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Jan 21, 2010 10:46 AM

Dried Cannellini Beans--Split while Soaking (??)

About 2 hours ago I put a cup of imported Italian white beans in plain cold water to soak. I just noticed that many of them are already split and kind of shriveled looking. Does this mean that the beans ere not fresh? Should I ignore and continue soaking in preparation for cooking them tomorrow?


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  1. 2 hours is not a lot of soaking time. check them after 6-8 hours of soaking. The shriveled thing will most likely go away. I soak mine overnight or sometimes I do the quick soak method.
    As for the split, your beans may not be very fresh; that would mean more than a year old, although I've read that certain types of dried beans split more readily than others, especially Borlottis.
    Continue soaking and cook. If they're not really fresh, it'll take the beans a longer cooking time for them to become tender. Make sure to simmer your beans, as to prevent more splitting.
    I don't know what you're making with the beans but if they do split badly while cooking, maybe you could just puree them. If you wanted them whole for your recipe, you may have an issue.
    Good luck!

    1. 24 hours of soak is a long time, you might put them in the refrigerator after 12 hours if you are leaving them in water for so long. Ignore the split ones and go forward.

      12 Replies
      1. re: serious

        Thanks very much. They seemed to split very quickly; I checked the date and they are still within the recommended time. They are cannellini from Italy, by the way. I plan to use for soup so it does not matter all that much but I have very little experience with dried beans and thought I would ask here....
        Next time I will start soaking as soon as I wake up to be ready for dinner...

        1. re: erica

          Do you know the quick soak method? Cover your beans with cold water, at least two inches over the beans, bring to a boil, cook for two minutes and shut off heat. Cover the pot and let the beans soak for an hour and they'll be ready to cook.

          Soaking beans for more than 12 hours can result in loss of texture and flavor, although I am guilty of doing this, as sometimes I just can't get to cooking them. Six to eight hours is enough time.

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            To my rescue again! I have heard of this method and thanks to your tip, I will try it next time. I cooked the beans and have them now, in their liquid, int he frig. But so many have split that the visual appeal is rather dim! And since I added no salt, flavor is lacking--good thing I am using them in soup. I plan to make a pasta/fagioli soup that combines a Batali recipe from Molto Italiano, and the Marco Canora recipe I found on this site... The pancetta will likely save the day!

            1. re: erica

              For the lack of flavor problem, check Greygarious' info downthread. I don't know about brining preventing less splitting, but I have taken to brining my beans (salted soaking water) lately and it makes a definite flavor difference. Rinse and cook. Just remember that the beans will be a salted and adjust your salt accordingly, by tasting, in the end recipe.
              If I forget to brine, I season my beans during the initial cooking, even if I'm using the quick-soak method. Contrary to popular belief, and through much experimentaton on my part, it doesn't effect bean texture or cooking time. I season them judiciously with salt, a few bay leaves, half an onion, a dried chili, whatever. Again, since they are already seasoned, I adjust the salt in the final product.
              If you don't do any brining/seasoing, the beans will pick up the flavor of the broth you're cooking them in, anyway, but it's nice to start with a good flavored product.
              Here's the brining info link:

              Hope your soup comes out ok. Sometimes flavor wins out over visual.

              foiegras, it would be the natural halves. The only time I've seen beans split or start to break up "the other way" is when they're overcooked.

              1. re: bushwickgirl

                The reason I asked is because I saw the horizontal splitting in the canellini beans I made this week. I started seeing it when the beans were still crunchy.

                1. re: foiegras

                  In a word, strange. Never seen that happen. Possibly the beans were damaged in some manner during processing or there was a moisture issue at some point during storage.

                  1. re: bushwickgirl

                    No idea ... I thought perhaps the shape of the bean (quite long compared to pinto or navy) might have been a contributing factor.

                    I will have to try the brining ... since it's been reported that it helps keep the skins intact, perhaps it would help with this as well. Not a big problem, of course ... but doesn't make them very photogenic.

            2. re: bushwickgirl

              I have found, though, that the results from the boiling method aren't as good as soaking overnight. I've also not had a problem from soaking too long, though I do change the water. I once soaked beans for several days ...

              Regarding the split ... which way? Into the natural halves of the bean, or the other way?

              1. re: foiegras

                You can also cook them in a pressure cooker if you're really pressed for time.

                1. re: oakjoan

                  We generally soak (from before work in the morning until supper prep time) and cook in pressure cooker.

                2. re: foiegras

                  Oh, but in my experience I have found the beans I've used with the no soak/2 minute boil/1 hour rest method to be exceptional. They seemed fresher...

                  1. re: foiegras

                    They split along the seams of the bean. I don't think it will matter much since I am making soup and it tastes really good even though not finished. I altered the recipe and pureed half of the beans...

            3. The Cooks Illustrated recommendation about soaking dry beans in cold salted water results in less splitting of the skins. The beans are drained and rinsed before cooking in fresh, unsalted water. It works very well, resulting in a tasty, creamy-textured bean. See the "Brining beans? Yes!" link that follows the responses to this thread.

              1 Reply
              1. re: greygarious

                This is my remedy for cooking wonderful Cannellini and it's never failed me.
                Remove all mud, stones or broken, discolored beans. Soak overnight 2 heaping cups (approx. 1 lb) dried beans that are not old or been on the shelf a couple of years. I soak one cup of beans in 3 cups of water as a rule, so it's 6 cups for 2 cups of beans.

                If you're going to add seasoning meat or other ingredients that have been prepared (peeled, chopped, cut in chunks (meat), browned, herbs, gather them and put them in the pot now. If you want to salt or add tomatoes wait until half the cooking is done, Acids toughen the skins and salt draws the juices out of the meat.

                Drain and rinse them to eliminate the "gas problem" connected with beans. Measure the drained water from the original 3 cups, and then add that same amount to the pot with the beans. Meat you use for seasoning is always better browned before adding and lightly soften the onions and garlic before adding. At this time add the herbs, also. I like thyme, bayleaf and maybe a little rosemary. If you're adding tomatoes you might like some basil and/or oregano.

                Heat the pot on top of the stove until it comes to a soft boil. Cover the pot and place it in a 325°F preheated oven and let it sit until it's cooked for 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 hours. This depends on how fresh your grocer obtained them. Just open the lid and taste one. If it's still hard try another in 15-30 min. Do this until they're done. These beans should not be "al dente". Their great gift is the creamy wonderfulness that they bring..

                But cooking them covered at 325° in the oven there is no need to stir them, so there is not problem with broken beans.

                Don't forget to add your salt and tomato if desired after about an hour. Pepper you can put in early.

                I hope you enjoy your cannellini. I'm making some today with beef. I've never done it that way. I've used cured meats and Lamb really often, but I've never tried beef. I can't wait.


              2. I just posted about this very thing. Bizarre. I thought mine were fairly fresh.

                1. i see by the date of the op the original batch of beans must be history. but the splitting may have to do with how "ripe" the beans were when they were dried. when beans and peas sprout they split as they start as seedlings. could be the soak is starting the process.