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Red Beans and Rice--Presoak or no?

I have an old New Orleans Junior League cookbook with what looks like a good recipe for red beans and rice. They don't say to soak the beans beforehand, but just to cook them for 2.5 hours. Does this make sense? Package directions say to soak the beans overnight, and then cook for 1.5 hours. Is an extra hour enough to make up for not soaking?

I am irritable and tentative about cookbooks and beans right now because I made a bean soup recipe recently from a French cookbook that had you add 2 cups of wine to the cooking water. The acidity made the beans take 6 hours to cook so I had to come up with something else for dinner. Being Friday tomorrow and all, I'd just as soon not have to think fast.

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  1. Soak those beans over night first. Or if this message reaches you too late, you can do a quick soak where you put the beans and water in a pot, bring it up to a boil for 5 minutes, then take it off the heat and leave them to soak for a 45 min -2 hours. The freshness of your dried beans will come into play for your soak time, meaning the fresher your dried bean, the less time it takes to get them soft enough. Sometimes those Junior League books assume as certain amount of knowledge on the part of the cook when they give a recipe, but unless they are lentils, I say the rule of thumb is to always pre-soak beans.

    1. Tonight we had a batch of Buster Holmes' red beans and rice. The beans were washed (per the recipe), cooked for approx 2 hrs and came out perfectly: tender-soft, intact, not disintegrated and tasty. FYI - I used small red beans.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Sarah

        Are you the only other person in the world besides me that has Buster Holmes' cookbook? If so, nice to meet you!

        1. re: Clarkafella

          I hope you two realize just how much those cookbooks are worth!

          1. re: Clarkafella

            I've got it too, and now you're going to send me looking for the recipe. My method is based on his one with the "Sauternes" (obvoiusly I assume he means the domestic 'jug wine' version that I used to see about 30 years ago, not the real thing. I usually use whatever non-acidic white I have on hand sweetened with apple juice). That one has you soak the beans with the wine, worchestershire sauce, hot sauce, onions, maybe a few other things, overnight and then cook the beans the next day with all that and some salt pork. At least, that's what I recall...

            1. re: Clarkafella

              No, not a possessor of said book, sorry to say. Got the recipe the old fashioned way, via google. But it's still nice to meet you!

          2. I'm an advocate of not soaking beans. I find it unnecessary. Beans will cook fine without soaking. It may take a little longer but it climates the hassle and extra step of soaking. If cooking in a conventional method like a heavy pot, the oven will make your life easier. Beans on the stove will need to be monitored and stirred. In the oven the temperature is much more steady and you can put them in and forget about them for a couple of hours. Do check them for doneness. The only beans I soak are garbanzo beans prior to making falafel and then you just soak without cooking.

            I also wanted to add that you can salt your water before cooking so the beans will have better flavor. Salt will not prevent beans from cooking. ACID will in fact keep beans from cooking. That's why your beans too 6 hrs to cook. Add acid at or near the end.

            1. If you want them to cook faster; soak 'em. Otherwise, it isn't necessary.

              1. I have always soaked my beans, just because I thought they were better. Well last week, I wanted beans and I wanted them now. I boiled them hard, for a couple hours. Then went on and make them as I normally do. Guess what? They were terrific.
                I usually soak overnight and cook in the crockpot. I probably will continue to do it this way, but absolutely if you don't want to wait, they will be just fine. Just don't salt the water.

                1. I don't know specifically about red beans, but in general larger beans (not, for example, lentils or split peas) are soaked, drained, rinsed and cooked in fresh water for a few reasons:

                  1) Nutritional: to reduce the amount of phytic acid. Phytic acid chelates various minerals and prevents their absorption.

                  2) Gas. According to what I've read, Cook's Illustrated toyed with this. Soaking removes stachyose, a particular oligosaccharide (they're small chains of carbohydrates). These are difficult to digest and you wind up producing gas.

                  3) Cleanliness. Beans are dirty, and a soak is better at getting rid of dirt than just rinsing.

                  4) Cooking speed. By soaking for several hours -- if you have the time to do so - you've done a lot of the rehydration.

                  Some people feel salt keeps the beans tough; some people say acid. In my experience salt is the culprit; I add it towards the end of the cooking time.

                  1. I never pre-soak red beans when I make red beans and rice. Depending on how old the beans are, they take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. I don't see the point in soaking beans for many hours to save an hour of cooking time, and, anyway, I want the vegies and ham to really "melt" into the pot liquor, so don't want the beans to cook too fast.

                    1. I soak my beans overnight prior to making red beans and rice when I want them to cook up more quickly the next day. Sometimes I'll just cook the whole pot of red beans and rice (with the sausage and spices, etc) overnight on a very low heat. The time it takes is the deciding factor for me.

                      For pinto beans (frijoles de olla), I just put the beans in my bean pot with spices, onion, and garlic and bake 'em in the oven for a couple of hours. Plenty of time to get plenty tender. So I've cooked from both soaked and not soaked. Just don't cook in either case with salt in the water, it toughens the beans up.

                      1. Thanks for all of the thoughts on this. I'm still a little torn. I still have time to soak them today (I'm west coast), but I am curious about the recipe as written, and several people have said this will work as written. By the same token, the nutritional reasons Richard 16 mentions are intriguing. At any rate, it's nice to know that on some level, to soak or not to soak isn't really an issue!

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Sallie

                          I've always pre-soaked. Here's a recipe I ran across a few days ago which I used, and I found out my dad has been using this recipe for about 7 years.
                          It was in the Times Picayune years ago and was just posted on their website.

                          I must say that I am pretty proud of the beans I cook, but these were by far the best I have ever made. This recipe calls for cooking the beans in the water they were soaked in, I had always drained the beans and put in fresh water.

                          2 pounds red kidney red beans, preferably Camellia brand, washed and drained

                          2 large onions, chopped

                          4 celery stalks, chopped

                          6 bay leaves

                          24 drops Tabasco or other hot sauce

                          1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

                          1 tablespoon Creole seasoning

                          1 teaspoon onion powder

                          1 teaspoon garlic powder

                          1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

                          2 teaspoons soy sauce

                          2 teaspoons Kitchen Bouquet

                          20 cups water

                          2 to 3 pounds ham seasoning, cut up

                          2 to 3 pounds regular (not hot, not mildly hot) smoked sausage, cut up

                          Cooked long-grain rice, for serving

                          In a very large mixing bowl (or a 12-quart non-reactive pot, or two 6- to 8-quart pots), combine all ingredients except ham, sausage and rice. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

                          When ready to cook, place all in a pot with the ham and sausage. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover, and strongly simmer (preferably without skimming), for 1 hour; stir as needed to keep beans from sticking.

                          Reduce heat and slowly simmer, covered, between 2 and 4 hours, or until mixture is very thick and beans are tender. During the slow-simmering process, stir frequently, especially toward end of cooking time, adding more water to pot only if dish seems too dry.

                          About 1 hour before done, periodically mash some of the beans with a potato masher, scraping pan bottom clean after each mashing; try to mash about 40 percent of the beans.

                          Serve immediately over rice or, preferably, let beans cool and refrigerate overnight. Reheat for serving.

                          1. re: roro1831

                            Are those quantities of ham and sausage correct?
                            I guess I'm frugal, but maybe a pound of sausage to a pound of beans is the most I've ever done.
                            That 2-3 pounds of meat to one pound of sausage would make a really, really rich dish.
                            Perhaps a bit richer dish than the NOLA economics would dictate for wash day?

                            1. re: shallots

                              I usually cook it in half the quantity and have been known to use pickled meat instead of the ham, just cause I really like pickled meat. The quantities did seem high to me but they come out great

                          2. re: Sallie

                            If you soak them, they will make you less gassy. Other than that, not much difference for coco-pinto-kidney sized beans. But if you do soak them, they have a texture closer of fresh beans, so they're more delicate. If you don't want to boil them to pieces, you'll need to be careful to simmer from the beginning. Unsoaked beans are more forgiving that way, you can bring them up to a hard boil, then reduce the heat without breaking them up particularly.

                            Either way, be sure to check the tooth and flavor of the beans from time to time.

                            1. re: tmso

                              I've never actually had it make me less gassy for having soaked them. I think how gassy you get is really an individual thing. :)

                              1. re: Morganna

                                Strictly speaking, soaking beans in copious amounts of water will have an objective effect -- it will draw out a certain amount of the sugars that you can't digest. But you're right that variation among individuals is probably the most important factor :-)

                          3. From personal experience, I'm convinced it has to do with the freshness of your dried beans. The one in big bags at the grocery store might have been picked a decade ago, and been shuttled between storage, the packing plant, the distributor and the store. When I do buy these suckers, I soak them, and pout because I've clearly run out of good beans.

                            Now good beans are a whole different story.IMO, heirloom beans taste better, they cook faster, and they've just got a heck of a lot more character. It's like Paris Hilton vs. Marilyn Monroe. One's just a cheap, modernized, and pretty gawd-awful shadow of the other. Heirloom beans don't need much prep, and I don't presoak. Of the ones I've tried, Rancho Gordo beans are my favorites.

                            1. Pressure cook 'em. Fast and delicious. Doesn't anyone use pressure cookers any more?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                Yep. Pressure cooker every time. Don't know the last time I cooked beans in a pot.

                                Come to think of it, I do remember the last time I TRIED to cook beans in a pot. We were camping at Mt. Lassen a few years back. AFAIR the campground was about 8,000 feet above sea level. Those beans were still hard after eight hours of simmering.

                                Shortly thereafter we retired an old jiggle-top pressure cooker and relegated it to camping. If you could keep a fire lit, it would cook beans on the moon.

                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                  I don't care for beans that have been cooked in a pressure cooker. :) Though yes, I do use one occasionally. :)

                                2. I'm from Baton Rouge, LA and I say soak the beans, rinse the water, put in a cast iron dutch oven and cover them with water, chopped onions, celery, bell pepper, and lots of garlic, and smoked sausage that you've already sauteed with the grease left in the pot, and Tony Cacheres seasoning. Let simmer until done, and they are delicious.

                                  1. Soak those beans pleeeease! See this:
                                    Thank you! Don't mean to gross you out, but really. SOAK THE BEANS THEN WASH THEM! Peggy, Licensed Vocational Nurse.

                                    1. We always used Camellia beans when we lived in LA and those things cook fast, soaking was not necessary. I'm sure part of it is that they are very fresh for dried beans. Other brands I soak.