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Nov 8, 2006 02:52 PM

cooking dry cannelini beans?

anyone know any tricks? I have such a hard time getting them all to cook to the same degree of doneness at the same time. some come out hard, other mushy ...

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  1. I haven't had that problem, but I'd definitely suggest soaking for at least a day in water with a teaspoon or so of baking soda. That helps to soften them. Also, make sure you're buying beans that haven't been sitting around too long. They never get soft.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Kagey

      baking soda--that's a new one to me. does it impact the flavor at all?

      1. re: Daniel Duane

        No, the flavor isn't changed. Beans cook faster in alkali solutions. Baking soda raises the pH of your soaking (or cooking) water so will cause the beans to break down faster. You need to watch them because they can turn mushy on you.

        Personally I don't use baking soda but I usually cook beans in a pressure cooker. You get some variation in the final product, some beans are softer than others but overall they're fine.

    2. I have also struggled with white beans, until I finally realized that every recipe I have used has tomatoes added early on in the process. The acid apparently interferes with beans becoming tender. (actually, this entire post is helpful)

      1. The baking soda was an old wives tale to help eliminate gas. Are you buying the beans from a bulk bin? If so, some older beans may have been mixed in with the fresher beans. It is better to buy in pkgs. with a definite date on them. The old beans are always going to take either much longer to or may never soften.

        Instead of the over night soak I prefer the fast method which is to pick over and wash the beans and then put them in a pot and cover with boiling water and cover and allow to stand an hour. Then drain cover with fresh water and what ever seasonings and cook slowly. Some feel salting beans before they are done touoghens them. I usually resist salting until they are done or almost done but when you cook them up with a ham bone or smoked hock some salt is going to get in there anyway.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Candy

          Baking soda actually does help break down the beans while soaking. I've done quite a lot of research and experimentation on this and found that it does work. I've also found that it's a myth that salting prevents beans from softening. Acid (like in tomatoes) helps keep the outer skin of the bean intact, which doesn't necessarily prevent beans from softening, but helps them to remain separate rather than turn mushy.

        2. Do you cook them on the stovetop or in the oven? I find that cooking them in a slow oven yields the best results if you want them to retain their structure. No need to stir - only breaks them up.