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Jun 28, 2005 08:52 PM

Soaking beans overnight (Originally posted on General Topics)

  • m

Recipes for beans always tell me to soak beans overnight. Am I seriously supposed to put the beans in the water at midnight, before I go to bed and leave them there until I'm ready to cook dinner the next night at 6 or 7 or 8? I know that's not right. Do they really mean soak the beans for about 8 hours? 10? 12? Why the overnight instruction?

Oh help! How long to soak dried beans?

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  1. It really doesn't make any appreciable difference. I just put them on before I go to bed and then cook them whenever I'm ready the next day. If it makes you feel better you can keep the bowl in the refrigerator. I just leave mine on the counter.

    1. As others have said, you don't have to be that exact about it. I assume they say to soak overnight since you may forget the next morning before you leave for work or errands. When I made cassoulet this winter, I sometimes just soaked my Great Northern beans in the AM of the day I made it. Worked fine.

      I just recently started cooking my own beans, and interestingly, Rick Bayless (whom I trust) says that he doesn't soak beans anymore. Hence, none of his bean recipes instruct to soak beans. He acknowledges that we've been told that soaking makes beans more digestable, but says that there's no real evidence that it makes a big difference. It may reduce cooking time by 30-60 min., but often times bean dishes benefit from long, slow cooking. All of the Mexican cooks he's met have never soaked their beans.

      So...European-based dishes will probably say to soak and Mexican-based dishes may not. For me, I'll follow what that particular recipe recommends; however, I take comfort in knowing that soaking is pretty flexible.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Carb Lover

        i think it depends on the bean. i find that soaking chickpeas cuts down the cooking time significantly, but isn't really necessary with black eyed peas or black beans. for me, it's not really about the gas, just the cooking time. last time i tried cooking chickpeas from dried, it took hours. seemed a huge waste of time and energy. i often leave them soaking in the fridge for 24 hours or more. works well for me.

        1. re: kristen
          Hungry Celeste

          Yes, you should soak them all night. More than 12 hours is fine, so you don't have to WORRY about how long they've been underwater. Just put 'em in a big bowl and cover with lots of water--the beans will soak up a fair amount while they're soaking. When you're ready to cook them, pour off the soaking water and proceed with your recipe.

          I ALWAYS soak black beans & chickpeas, as they take forever to cook, even with a soak. To me, the soaking is essential for the proper creamy texture of New Orleans style red beans and cajun white beans, but I don't soak dried black eyed-peas, pintos, lentils, split peas, or field peas. If your beans are really old (sometimes a problem if your store's stock doesn't turn over frequently), the soaking will definitely shorten the cooking time.

          Beans are nothing more than dried out seeds; soaking loosens the seed coat and begins the softening process. My daddy skips the soaking; he prefers the "boil hard for 20 minutes, change the water, and start the recipe" method.

          Beans rock; they're an essential part of most major cuisines. Homemade beans are worth the trouble and are a great, cheap, make-in-quantity food that freezes so well.

          1. re: kristen

            I agree that it may not help in reducing gas, but I soak the beans to reduce cooking time as you stated but also to be easier to be cleaner. I change the water serveral times to remove dirt and other things from the beans. We make bean soup in the winter and so we soak a lot of beans.

            The water color will change for fairly muddy to start and the last change is clear. About 8 hours is the normally the time we soak the beans.

        2. As others have said, once you've soaked over about 4 hours it doesn't really matter. There's also a sped-up method in which you bring water to a boil, take it off the heat and soak the beans in the hot water for an hour.

          That said, I no longer soak beans before cooking them. I'm able to get fresher beans and have found that they do not need soaking at all. However, I don't tend to make chickpeas, so I can't speak for how they're best prepared.

          Harold McGee writes about this debate in "On Food and Cooking," which you might want to check out.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Millicent

            Boiling, then soaking for an hour is what I always do. I have never bothered with the overnight soaking, and my beans always turn out fine!

          2. Here's a nice link that tells us all we need to know about soaking beans and cooking times, flatulance, etc.


            4 Replies
            1. re: Nancy Berry

              To soak or not to soak - that IS the question! When I first started making my Mom's Minnesota Baked Beans recipe I always soaked the Great Northern Beans - now, I never soak them, ever. Some say if you soak beans overnight the skins will be softer - balderdash! Skins will always soften by two methods: heat & time! If the skins on your beans don't get soft over a long cooking time check your recipe. Too much acid will cause this problem, as will too much salt. There is another debate that soaking beans, especially with baking soda, will reduce the byproduct of eating the beans: flatulence! Poppycock! Beans cause gas based on the fibrous content of the bean and the only way of avoiding this problem is by using Beano, a pill you can take to decrease this effect, OR just don't eat the beans! Not an option for me, I got over my self long ago. I treat it like smoking a cigarette - just step outside for some fresh air! The REAL reason why I never soak my beans overnight is simply FLAVOR! Think about it: you soak the beans, they fill up with, what? Water! I don't know about you but water doesn't have a whole lot of flavor. Instead, I pour 2 pounds of beans out onto a baking sheet and pick out the "stones", mishapened and discolored bad beans, and rinse the cleaned beans in a colendar. I get out my bean pot and preheat the oven to 325 degrees and get the kettle of water boiling. Peel two medium onions and slice into 1/4" rings. I get a half pound of bacon and cut the strips into 1" chunks. I get out katsup, molasses, brown sugar and dry mustard and set them on the counter next to the oven. Take half of the beans, place them in the pot, top with half the oinions, ketsup, bacon, sugar, molasses and mustard. Repeat this process and insert a metal or wooden spoon into the beans. Why a metal or wooden spoon? This will help absorb the boiling hot water I pour into the pot to cover the beans! Remove the spoon, cover with heavy duty foil and place them in the oven to bake. Get some more water to boil because after about 45 minutes cooking time the beans will absorb the water and will need more boiling water, and another dosage of sugar, katsup, molasses and mustard - how much? That is up to you. About 3 or 4 more hours later and you've got some tasty beans! Here's my point: as the beans tank up on the hot water they are also filling up with all those flavors. Flavors that may not work their way in to watered-down beans! Also, what's the best device to cook pinto beans in? A crock pot! Yes, that's right. Dried beans go into the crock; salt, cumin and coriander go in on top; and hot boiling water all over everything. Cover, set to HIGH and walk away, don't think too much, don't breath too heavy. Come back in an hour and add more boiling water and let it go for 2 to 3 hours on HIGH, 2 to 3 hours on LOW - and you're done!
              Okay, I've said my piece - now go cook some beans! And, open a window!

              1. re: grizzbar

                Thanks so much. Liked that you took some time to really explain. I will try to make mine meatless though. I will soak my pintos tonight in fridge with herbs from my garden and a some you mentioned and a cajun spice pack, all together in cold water to see if the flavor will absorb like you said.
                I will cook them slowly in afternoon tomm., and will add to that heaping pot of Pintos some rosemary-jalapeno cornbread to go with.
                Maybe sneak a tsp. of bacon fat in there if I really must! Time and tastings will tell!
                THX! Soupa Dupa

                YUM YUM!

                1. re: soupadupacook

                  I also cook mostly vegetarian. An awesome way to add flavor to beans is add a couple tablespoons of dried toasted onion. Penzey's on Rockville Pike sells wonderful dried onions.

                  BTW, the only beans I soak are chickpeas, because that cuts down cooking time dramatically. It's really not necessary to soak anything else.

                  1. re: Transplanted Texan

                    Oh thanks, but mt Mom always did soak them and I just felt like it for the heck of it, soooo....just trying it to see the difference if any! I'd be just as happy opening a can of pintos and making a quick batch of cornbread, very happy girl for that too, but of course I've got to jazz it up and and see what I can come up with a pot from scratch! Soupadupacook

            2. The only thing I haven't seen said is that if it's very warm weather and you expect them to soak for much more than 8-12 hours, you might want to soak 'em in the fridge. The slight fermentation you get otherwise (increasing over time) won't really affect the flavor of the beans if it's within reason and you rinse them before cooking), but it's pretty a off-putting smell to have permeating the kitchen.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MikeG

                Thank you for this. I soaked Great Northern Beans for 18 hours, and changed the water twice, using warm =water. The fermentation that resulted had a disgusting smell. I rinsed them well before cooking. I was quite concerned, and appreciate your comment. They are about to go in the oven.