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an issue with beans

This has happened a few times now. I boil dry beans from the bag for two minutes and soak em for at least an hour, according to the directions on the bags, but they still dont soften up enough when I add em to a dish.
What could I be doing wrong?

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  1. Just responded to your other post on this issue.

    Since you want to use them tonight, your beans need to be simmered longer. Drain them, put cold water over them again, cover, bring to a boil and simmer until done - check every 10 minutes or so.

    If they were to sit water to soften, it would take about 6-12 hours even with a swift boil.

    1. I'm surprised they were edible. That's how you soften the beans prior to cooking. Here's the deal: if you just toss some dry beans in a pot of water and boil it, the beans will cook on the outside and be hard on the inside, and will also crack and fall apart. The bean must be rehydrated either by the method you used, or by soaking at room temperature overnight (cover with at least a couple inches of water).

      Depending mainly on the size of the bean, you still need to simmer for an hour or more. When I make New Orleans style red beans I plan on 3 hours for cooking (after soaking overnight).

      1. Dried beans *do not* need to be soaked overnight, but a pound of beans will require about 2-1/2 hours of simmering time to be edible. If you soak beans over night, or use other "techniques" they still require 2+ hours to cook.

        1. For red beans and rice, an almost every Monday meal tradition here, I have found that soaking them overnight is much better for the outcome. A soft, creamy bean that I cook on low for about 3 hours after soaking (cook with fresh water). I always add a pinch or two of brown sugar along with the other stuff. For whatever reason, we don't tend to have stomach problems with this method, and we did with the no-soak.

          4 Replies
          1. re: bayoucook

            I always soak my beans, I have used the crock pot method too, but usually soak over night as my prefered method. I just made a bean soup. Soaked the beans for 8 hrs. Then added, onion, celery, carrot, etc home broth and 1 hour later, the beans were tender and perfect. And agree bayou, straight beans or in a soup, I find them creamier for some reason.

            1. re: kchurchill5

              I know! I've tried them both ways and paid attention (smile). It's just better soaked overnight - and it's not like it's actively time-consuming, so why not?

            2. re: bayoucook

              Yes me too, I've not ever had problems with beans not cooking. I think I cooked them once when I was in a hurry and I didn't soak them prior. I just brought the pot to a hard boil for I forget how long. I don't recommend that. Take the time to soak them and change the water twice, use the second rinse/soak water to cook them in.

              I quit cooking beans on the stove top, I've been cooking beans in a crockpot for the last few years, and I let them cook all day. It's a planning thing, beans aren't a food that you can just make spur of the moment, they'll always disappoint you. You must soak them at least 8 hours, and you must cook them slow for them to get to that creamy goodness state.

              1. re: chef chicklet

                Agree, beans aren't something you decide to do in a hurry! I use the crockpot exclusively now, but I never pre soak. The beans always come out creamy and wonderful. I make enough to freeze some, to use later when I am in a hurry. I do think the freshness of the beans has something to do with how creamy they become. I haven't noticed a difference in "that bean problem" since I stopped pre-soaking. Mexicans often add epazote to their beans, and that is supposed to be an antidote to the flatulence problem, but I don't often remember to buy it.

            3. you have to cook them till tender, even after the soak and rest. the cooking itself can take an hour or, often, more time....

              1 Reply
              1. re: alkapal

                Usually an hour for me, but I did have some navys I swear never got soft. Probably stale or old beans.

              2. I'm trying the ATK trick today; 1 lb. beans, 4 qts. water, 3 tbsp of table salt. Soak 8-24 hours. Rinse well to get all salt off the beans. (salt in the cooking water= tough and grainy beans!) Then cook for 25-60 minutes depending on type of bean, till tender. Will report back on results. adam

                1 Reply
                1. re: adamshoe

                  I saw that episode too and the thought behind it was that you were, in essence, brining the bean to make them tender. Of course you have to make sure they are rinsed well. Not only do you get tender beans, but it also keeps them from busting out of their skins. I'll admit I haven't tried it yet, but I do intend on doing it that way the next time I make a pot. Can't wait to hear your results.


                2. As others have noted, you're soaking your beans but not cooking them. After the one-hour soak, simmer them for at least another hour.

                  Here's an essay that Jeffrey Steingarten wrote about his experiments cooking beans:


                  I've pretty much given up on the pre-soak; it seems unnecessary unless the beans are really old. Just toss a pound of beans in the crock pot with a ham hock, a couple teaspoons of salt (I don't believe that salt adversely affects the texture), and a six cups of water, then set the heat to low and come back in 10 hours or so. The pressure cooker works too, and it's much quicker, but it's easy to overcook the beans so that the skins split and the insides are too mushy; lately I've been preferring the control I have using the crock pot.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: alanbarnes

                    Beans I soak never more than 12, just overnight however long, but cooking 1 hr is usually good. Maybe longer but 1 hr is what I like to stand by to begin with. But as cooks we all know. Time is revalent. Just because someone says 30 minutes or 60 minutes that isn't always the case. I believe in the look taste and see method cuz every cook, every stove, every bean or whatever you maybe cooking is different.

                    1. re: kchurchill5

                      you can cook beans to a soft state in 1 hour? I must have some crumby beans kc, I've never had that kind of luck with them.

                      A cassoulet in the oven takes me more than 2 hours.

                      Are you bringing them to a boil first and allowing them to boil for a certain amount of time, then cutting the heat down? Is that your trick?

                      I have to laugh because when I make beans I swear, it's an all day project!
                      And I agree, its hard to tell another cook the cooking time on certain foods, there are just so many variables. Small animals, children, phones. You name it, it will happen.

                      I'm with you, a person that is learning to cook must soon learn to rely on their own good sense and instincts. This is when your sense are needed the most. To taste, feel, to see what it looks like, all of that goes a lot further to achieve good results than watching a clock.

                      To test the doneness your pot of beans, take a bean, squish it with a fork on the counter, that will tell you more than anything, you can see the inside of the bean, and you can feel the pressure/resistance of the bean as you press. If it shoots across the room, it's not done.

                      Some people like firm beans, skins intact. On the other hand I prefer beans that are firm, but borderline, but not mush. I want to mush them, and I do that in the pot before serving as to thicken the beans.

                      Beans like eggs, seem to look so simple and easy to cook. But let me tell you they both are tricky little dickens!

                      1. re: chef chicklet

                        I soak all night, bring to a boil for about 5 minutes, and then cook on medium for about 15, then simmer. Usually within a hour they are good. Don't get me wrong I have had some take longer for sure. The crock I love to use all day for cooking but I usually don't have much time for the pot which I prefer if I can. I have had good luck but I have had batches I swear were like rocks 5 hours later. I make black beans once and 4 hours of cooking after soaking and still hard. No small kids to distract me, but big kids are just as bad or worse :) and I'm usually not home. Beans are usually weekend food which is why the crock comes out during the week.

                        I love the shoots across the room technique. Is that like the noodle that sticks on the ceiling, lol. I agree, beans are not all a perfect science. I like beans is just beans, creamy and soft. If in soup I don't mind a bit more firm just because the soup will sit a few days and the beans tend to soften.

                        Who would of thought beans could be such a process. But they are. The best beans I had were from a small town in northern WI. Great side dish. I was a mix of 4 different beans, a little seasoning and it seems to be a sweet tomato sauce as a light base. It was years ago but it was amazing the most perfect beans ever. I have never had any as good since.

                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          >>>>Are you bringing them to a boil first and allowing them to boil for a certain amount of time, then cutting the heat down? Is that your trick?<<<<

                          chef c! hey there! yes, i bring the beans up to a boil, then reduce to simmer -- at a decent pace earlier on, then more slowly, if barely a blurp every now and then, later (to avoid scorching, depending on the liquid amount).

                    2. You will get a lot of different methods. I have never found a need to soak beans and they always turn out fine. Depending on the bean they can cook from 2-3 hours unsoaked. Taste as you go.

                      I'm using a pressure cooker most often these days and just did 2# of black beans in the PC. Cooked 30 min, turned off the heat. Opened the PC after a 15 min cool down and they were perfect.

                      1. well I soaked these black beans overnight and I've been simmering them for about 3 hours now, still not soft enough! Man these black beans are a commitment.
                        Does salt help?

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: chavalotti

                          I had one batch done is just over an hour and another batch 4 hours and I think 4 months later I could still be cooking them and then wouldn't be done :) No I can't say for sure but I don't think salt would do anything for the cooking process.

                          1. re: chavalotti

                            NO, NO, NO!! Do NOT add salt until (and if....) the beans are tender!! Salt in the cooking water= death to beans; they'll always come out tough and grainy. Ditto for adding things with acid; like tomatoes, vinegar, lemon juice, ketchup. I concur with kchurchill, re: beans that take 4 months; sometimes they're weird even if you soak them. I'll report back on the ATK brining method tomorrow (see my post upthread...). adam

                            1. re: chavalotti

                              If the beans are old, they may never cook. If you have a pressure cooker, now's the time to use it.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                alanbarnes, don't the beans "foam" a lot in the PC? I seem to remember some horror stories from my youth about beans in pressure cookers. (Sort of like poodles in the microwave....) My PC is sadly underused, but the few times I've braved it, I liked the results..just never done beans. May have to try it. adam

                                1. re: adamshoe

                                  They do foam, and it can cause serious safety issues. If the foam plugs up the release valve, you've got a bomb on your hands.

                                  But 30+ years ago I was taught that so long as you never fill the PC more than halfway full, the foam won't reach the valve and you should be safe. I tend to do a batch or two of beans a week, and until recently have used the PC almost exclusively, so that's a few thousand batches without incident. But it's not exactly current, so don't take my word for it...

                                  1. re: adamshoe

                                    I like to add olive oil to the black beans as well as onions, garlic, green peppers and bay leaf at the onset of cooking then add a sofrito of the same at the end. The olive oil will inhibit any foaming

                                2. re: chavalotti

                                  chavalotti, did you add any acidic element, like tomatoes? that will keep them from cooking if added at the beginning and not near the end, when the beans are already soft. otherwise, that long a cook time (three hours for black beans) is too long, imo. i think you got old beans.

                                  1. re: chavalotti

                                    Unsoaked they shouldn't take that long. Sometimes you get very old beans that just won't soften. I often add salt at the beginning of cooking and have not had a negative effect.

                                  2. The water gets into the beans via two little "navels" - I can't think of the proper term - not by soaking through the skin. In old beans, those two spots shrivel shut so the water can no longer permeate much. So soaking doesn't help them much, and cooking can take forever. If all else fails, mash them or pulse a couple of times in the food processor, then continue cooking.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: greygarious

                                      greygarious, you are a font of useful (and creative cookery) info! thanks.

                                      1. re: greygarious

                                        Believe me. The ones I had, those two little spots were permanently shriveled and closed. I swear 4 hrs and not even the remote chance of getting soft. However the last few have been great. A few weeks ago I made black bean soup. Perfect after just a bit more than an hour. Not much more. I didn't have a timer on, but I remember LOST was on and it was just after the episode ended. So these beans I think must of been from the 80's, lol.

                                        Interest to know why they didn't soak up the water. Thanks for the lesson.

                                      2. I had the same problem with beans. Again and again I tried. I felt like a passenger on the dried beans short bus. Bag after bag of beans did I fuss over, soak, add soda to - you name it.

                                        Then I bought beans in bulk from my co-op where the crowd is crunchy and the bean buying volume high. Voila, perfect beans after a soak. Perfect beans after no soaking and stovetop cooking. Perfect beans after bringing them to a boil and throwing them in the oven. I am now a bean genius.

                                        Trust that it's the beans. If you have a place where there is high volume turnover for bulk beans (Whole Foods and the like are a good bet, a co-op is even better), buy your beans in bulk and you too can conquer the bean.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: MplsM ary

                                          When I was in college, I made beans soups for friends (a sort of side business) well beans only from a co op. I never ever had a problem with hard beans. I agree mplsMary, our co op had lots of items and was always packed. Fresh flours, beans, dried corn and peas, even some fresh fruit. I loved shopping there.

                                        2. Lots of generalization here. In my experience it depends on the beans. Black-eyed peas never need soaking. Borlottis seem to need more cooking and soaking than any other. Chickpeas also need more time. Black beans are sort of in the middle.

                                          The bring-to-the-boil-and-soak method works for me, though I usually resort to that in the morning and then let the beans soak while I'm at work--so for a few hours instead of one. If it didn't work for you, I wonder if your beans might be old. It seems that the older the dried beans, the more difficult it is to soften them.

                                          I've also always had good luck with the baking soda-salt-flour trick: Soak beans in water with a teaspoon of baking soda and a tablespoon each of salt and flour. For me, chickpeas soaked overnight this way cook in about 20-30 minutes.