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How make soft beans?

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 
Hi,

When I cook beans I never get them as soft as I would like no matter how long I cook them.

I usually make black beans, red beans or pink beans. I'm starting with dried beans in a plastic bag, usually Goya brand.

Basically I just boil them straight through for whatever length of time or try some variation of soaking and boiling. Sometimes I soak them first. I've tried boiling them briefly, then soaking them for several hours, then cooking them. I've tried not adding salt until they were mostly cooked. I usually but don't always add onions, garlic, bay leaf and/or whatever. All just variations on boiling though.

Do you know how Campbells canned beans are? I'd like to get them soft like that.

Can someone share how it's done? How does Campbell's do it? Do I have to bake them or something?

Cheers. :smiles:
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post #2 of 34
My authority for beans and their cooking is my pal Rancho Gordo. He says:
  • Soaking is helpful, but not absolutely necessary.
  • If you do soak, don't do it for too long (check out the blog for more information)
  • When you are ready to cook the beans, make sure they are covered with at least one inch of water.
  • Bring the beans to a hard boil, boil for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer.
  • Simmer until the beans are done; this can take a lot of time, or only a little, depending on the type of bean and how old it is.
That last bit is more important than you might think. Odd as it sounds, fresher dried beans cook up better than old, stale dried beans. A lot of times, supermarket beans are old. :( They've been sitting around in the store or in a warehouse longer than they should. That makes them even drier and tougher.

The other important thing is to simmer them, not cook them at a constant boil. Treat them gently and they will be tender. And be patient -- you can't rush them. They will tell you when they are done, if you ask nicely. :o

Finally, I trust Rancho Gordo's suggestions about not adding salt or acidic ingredients until the very end. There's a lot of debate in the food science world about when to add salt, but when I cook beans the RG way, they are yummy -- and that's what matters. :D
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #3 of 34

soft beans

I don't know anyone who died from B vitamin deficiency because he or she put baking soda in the bean pot when they were being cooked. I've read all that stuff about salt, acidic ingredients and other recycled unhelpful advice on how to cook beans.

Stop fooling around, measure 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for every cup of dry beans and toss it in the pot. I throw in a 1/2 teaspoon of salt (more at the table when I'm eating) to prevent beans from being unpalatable. Your beans will be like marshmallows well before 90 minutes of very slow simmering. If you don't care about them falling apart, you don't have to keep on simmer.
post #4 of 34
You can also use a pressure cooker.

Another issue is altitude. I remember watching a cooking show once and they were at a ski resort in Colorado above 10000 feet. They basically had to reinvent cooking.

Bread rise and quick bread behavior was radically different as were cakes and cookies of course.

And the only way to cook the beans was in a pressure cooker. The boiling point was low enough that the beans wouldn't cook.

I use a pressure cooker for cooking beans for the time factor. I can cook a pot of beans in an hour start to finish. Black beans need about 40 minutes at 15 pounds, red beans about 45 and pintos about 50 minutes. Those won't be as soft as campbells, so add another 5 minutes if you want them that soft.

The pressure cooker sets the same pressure regardless of altitude so things cook the same every time everywhere.

No fussing with soaking or getting things going a day before hand.

And it cooks risotto in 6 minutes with no stirring.
post #5 of 34
So, is there any way to tell if beans are old or fresh? I generally buy my grains and cereals in bulk, and I'd like to try my hand at making my own beans rather than buying canned. Even though I can sometimes see when the beans are added to the bins, I still don't know how long they've been in transit. How old is considered too old?

Shel
post #6 of 34
Please treat your beans gently.
Suzannes info is spot on. SIMMER!! Boiling beans is like 2000 people on a 20X20 dance floor. The outsides will be shredded and the insides will still want to dance. NO salt(baking soda) if you do add some epizote. The salt will make the skins tough and will hold the sugars that produce well you know:p. If soaking also rinse a few times to get rid of the little sugars. Grocery store beans can be years old. Soaking helps. Treat your beans nice:D
bean lover

Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
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Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
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post #7 of 34
I don't know if there is a way to tell by looking at the beans or using any of the other senses. I'd say find a reputable store and stick with it. Buying from bulk stock, the more rapidly the product is turned the fresher the beans are likly to be. But ulimately the proof is in the eating. If your beans cook up well in a reasonable time they are good enough I'd say.

I live in the Mission District in San Francisco which, for those who don't know, is the Hispanic neighborhood and there is no shortage of good fresh beans.

Jock
post #8 of 34
Heres the Rancho Gordo way video for you.. Gotta love the background music! :lol:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66QitcX5pcI

Do check out the Rancho Gordo website that Suzanne posted..
Lots of good info..
post #9 of 34
Oops! I posted the no talking one! Here we go.. :D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZL33lKs5cng&NR
post #10 of 34
Thread Starter 
Hi bigfoot. I never heard of using baking soda with beans. I'll try it. Why do you even mention about vitamin B? Does baking soda affect the nutritional content?

Cheers.
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post #11 of 34
Thread Starter 
Hi phatch,

No problem with altitude. I'm at about 150' ASL. I don't have a pressure cooker, but I'll keep that in mind for the future. Maybe it would pay for itself in reduced gas costs.

Cheers.
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post #12 of 34
Thread Starter 
Hi Suzanne,
Rancho has some nice recipes there. I've bookmarked him. He reminded me to make some refried beans next time which I haven't done in a while. They are great.

I do keep the beans only on a simmer once they've come to a boil.

I'll try finding some beans somewhere other than where I've been buying them lately and see if I luck into any fresher ones. There are a lot of Hispanics around here in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, so I think the beans ought to be moving off the shelves pretty quickly. I haven't usually been buying them in a Spanish deli though. I'll make a point of doing that next time.

Cheers.
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post #13 of 34
Thread Starter 
Hi panini,
I've heard not to put salt in until the end. I've tried it both ways and haven't noticed a difference.

Why do you say not to add baking soda? Does it have the same effect as salt? I'd never heard about adding baking soda anyway until Bigfoot mentioned it above.

That epizote looks pretty interesting (I Goggled it.) I'll see if I can get some. Oh, the spelling I came up with is epazote. :)

Cheers
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post #14 of 34
Thread Starter 
Hi Joyfull,
That's a cool video. I like that clay pot he was using. He had a special name for it, but I misssed it.
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post #15 of 34
Shel:

Buy your dried beans at a Hispanic market. The beans won't sit around there for more than a day or two. At your suburban megamart? Could be years.
post #16 of 34
That seems like pretty good advice. I do like to buy organic whenever possible, so I think I'll check with the people at the local organic markets and see how much turnover they get with their beans. In addition, there is a new Hispanic section that's developed near me. A lot of shops have opened recently, so it's definitely time to explore that area as well.

For the most part, I don't shop at supermarkets, usually just specialty shops and farmer's markets. An exception might be the local Trader Joe's for some specific items, likewise Whole Foods for certain items.

Shel
post #17 of 34
My test for "how old is too old" for packaged beans is: if there's dust on them, they're too old. :eek: Seriously.

I would trust a Hispanic grocery more than Whole Foods, though -- buy where people who use the product shop. And goodness knows, Sunset Park has lots of Mexicans now. :D Tom -- do you have a source for fresh tortillas, too?

I'm glad you guys like RG -- he's a real sweetie, and boy oh boy, he knows his beans. They are more expensive than supermarket beans, but the difference in flavor is worth it. And you should taste his popcorn! :lips:
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #18 of 34
Jock-
What's a Scottish boy doing in a hispanic neighborhood? LOL (not teaching anymore? "at home cook" now?)

Want to know how fresh the bulk are- ask a store employee- perhaps you can actually find out who stocks the bins...???

I always soak my beans overnite and then throw them into the crockpot all day- they come out wonderful!
Bon Vive' !
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Bon Vive' !
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post #19 of 34
Tom,
The salt or baking soda will make the skins tuff. Here in Texas we have access to fresh beans so it makes a bigger difference then if the beans were old to begin with. The salt will also trap those little sugars in the skin that will go crazy:crazy: in the intestines causing rumbling and agida.
I can't believe I made a spelling error with epazote, at one time, Cape Chef and I were the best epicurion spellers around:lol: sorry Tom, inside joke
pan

Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
Paninicakes.com

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Never! Live To Work!:::::::Work To Live!::Life Is Too Short!!
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post #20 of 34
Okay, heres even more bean stuff to read! An article by Jeffery Steingarten.. I thought it was pretty interesting..

http://rec.mailarchive.ca/food.cooki...-04/12838.html
post #21 of 34
When it comes to the food I eat, and what I feed my cats, I don't "trust" any source. I take the time to carefully examine claims as best I can. In general, WF is just another supermarket.

Shel
post #22 of 34
I got to agree with Panini, absolutly no salt at the begining, and simmer your beans.

I like to add a big nugget of butter in my beans.

When i reheat them, I use the cooking juice and some beans in a small skillet and i add butter again to make a creamy sauce that coats my beans.
post #23 of 34
The amount verbiage devoted to cooking beans is staggering. Somebody once said a 100 years never add salt or acidic to beans until they're cooked because it would toughen them. For 100 years thereafter, 100 alleged experts keep repeating that advice.

For an equally long time, budding cooks gave been advised not to add baking soda to beans because it softens them too much (true, if you use too much), and also that the soda destroys some elements in the B vitamin complex — this is true, but the amount is not anymore notable than the carnage that occurs normally in all cooking practices.

I like soft beans that have lost their individuality — when they don't, I smash them with a spoon against the side of my pot. I use very little soda — 1/4 tsp. per cup of beans. Finally, I wish to say the it's no myth that tomatoes and such will toughen beans — I throw in my tomato sauce at the very end. Salt, if it's added at the very end, will never overcome the absolutely awful taste of beans so mistreated. I toss in my 1 tsp of salt (to 1 cup of dry beans) as soon as the beans are beginning to heat up.

You'll feel indebted to me for life after you next pot of beans.
post #24 of 34
First, I've recently had my best results ever with dried beans using a slow cooker. On low, with salt & a bay leaf, unsoaked, w/ about 2 1/4x water (eg w/ 2 inches of beans in the cooker, water up to 5 inches.) Start checking them at about 8 hours. Perfectly tender yet still had some tooth, & almost no burst beans - burst beans have been the main problem I've had in the past. I've done this with black beans & garbanzos so far. It does take a long time but there is ZERO effort once you turn that thing on.

Second, I read in some CI thing recently that old dried beans are wrinkly when soaked. Presumably that only helps you in terms of the future (buy your beans somewhere else; know that old bean syndrome may be why this particular dish doesn't turn out perfectly...)

Third, I busted out the McGee to see what he says about stuff in cooking water: hard water can slow or prevent softening. Acidic liquids slow the softening process; alkaline liquids have the reverse effect. Salt slows the rate at which they absorb water, but they do eventually absorb it & soften. Presoaking in salted water (2 tsp/qt) greatly speeds cooking. Baking soda @ 1tsp/qt can reduce cooking time by nearly 75%. BUT the alkalinity of baking soda can give an unpleasant slippery mouth feel & soapy taste, & salted water [can] favor a mealy internal texture over a creamy one.

FWIW.
The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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The genesis of all the world's great cuisines can be summed up in a four word English phrase: Don't throw that away.
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post #25 of 34
That sounds interesting about the vital facts concerning

the vitamins and nutrients.Well thanks there for the information.
post #26 of 34
Thread Starter 
I made a bag of mixed beans the other day and I soaked them for about 12 hours before cooking them which I never did before, and they cooked up better and softer. I want to try it again with a single bean before I draw any conclusions though.
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post #27 of 34
My grandma always put baking soda in the beans while they soaked. She said it was to wash the farts off 'em. I never thought it helped any.
post #28 of 34
Tom, do I understand correctly. You've never soaked dried beans before?

That would explain your problem. There are two ways of prepping dry beans: long soak and fast soak.

The long soak usually works best. Wash the beans, pick over them, put in a pot, and cover with at least an inch of water. Let them soak overnight. Longer soaking is ok, but monitor them closely because after about 24 hours they'll start to ferment.

Drain the beans. Cover with fresh water. Bring to boil. Simmer until soft.

The so-called fast soak method works, but not nearly as well in my experience. For it, wash and pick over the beans. Cover with seveal inches of water. Bring to boil. Let boil at least ten minutes. Cover the pot. turn off heat. Let sit at least two hours.

Drain the beans, add new water, and cook as above.

To reduce the flatulence-causing nature of beans several things have been tried, with more or less success. Baking soda is one of them. Another is a pinch of epozote.

Why do they work? There are starches in beans that are neither water soluble nor soluble in the human body. What happens is that they ferment passing through the GI tract, producing gas as a by-product. Baking soda and epozote make those starches water-soluble, and they dissolve in the cooking water.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Other things to consider:

1. The older the beans, the longer they take to cook. One reason most recipes have far-too-long cooking times is to account for this.

2. Mixed beans are usually not a good idea, because the various parts of the mix have different cooking times. Let's say your mix contains both kidney beans and lentils (as many do). By the time the kidney's are cooked the lentils will be mush.

3. Beans can be substituted, one for another, in most recipes. This will bring visual and taste changes, of course, sometimes suble, sometimes dramatic. But it's fun to fool around. Try, for instance, using Black Turtles instead of Kidney's in your next batch of refried beans.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #29 of 34
My bean experience is limited but I have passed the learning curve.

I was wondering why nobody was mentioning soaking overnight. All my trials of trying to cook up beans the same day gave me inconsistent results. the long soak is the only way to go.

Why? because the coating around beans hydrate slowly to prevent the bean inside from germinating too quickly after a freak early spring storm. The mechanism to hydrate a bean requires time. It cannot be rushed.
(if soaked overnight salting or bicarb in beans during cooking is quite irrelevant)

KYH explains it very well. (The mix bean comment is so true... not one bean cooks the same... why do people always try to mix them and cook then together?)

(having gas when eating beans is a sign you do not eat them regularly enough. Inuline (a starch) is indigestible by humans. Bacteria can digest it but some make gas as a byproduct and others don't. The ones that don't make gas are beneficial bacteria that provide vital nutrients during digestion and help make your insulin work more efficiently. If your gut had more of the non-gas producers then it has a healthier bacterial profile).

So eat beans and toot away until you toot no more!

Luc H
I eat science everyday, do you?
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I eat science everyday, do you?
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post #30 of 34
That's a very good point, Luc, one that I should have made. The more beans you eat, the more beans you can eat without discomfort.

People don't realize how the body's intenstinal flora changes to accomodate what's being eaten regularly. I guarantee, for instance, that the way meats were treated in the 18th and 19th centuries would make most of us sick today. But it didn't bother those folks at all, because their GI tracts could handle it.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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