HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
What have you made lately? Tell us about it

why don't my beans ever get tender?

Danimal Aug 31, 2006 01:55 AM

I have been simmering split peas for two hours now. I gave them a long soak before I started. Why aren't they soft?

  1. Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. w
    Wisco Aug 31, 2006 02:03 AM

    Maybe they were too old? Beans (and I'm guessing peas) get old, and then they won't ever get super-tender.

    1. r
      rainey Aug 31, 2006 02:06 AM

      That's weird! Split peas don't require special handling (or a soak) and should cook to soft within 20 minute or half an hour.

      Did you, by chance, use these split peas to blind bake a pie shell? Did you buy them from someone who might have had them a l-o-n-g time?

      I'd buy some new ones and try it again. Or, if it's a nothing-to-lose situation at this point, transfer them to a pressure cooker and see what happens. Just do it in short increments if you don't want to end up with a purée.

      1. Dommy Aug 31, 2006 04:50 AM

        I think it was the soak that did them in. I soaked some golden peas once, and the starch leeched out and when I boiled them they became wooden! :P In fact, my first split pea soup was such a disaster I had to share on the board...LOL!!


        Next time, just plan for a long simmer...


        1. j
          j2brady Aug 31, 2006 01:54 PM

          Did you add salt to the cooking water? This will toughen up beans and pulses if added while cooking.


          3 Replies
          1. re: j2brady
            Kagey Aug 31, 2006 04:45 PM

            That's actually a myth. Acid, like tomatoes, will keep the skins of beans intact, but salt won't prevent them from getting soft. After reading about this here once, I did some research, and also tested the theory with some black beans. There wasn't an appreciable difference in cooking time between salted and unsalted!

            I think the problem must have been old beans.

            1. re: Kagey
              j2brady Aug 31, 2006 06:32 PM

              I didn't know that. I have read about it so many places as well. I had also read that adding kombu (seaweed) helps to soften?? I suppose that is also a falsehood?


              1. re: j2brady
                Kagey Sep 4, 2006 09:17 AM

                I hadn't heard about the seaweed thing.

                One thing that definitely does work is soaking with bicarb (baking soda). Actually, one of Nigella's recipes calls for soaking chickpeas overnight in water into which you've stirred a paste of 1 part bicarb to 2 parts flour and 2 parts salt. After doing that, I found that my chickpeas cooked to done in half an hour--faster than I'd ever experienced with a normal water soak by far.

                Generally, chick peas are the only dried beans that I soak, since they can take forever when you try to cook them from dry. I don't have that problem with other beans.

          2. adamclyde Aug 31, 2006 02:09 PM

            not applicable to split peas as much, since you don't have to worry about those outside of the beans the same you do with other things, but acidity can play a big role in toughening beans. Salt, I believe, has been proven to not have an effect on beans, but I know that acidity does. the more acid, the tighter the "skin" of the beans is. the more base it is, the more those skins break down and they become mushier. So, when someone wants really soft beans that break down well, you can add a bit of baking soda. If you want to have clean unbroken skins, simmer very mildly and for a long time, but add some tomato or a touch of lemon.

            All that said, I don't think any of this had any bearing on your issue... just reminded me of all of this. I think I'd go with the first posters' thought that they were probably very old.

            1. JMF Aug 31, 2006 06:35 PM

              I was just reading Herve This's book, Molecular Gastronomy. He found that lentils (and I assume peas) won't get soft if cooked in hard water. He added sodium bicarbonate to the water to negate the acid/hardness and they cooked up nice and soft.

              3 Replies
              1. re: JMF
                cheryl_h Aug 31, 2006 06:40 PM

                Cook's Illustrated and Alton Brown both say this too. Salt has no effect, pH does.

                1. re: cheryl_h
                  j2brady Aug 31, 2006 06:41 PM

                  But doesn't salt affect pH?


                  1. re: j2brady
                    cheryl_h Aug 31, 2006 06:43 PM


              2. d
                deanna_kay Sep 4, 2006 01:52 PM

                I have the same problem -- I can soak and cook beans for days and they will never get soft. Finally discovered the problem -- hard water. The first time I added baking soda to the water, I added about a half teaspoon to a pot. Boy oh boy did those beans soften up. They were MUSH! So, do use the baking soda but only use a tiny bit - maybe a quarter teaspoon to a pot. You might try some bottled drinking water, if you find that easier. Maybe I'll just stick with canned beans.

                1. z
                  Zaney Janey Sep 25, 2006 07:01 PM

                  Can one add baking soda to a cooked bean soup recipe to soften up hard beans? Or is the baking soda only effective when first soaking them overnight? I may try it since I've got nothing to lose at this point! (Except hard beans...)

                  Show Hidden Posts