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Dec 9, 2007 07:32 PM

Bean expiration dates

After browsing through previous threads on "expiration", and not finding a thread on this subject, I have started (maybe restarted) one.

I recently read two different opinions on cooking beans - one stated that older beans will take longer to cook, and if they are too old, may never get done, and the other said to throw out beans that are older than one year old.

I have various beans in storage (never been used - either still in their same plastic bag originally packaged in (kidney beans, chick peas, lentils, chana dal or split yellow peas, another kind of yellow dal - maybe toor dal - at this point, I'm not sure what I bought!!) or in a glass bottle (split peas). These beans are all at least one year old, and some may go back to previous presidential administrations if you know what I mean.

They still look the same to my unskilled eye - that is, the same color, look, and texture.
Are they still ok to use?

At what point, other than the obvious signals, should beans such as these be tossed?
(I onced cooked chick peas from scractch, and that one long adventure redirected me back to canned beans, that is, until I recently discovered that a pressure cooker can greatly shorten the cooking time.)

And although not directly bean related, the aspect of potential gas exploding got me thinking about my souvenir collection of baking powder and baking soda. Any comments on how long these aids can be used (both are still sealed in their original unopened containers, the powder in a can, the soda in a carton box) before they become ineffective?

If these items are used past their active life span, one's cooking experience could result in a "non-event."

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  1. Dried beans live forever - but do you really want to eat them?
    Everything has a shelf life. The longer the life, the less vibrant they are.
    For $1.79 I toss any of my beans at any point when I can not remember buying that package. The local supplier has a huge turnover. Their beans are the freshest I can find.
    So in general I do not worry about shelf life. I think of a recipe, check my larder, if I find something that is a suprise, I toss it and buy "fresh". Beans are too cheap to sweat!

    1 Reply
    1. re: dancingTimmy

      Exactly my point. I thought that the "vibrancy" life of beans might extend their shelf life longer than other kinds of foods that expire much sooner.

      I just wonder if one year is generally considered the reasonable amount of time to use stored beans. I also wonder if various beans have various life spans, i.e. sturdier beans such as chick peas maintaining their vibrancy longer than other legumes such as brown lentils.

      I have heard that fermented bean products, such as miso, can bre stored indefinitely, and my portion of miso in my refrigerator is going for the record. I'm already past one decade of storage on that food item. I wouldn't want to take a chance on the beans though.

      1. i guess i'm in bad shape for the doomsday beans are old! also, how can beans be vibrant if they are dried?

        1. I only cook beans in the winter, and I just cooked some split peas last night that were leftover from last year--they were plenty "vibrant." My rule of thumb is I smell them. I've definitely had ones that didn't pass that test. However, if your beans from previous presidential administrations were at my house, I would probably cook them from pure nostalgia ...

          1 Reply
          1. re: foiegras

            I just used legumes that have been in my cubboard for at least five years. They were "toor dal", a pea/bean similar to yellow split pea, but a bit smaller and thinner.

            The recipe I used (and this was the FIRST time I ever made this dish) said that it would take about 20 to 40 minutes to cook the toor dal in water that was left to simmer after the initial boiling. After 4 minutes, there was still water in the pot. (I used a converted ratio of 2 cups of water for the 1/2 cup of toor dal.) I only added a small amount of salt and turmeric to the dal at the beginning of the boiling. I did rinse the dal, also, several times, until the water was clear.

            Perhaps the 20 to 40 minute time referred to dal that was soaked overnight, but I had read that only the larger beans need to be soaked so as to quicken the time for cooking.

            If in fact, as it has been said, that older beans do take longer to cook, this might be an example of such an example. After about 1 1/4 hour, most of the water had been absorbed by the dal.

            For a one serving dish, I would not want to do this every time I wanted to cook this dish!! (Thus, the consideration for a pressure cooker!) I simply added some spices that were cooked in heated ghee to the dal, added some cilantro and heated mustard seeds, and I found that I had discovered a new vegetarian dish that I could make that was satisfying, warming, and similar to what I have had elsewhere.

            My other older beans that inherently take longer to cook, such as kidney beans and chick peas, may also require the time for them to be cooked. I guess the rule of thumb is that an older bean may take longer to allow water to be absorbed into it.
            I'd think logic would say the opposite - that its older age would break down resistance to an external force and thus should take LESS time to absorb water, and thus "break down" sooner.

          2. In a similar vein - how to tell if kidney beans are still fresh, or ok? I took out my two packages of kidney beans (light red) that were in storage for more than a few years. I soaked 1/2 cup of beans in water for about 7 hours. When I opened the lid, I saw a few skins had separated from the beans, and most of the skins looked shriveled, and it didn't take much effort to separate the skins from the bean, leaving what looked like cashews!
            Some of the beans were split open, and they felt soft. I didn't know if that texture and result was from oversoaking them or simply because they were old and didn't have much life energy left in them to deal with the seven hours of water immersion.

            I opened up my other bag of beans, and pressure cooked them for 5 minutes and let a natural release take place before looking at the beans. The bean skins were not as shriveled as the first bunch, and only a few had split open.

            I took a chance and proceeded to pressure cook them for fifteen minutes with a clove of garlic and a bay leaf for seasoning. I followed cooking with a natural release, which took about ten minutes. The result were beans that were softer than I would have liked, yet when I added them later to turkey chili (canned), the beans toughened up and were of desirable consistency.

            Two questions - do fresh kidney beans pre-soaked for seven hours typically split, have skin shriveling, and feel soft, or are these symptoms of less than fresh beans?

            Is it normal for beans that although feeling soft and mushy after pressure cooking, when added to another dish, such as turkey chili, in my case, which I heated mildly in a stock pot for about five minutes, then toughen up to desirable consistency?

            I was very tempted to throw out the bag that the first bunch of beans came from given the look of the shriveled skins. I've never cooked kidney beans from scratch, so I don't know what they should look like after pre-soaking for hours. There must be some rule of thumb for the look of beans in general that have been subjected to pre-soaking for hours ... namely, what is the look of fresh vs. old? (When MY skin is subjected to water for long times of immersion, IT, too, looks shriveled!!)

            2 Replies
            1. re: FelafelBoy

              Forgot to add that during the pre-soaking I added a little baking soda. That probably didn't help to keep the skins in tact or their surface from shriveling. Next time, I will leave it out.

              1. re: FelafelBoy

                Skins that split off during soaking or cooking indicate old beans. Nothing dangerous about them, just a little lower nutrient value. Acids like wine and tomato toughen the skins of ANY vegetable. No surprise that your beans firmed up when they hit the chili.

                Out of scientific curiosity, I once soaked and cooked white beans that had been in a glass jar for over a decade after having been used a few times as pie weights. They took a LONG time to cook and had no flavor of their own, but I used them as part of a soup.