cook white or red kidney beans, drain off soaking water and replace with an equal volume of fresh water before cooking. 1 or 2 cups of chopped (1/2 inch on side) potatoes can be added during the cooking of the beans or add them later after cooking them separately.

Posted by: Bud | February 16, 2008 9:33 AM

THE most important factor in cooking beans is the water used. It MUST be soft, or free of calcium and sulfur. Distilled water is fine, as will as from a home water softener. City tap water is questionable. Never use bottled drinking water, which should be hard to be healthful and tasty.

Inspect beans before cooking by observing a single layer on a white plate. Pull out any off-color beans and pebbles. Get the meat from the ham, and the pebbles will never cook up.

AVOID the pressure cooker. No matter how careful you are a few beans are likely to be scorched and spoil the pot. Bringing to a boil and letting set for an hour is fine to prepare for cooking. No need to discard the water if not bitter. See Joy of Cooking.

I like to season with lots of onions, some smoked ham, salt, pepper a bit of Italian Seasoning, and a couple tablespoons of butter. Can be added during the first half of the cooking period. I like to eat them over a thin slice of buttered bread, doused with ketchup. Gene Smith of central Ohio

Posted by: Gene Smith | February 16, 2008 10:16 AM

I never "quick soak" with heat - though it does remove more of the gas inducing components, I find it takes flavor away too.

Try adding fennel seed, crushed red pepper and soy sauce - it will taste like you've added italian sausage but with non of the fat!

Any they are always better reheated the next day.

Posted by: john v | February 16, 2008 10:46 AM

My son-in-law is from Brazil, where beans and rice are eaten at nearly every meal. His mom cooks pinto beans in a pressure cooker every day. I don't think she soaks them, but I do here at home. Wish I could share her recipe, but I don't have it. Best beans I ever had. I have bought bulk pinto beans from a grain elevator in Dove Creek, Colorado, and they approach the Brazilian beans for taste.

Posted by: NordlandBarbecueGuy | February 16, 2008 10:47 AM

A North Carolina staple is pinto beans. Spread beans to check for small pebbles. Pour in large pot. Pour in water to within inch or so of top. Add good dollop of olive oil, two tablespoons of sugar and some salt. With top off bring to rolling boil then reduce to low boil. Return top. Start cooking about 2 pm. Will be ready to eat 4 hours later.

Posted by: Don Elliott | February 16, 2008 10:57 AM

The salt-at-beginning-vs-salt-at-end issue is NOT a debate. Scientifically, factually, salt does not make beans tough, no matter when you add it. It's a myth, like "searing meat seals in the juices" (it doesn't) and "washing mushrooms makes them soak up water like a sponge" (also false).

Posted by: Divine Ms K | February 16, 2008 11:12 AM

You want decent commercial cooked beans, go to Popeyes. Red beans and rice are great. Get a large portion only and they know you like beans.

Posted by: Bud | February 16, 2008 11:18 AM

I am also surprised changing the water is never mentioned in the article. I've always heard that multiple water changes during cooking are crucial to reducing the gas, which results from reduction of complex sugars that happen to be highly water-soluble.

Posted by: antibozo | February 16, 2008 12:52 PM

Yes, definitely must rinse the beans after soaking over night to reduce gas. I buy beans in bulk like Sunflower market.

Posted by: susan | February 16, 2008 1:01 PM

I was raised on pinto beans cooked with fatback and eaten with raw onions and corn bread.

Pour boiling water over a pound of washed beans and 8 or 10 half inch cubes of fatback bacon in a crock pot until they are covered by 2 inches of water. Allow to cool to room temperature. Turn crock pot on low setting and simmer for 6 to 8 hours. Check beans at 3 hour mark if your crock pot lid allows water to evaporate. Add cold water to restore water level to above the beans.

Salt and pepper to taste when you have secured your serving of beans. I substitute thick taco chips for cornbread most of the time since I'm not good at making cornbread. If you try this with salted taco chips, it will likely be enough salt for you.

Dice up sufficient hot onions and add to beans to give yourself a nice crunchy texture with each bite. I like to break up the tacos into the beans and eat them fast before the tacos become mushy. Cultured folks tend to sneer at this practice so I tend to eat my beans when nobody's looking.

I also like the beans best about the third time they're reheated. Plenty of water to start is the secret for me.

Posted by: Wayland | February 16, 2008 1:01 PM

Wow. This is a dizzying array of comments! And smart ones. This will sound self-serving, but a lot of these tricks are needed for mass-produced commercial hybrid beans, like the kind you find in the grocery store. The beans can be years and years old. I don't think they are very interesting or worth all the bother. And that's why you need to smother them with seasonings, fat or molasses. But an heirloom bean grown by someone who loves bean is like an heirloom tomato. If you are a bean person, new worlds will open up for you! Check at your local farmers market or grow them yourself and you won't be satisfied with those mass-produced beans again.

A lot has been mentioned about the Quick Soak method. If you are soaking the beans in hot water, you might as well be cooking them, right? Hot water is basically cooking.Fresh beans do not have to be soaked, but I've done side by side comparisons and I do find the soaked had a more even and pleasant texture. The oft quoted McGhee states that 90% of the hydration happens within 2 hours of soaking. I tend to soak in the morning and cook the beans that evening. Or sometimes I don't soak at all.

Re changing the water, for every "scientist" that tells you it causes gas, there's another that tells you it doesn't. I've read the benefits are so minimal that it's not worth doing and potentially you are throwing healthy minerals and flavor down the sink. I don't change the water, but I don't think it's the end of the earth if you want to.

My Operations Manager, Joan, uses a crockpot exclusively. She adds the beans, water and a mirepoix in the morning and comes home to beans ready to eat at night. She doesn't soak. I would recommend an additional 1/2 hour or so with the lid off to make a better "pot liquor", but it's a great method.

I have found salting early makes fresh beans fall apart and old beans tough. That's just been my experience, obviously some of you don't agree. There's a point when the beans aren't quite cooked but the heavenly smell of beans is apparent, not just the aromatics and water. You can tell the beans are about to "give up" and become soft. This is when I salt. But just a few pinches for a pot. it takes a long time for the results of salting to show up.

Re gas. I hate this subject. The more fiberous your diet, the less of an issue it is. If you haven't had beans in a long while, don't down a big bowl of chili. Start small and work your way up. I think the epazote and seaweed and the rest are more effective culinart enhancers than anti-gas methods, but if you think it helps, it couldn't hurt. Also, it sounds self-serving but I think fresher dried beans, like the ones we have at Rancho Gordo, are less gassy. At least that's what people tell me at the farmers market.

I hope I don't sound preachy. I just get nervous when people speak in absolutes about beans. There are so many variables and people have different tastes. Keep in mind that artisan heirloom beans are a different animal than the red kidneys in a dirty bag from the grocery store. Ask your famrers maret manager if anyone's growing beans. Most don't do the variety we do and instead do one or two that thrive in your region.

And keep eating those beans! When you consider the all the flavor, texture, health benefits and tax on the earth with a pound of beans versus a pound cow, it's clear which is the smarter choice. I am not a vegetarian but it would be neat if we were as serious about our vegetables as we are about meat.

Posted by: Steve Sando | February 16, 2008 1:35 PM

I comletely agree with the soaking part in the article. But pressure cooking (not electric rice cooker), takes maximum 15 mts to cook for the bigger and harder varieties of bean. Pressure cooker is also good for multiple other cooking uses, including potatoes, rice etc. try it, it works.

Posted by: Indian | February 16, 2008 2:56 PM

sergio georgini: Try the fake bacon from Morningstar Farms. The first time I made it, it was so real it gave my wife the creeps. If you want to make it authentically greasy, just fry it up in a little too much olive oil. Don't overcook it, though.

Posted by: mwfree | February 16, 2008 3:17 PM

PS: I've been on a low carb diet for about two months. I can't live without beans, though. Just discovered black soy beans. They work great in recipes that call for black beans and they have almost no carbs. They're canned -- I think from Eden or someone like that. I get 'em a Whole Foods or in the hippie food section of the grocery store.

Posted by: mwfree | February 16, 2008 3:26 PM

Make your microwave work for you!
I found directions on a package of black-eyed peas. Can't remember the times exactly, but I used the microwave twice then the electric skillet on simmer. They were great!! And a great method for motor home cooking!!

Posted by: csavferg | February 16, 2008 4:01 PM

Hey Sean,

is it your "hood" because it´s latino...bro? Is that how latinos speak in your mind? If you´d really like to rely on stereotypes I suggest trying "mi barrio" when refering to a latino neighborhood.



Posted by: Chris | February 16, 2008 4:02 PM

Please call me at 240 671 8358 to give you the best recipe for Indian style garbanzo beans. If you are a restaurant owner, introduce this in your restaurant and see your business triple.

Posted by: harry | February 16, 2008 4:49 PM

When I make beans, I soak them in water and refrigerate overnight, no fermentation that way. I also add 1/4 tsp of baking soda to soaking water as my tap water is quite hard. After soaking overnight I preheat my oven to 300 degrees. In a flameproof pot (Le Cruset) I put a couple of garlic cloves, some fresh sage, olive oil, the beans and cover with water about an inch higher than the beans. I put on stovetop and heat until some bubbles just start to break the waters surface, Then cover with lid and put into preheated oven. I bake for an hour. If not quite ready I continue in fifteen minute increments usually 30min. more does the trick for older beans. When cooked through I add coarse ground salt to taste with a little more virgin olive oil. Delicious.

Posted by: fran | February 16, 2008 5:26 PM

Beans are a breeze to cook at sea level or near sea level. It is a different story at 7,300 ft. which is where I live. At sea level I soak a few hours and cook and beans are ready in 3 or so hours. Always add meat and seasoning at end.
The Julia Child recommended fast soak method works as well -- bring water to a boil, drop washed beans in a few at a time so water doesn't stop boiling, let them boil for about 5 minutes, then soak, maybe an hour.
At 7,300 ft. I use the fast soak or the slow soak and the pressure cooker and get reasonable beans, but the beans do tend to break their skins. I don't find that a huge distraction. Better than 8 hours of cooking.
Local Hispanics here in New Mexico but beans in crockpot to simmer for 8 hours. I am not sure if they soak.
Getting fresh beans is not easy around here, but sometimes the groceries sell them in bulk.
I love almost all beans red, white, pinto, black. I am learning to like garbanzo, but they need more seasoning to taste food -- at least to me. Love hummus though!

Posted by: bghgh | February 16, 2008 5:43 PM

Someone asked me how I microwave beans, so here is a recipe copied from Wholefoodsmarket:
Microwave cooking
Combine 1 cup soaked beans and 3 cups water in a 4 quart microwaveable dish. Cover and cook on HIGH for 10 to 15 minutes or until boiling. Stir and microwave on MEDIUM (50% power) for 25 to 35 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes until tender.

This is OK, but it does not take that long, depending on what kind of beans, also how crunchy/mushy you prefer. If I am cooking bean soup, then for the last 3 minutes I add greens, usually fresh weeds like new zealand spinach + pigweed (purslane, portulaca) and some milk, + vegetables like carrots. Also some herbs/spices.

Posted by: kimo re: microwave | February 16, 2008 5:57 PM

Pressure cooker? Why????

Just apply an often overlooked variable: "time"

There is almost negligible effort to make good, tasty beans. In essence, if you want to eat them at 7 PM, then begin the process at 4 PM. After you add water and bring it to a boil and add the beans, then you can you cover 'em and simmer for two hours with hardly any attention. Then add seasonings and you are done. It doesn't get any simpler than that.

Posted by: malolo | February 16, 2008 9:39 PM

Garbanzos or chickpeas do take forever to cook, but once they're done they freeze beautifully.

So cook them in plain salted water til you've got them where you like them and add some fresh lemon juice, then use the can from canned garbazos to measure that exact amount into freezer bags. No liquid needed.
They stack easily and keep for ages. Remember to date the bag.

Posted by: gandolina2 | February 16, 2008 10:19 PM

When I lived in Central Asia, I cooked beans three times a week -- pinto and garbanzo. I experimented with soaking and cooking in various ways.

The gas problem with pinto or black beans seems to be best when you wash the beans, bring them to a boil for a few minutes, then pour out all the water. Then, put them back in the pot with fresh water, spices and salt, and cook on high (rolling boil) for about 2 hours. I don't soak.

Now with garbanzo beans, it's a different story -- those guys are hard as rocks! Put them in a bowl with warm water and a spoon-full of baking soda. In the evening RINSE them really well, then boil. They'll take 45 minutes to an hour.

Posted by: beanie | February 16, 2008 10:30 PM

In my last comment about chickpeas (or garbanzo beans), I meant to say to soak them in the warm/hot water with soda in the morning. Then in the evening, rinse and cook them. They need a good 5-6 hours to soak, but then they really are ready to go.

Posted by: beanie | February 16, 2008 10:40 PM

its easy to cook beans soak them over night, next day saute yor aromatics add salt peper meat what have you, Cover it with water 1 inch over the beans, bring it to boil, shut the stove off wait 30 minutes
bring it back to boil lower the heat let it simer 20 minutes low heat, shut it off wait 20 minutes, bring it backto boil again for another 20 minutes, wait 20 minutes and perfectly cooked beans ready to eat! bona petite!

Posted by: Tye The Turk | February 16, 2008 10:44 PM

I am from Texas, and I never vary from one of the following:

slow soak is at least 4 hours, more like overnight. Rinse completely after the soak and add fresh water. Quick soak is one hour, but you bring to a boil first. Again, rinse is critical.

Then, add salt and a source of fat (usually a ham bone, beef bone, or a ham hock). The fiber in the beans requires a little fat to break down. Also add a couple of shakes of hot sauce. Now cook those bad boys for about 3 or 4 hours. They are cooked sooner, but the broth gets good and thick and flavorful towards the end of that. Add onion and any other ingredients along the way whenever you feel the urge - except that the cilantro in one's charro beans should never be added until close to the end.

I come from a place where adding acid to your beans is a way of life. Just think about what breaks down the beans and/or let them go all day. Mexican beans are a weekend deal, not a work-day dish (for example).

My favorites are limas (butter beans) with a ham bone, or lentils with some bratwursts cooked in towards the end (and plenty of shredded carrot and onion -- YUM!). Oh - and pintos a la charra. Again, some lard would be required to make those properly.

Posted by: Bad Mommy | February 16, 2008 11:34 PM

Super Fast Soaking - Here's my tip. Try it, it works, even for "garbanzos"
Soak beans (3/t times their volume in water).
Boil 2-3 minutes (without salt), remove from heat and let stand 1 hour (or a bit more, for good measure). Meantime, you can prepare the sauce.
THEN, you cook the beans. In the same water, some say, but I rinse it.
I add 1/2 salt for each cup of cooked beans.

Posted by: Marcela, Uruguay | February 17, 2008 5:27 AM

What size pressure cooker and how much water should one use for 1 pound of dried beans?

Beano is not expensive and 4-5 small drops should be used with the first bite of beans. If you eat beans a couple of times a week, you probably won't need the Beano.

I've heard that baking soda destroys some of the nutritional value of dried beans.

Posted by: Dave | February 17, 2008 6:32 AM

I will salt my limas and add the smoked turkey last today. These bean cooking tips are great and so true. I have encountered hard beans or torn beans from the cooking process. And sauteeing the onions is a good tip, I saute onions and garlic alot now b/c onions are hard to digest.

Posted by: Twiggs | February 17, 2008 8:04 AM

Great discussion. Luke32, I remember the Omega Restaurant fondly - I think that's the place you recall. I used to frequent it in the 70's. The best black beans ever, you are so right.

I don't know how they did it. I developed my own method - One dry ancho chile and about a third of a chipotle - dry or canned - with a teaspoon or so of whole cumin per pound of black beans at the beginning, a sofrito of onion and garlic sauteed in a neutral oil at the end, a little meat if you like, and a little cilantro if you like it at the very end.

I don't soak - I've found the main variable in cooking time is the age of the beans and I allow plenty of time when I cook beans in the crock pot or stovetop.

Acid does retard softening. Sometimes I use some stock - about half and half with water - chicken stock for white bean soup, ham stock for baked beans. Haven't noticed a difference in cooking time, but I haven't studied this.

Gas - it's the amount of fiber in the diet that matters. Eat more fiber all the time and the beans won't make any difference.

Posted by: Beaner | February 17, 2008 8:06 AM

The Rancho Gordo site really commodifies bean, which are such an important staple of so many diets. It's great to bring back heirloom varieties, but $4.50+ per pound is prohibitively expensive for anyone without a trust fund.

Posted by: intobeans | February 17, 2008 10:31 AM

How do you cook beans so they don't give you so much gas? I'd hate to have family and friends over for dinner and inadvertently start fart wars at the dinner table :)

Posted by: NoGas4Me | February 17, 2008 3:47 PM

1) Wash beans
2) cover beans with water(2-3 inches), bring to hard boil, boil for at least 2-3 mints, transfer to "Water Jug Thermos" or any thermos which maintains temperature. Within 40 mints beans will be nicely soaked and ready for cooking.
3)Please discard the soaking water, use fresh water to cook the beans,
I use this trick for many time.

Posted by: guest | February 17, 2008 3:48 PM

Adding herb "hing" also helps in less gas


Posted by: guest | February 17, 2008 3:54 PM

I concure
Rancho Gordo, has change the way i think about beans and bean cookery.
No mention in your article about the liqour which is the rsult of having cooked beans. This stuff is solid gold and should not be discarded. Store your beans in this liquid until you use them and then consider using this liquid to amend a stock or soup -- an especially good idea if you are cooking vegetarian.
Beans Rule!

Posted by: Bill | February 17, 2008 5:26 PM

Kim, could you elaborate on your "noble" Rio Zape bean recipe (http://blog.washingtonpost.com/mighty-appetite/2007/04/the_noblest_beans.html)?, and clarify on the quantities? I'm ready to try beans after reading this thread, but am definitely in the contingent that needs a recipe. Thanks!

Posted by: Jenny | February 18, 2008 4:01 PM

This is great -- I make a vegetarian three-bean chili and can never get all three types of beans to turn out right!

Posted by: Margaret | February 18, 2008 6:36 PM

By the way, lard contains a lot of Vitamin D.

Posted by: DC | February 19, 2008 1:09 PM

This is the most intriguing blog entry since polenta! Two things:

1) Earlier I posted that I usually favor canned beans as it's just so simple to open a can of cannelinis to add to my braised escarole, for example, or to make a side dish of refried beans to go with my huevos rancheros on a Sunday. But heck, I've got a slow cooker that I love to use and some great bean recipes, including some excellent ones by Lynne Alley, whom someone mentioned. It's time to make some beans from scratch, especially my favorite garbanzos!

2) Dave, I meant no offense by using the term "hood" in my earlier post. I used it only as shorthand for "neighborhood" cuz (because) sometimes I type/text that way. My [neighbor]hood in Washington, DC is thankfully ethnically and economocially diverse, and I go to the Latino market I mentioned quite frequently, though not for beans anymore!

Posted by: Sean | February 19, 2008 2:27 PM

I would strongly recommend that people read Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions, as well as the article on beans in the Winter 2006 edition of Wise Traditions, the magazine published by the Weston A. Price Foundation.

To sum up the research contained in those publications:

1. Beans should be soaked before cooking, and the water should be thrown out. How long to soak depends on the bean. An ideal soaking time for black beans and kidney beans might be about 24 hours, with a change of water somewhere in there, while with lentils or dried peas, somewhere around 10 hours should suffice. (Note that soaking time depends on the temperature of one's environment; longer in cold environments, shorter in hot.) Soaking makes beans easier to digest, and will go a long way toward preventing gas in people who are prone to it.

2. Some beans benefit from soaking in water that is slightly acidic (e.g. water with vinegar or lemon juice added to it), others from water that is slightly alkaline (e.g. water with baking soda in it). Black beans, fava beans, and lentils, for example, benefit from soaking water that is slightly acidic, while dried and split peas from water that is slightly alkaline. Brown, white, and kidney beans should just be soaked in plain water. If you don't know which to use, just use plain water.

3. Certain legumes, such as lentils and dried peas, are easier to digest than others. Those who don't have the patience to properly prepare them can probably get away with not soaking them, especially if they're going to slow-cook them in broth (the real stuff, not the MSG-laden garbage that comes in a Campbell's soup can).

4. Adding certain herbs and vegetables to both the soaking water and the cooking water can indeed make the beans more digestible and help to reduce flatulance. Three that are mentioned in this thread are kombu (a type of seaweed used by the Japanese), epazote, and carrots. I can't vouch for carrots and epazote, but kombu does contain an enzyme that helps neutralize some of the problematic sugars contained in beans.

5. Proper preparation of beans is less critical for people who are using legumes to supplement a meat-based diet than for people for whom legumes make up an essential part of the diet. Still, soaking is always good practice.

6. Fallon recommends avoiding both canned beans (which aren't as nutritious as properly prepared dried beans), as well as the use of pressure cookers.

7. In addition to soaking beans, Fallon recommends soaking raw nuts in a salt water solution for several hours and then drying them at low heat in an oven (or out in the sun when it's hot and dry), and soaking whole grains (e.g. oats) for several hours in slightly acidic water prior to cooking them. The purpose for doing this is to neutralize phytic acid and enzyme-inhibitors.

8. Picking the skins off chickpeas apparently makes them more digestible.

9. Soy beans that haven't been fermented for a long time, as they are in Japanese miso and tamari sauce, aren't safe for human consumption. Read Kaayla T. Daniel's book The Whole Soy Story for more on this.

10. Eating beans with some kind of animal fat (e.g. lard, butter) as some have recommended in this thread is a good idea.

11. Beans must be relatively fresh, or they will not cook properly. If you've ever bought dried beans, soaked them, cooked them as you normally would, and still they came out hard or "chalky," they've probably been sitting on the shelf (or in a warehouse somewhere) for over a year. Get a refund and go buy your beans somewhere else.

12. Last but not least, it is simply not true that eating beans is "better for the environment" than eating meat. For some perspective on this, read the article The Naive Vegetarian by Barry Groves (in particular the section titled "Animal farming is an efficient use of land"), which can be found online through a search engine.

Posted by: Igor P. | May 8, 2008 9:39 AM

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