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Feb 4, 2010 08:33 PM

Why don't dry beans come out like canned beans

Please help a novice cooker here. I've followed the soak the beans overnight, cook them, leave in for an hour but the beans are not as soft as canned beans? What the heck am i doing wrong? Do different beans need different cooking times ie white bean versus a chick pea?

Any suggestions would be great!

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  1. Yes, different batches of beans need different cooking times.

    Just keep cooking them. An hour is not very long.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jaykayen

      Agree that an hour is not very long for cooking beans, but also keep in mind that canned food has a lot less texture than freshly cooked.

    2. Also, if your dried beans are quite old, they may not soften up because the pore through which they absorb moisture can close up. Try to get fresh dried beans, if possible.

      7 Replies
      1. re: weezycom

        Agreed about using old beans. Also, did you salt the water? Supposedly some types of beans are only to be salted at the end of cooking because if you salt in the beginning they will never get soft. Even with large kidney beans and chickpeas, with an overnight soak they never take me over an hour. Once you get the hang of it, rehydrated homecooked beans are far more delicious than canned beans, so I hope you perservere in perfecting your method.

        1. re: luckyfatima

          A flavoring amount of salt is not a problem for cooking beans, myths to the contrary notwithstanding. Acids are a problem (a pinch of baking soda is an old trick, but also tricky, because you don't want to keep the cooking liquid), as are old beans, and bean varieties that have tough skins.

          1. re: luckyfatima

            no i didnt salt the water.... does that soften the bean?

            well...i thought home cooking the beans would be better but ive tried it 4 times and it doesnt get better hahah

            1. re: chewy_bakah

              Salt flavors the bean. There's a longstanding myth that salting the water in which you cook beans toughens the skin; it's incorrect. That is true of acids, but not a modest amount of salt used to flavor beans.

              1. re: Karl S

                There has been some investigative work done lately that affirms that salting the soaking water actually helps the beans to soften more easily, cook to tenderness without "blowing" apart, and you wind up getting better flavor while using less salt overall. Complete reversal from what "authorities" have been telling us for years.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  ok well i ll try salting the soaking water then ... im determined to figure this out as i dont want to buy the canned beans even though i like the softer texture.

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    Not really a complete reversal, since the traditional advice is not to salt the cooking water but doesn't mention the soaking water. The brining method laid out in CI calls for draining off the saltwater brine and cooking in unsalted water. I'm a happy convert to this technique,

          2. Canned beans are really cooked in the cans... saw this on one of those "Modern Marvels" or "How it's Made" type shows. You'll never recreate the heat and pressure of industrial canning in your kitchen. But properly soaked and cooked dried beans are often much better than canned, especially in soups. (I admit thought that I always use canned for chili).

            Are you putting any seasoning/salt/etc in the soaking or cooking water? This can affect the rate at which the beans cook as well.

            7 Replies
            1. re: iluvcookies

              i was reading the sodium content on cans.. and thought i could avoid the salt if i cooked the beans myself... are you saying the beans won't become soft without salt ?

              1. re: chewy_bakah

                There is a school of thought that you should never salt beans until they are cooked, because they will stay tough. Others don't buy it.... Its hard to say beans will be done in x number of minutes. I try to cook earlier than I need them for a recipe. After 45 min I'll try a bean every 10 or 15 min. When they taste done I turn off the heat. They are pretty forgeving, but I haven't found a way to hurry them.

              2. re: iluvcookies

                Well, you probably could with a pressure cooker ...

                I agree with what everyone's saying ... there are no absolutes on time for cooking beans. You keep cooking till they're done. On rare occasions, you might find something in your cabinet that can no longer be cooked to tenderness because they're too old.

                Have all 4 of your attempts been from the same batch of beans?

                We have a thread about brining beans (soaking with salt, then discarding that water), and that seems to work well. It gives the beans a better texture.

                1. re: foiegras

                  I agree,pressure cooker is the way to go for cooking beans.
                  They cook much faster and are softer(can get mushy if over cooked),also adding salt doesnt matter too much.
                  I have been cooking beans and lentils all my life,and its usually faster in a pressure cooker.Plus my mom's rule was to add salt only after the cooking was done,but I add salt before and that is fine.

                  1. re: foiegras

                    well i try a batch of chickpeas, then i try mixed beans.. white and red kidney beans. i figure they're all beans they should cook at the same rate.

                    1. re: chewy_bakah

                      They don't. DIfferent varieties have different soaking and cooking times. Plus, if you have a mix of fresher and older beans in the pot (even of the same variety) the fresh ones will be mush by the time the older ones are done.

                  2. re: iluvcookies

                    Iluv is right. They're cooked and then cooked again in the can. A while! (it's the law!) Consider it like a pressure cooker - which cooks beans quicker. If you want them soft, bake 'em for a while.

                    Also, are you in altitude? I've cooked a few miles up and good god - the beans take forever! I ask a chef about that and he just laughed "yeah, they take forever up here" - I mean I cooked them slowly overnight - and they still need cooking. But at sea level? Soak 'em overnight and a few hours should be about right. But if want 'em as soft as canned (which I don't like) then a few hours more. Maybe more.

                  3. As other posters have already said cooking times may vary for different batches or varieties of beans. Salting before hand really doesn't make a difference but adding any sort of acid does so no tomatoes or vinegar before the beans softens. You're on the right track just keep cooking the beans and test occasionally. You'll have fine beans in no time.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: KTinNYC

                      <Salting before hand really doesn't make a difference>
                      To clarify for the OP, KT, I think you mean that COOKING in salted water doesn't make a difference. SOAKING in salted water certainly does - less ripping of skins in cooking, and a bean that is flavorful throughout. OP is interested in consuming less salt than in canned beans. Me too - I sparingly salt the soaking water, then drain it off, and do the cooking in unsalted water. Beans do need a LITTLE salt - IMO the taste is better this way than when salt is added at the end of cooking. I have tried pressure-cooking beans, but it was hard to control. Since so much depends on the age and variety of the beans, I think it's better to cook them in an open pot, monitoring the progress. Especially if they are to be eaten by themselves. If they are going into a soup or stew, or baked beans, it won't make as big a difference if they are overcooked initially. Recently, instead of salting the soaking water, I added a glug of a salty teriyaki-type marinade (Mr. Yoshida's) to large lima beans (a.k.a. butter beans), which yielded nicely-flavored beans after boiling in plain water.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        ok i will try that one too.. i did try soaking the beans in vinegar... as i was trying ot make a bean salad to get them to soften up but they were pretty much the same.

                    2. You would see an immense difference if you could find "fresh" dried beans and (possibly) cooked them longer. Ex: Red kidneys cook approx 3+ hours over a very low boil/high simmer, Navies only 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

                      I never know when I'm in the mood for a pot of beans, therefore, I never do the overnight soak. They go straight into the pot and to the stovetop. I typically wait to salt until after they've begun to soften, thereby eliminating any doubt of the "early salt effect" - wives tale or otherwise and also, my "mama" said don't salt early.

                      For fresher beans, you might check with local (farmer's) markets or specialty grocers for bulk bin buying. There's also mail order, but given the cost of shipping, it could make for an expensive pot of beans!

                      Heirloom varieties:

                      15 Replies
                      1. re: CocoaNut

                        wow it's hard to determine how old the beans are .. theres no date on the package.

                        it's sounding more and more that i have to cook the beans for a very long time.

                        1. re: chewy_bakah

                          I grew up in a bean cooking family from the Gulf Coast of MS - we cooked all kinds of beans on a regular basis, so this was never a "learning" process for me. But my curiosity up, I began to wonder about sea level elevations and googled it. Found nothing about elevation, but surprisingly to me, the ph of the water that's used can have an effect - thus the comments about tomatoes and salt above. So if you have "hard" tap water, you may want to buy some expensive bottled water to cook your cheap beans! :) Pressure cooking beans is also another option.


                          Scroll down mid-way, below the inset picture, and read what they have to say about water ph.

                          The paragraph above the picture talks about water absorption through the pore (helium).

                          1. re: chewy_bakah

                            Chewy, it sounds like you just didn't cook them long enough. Old beans sometimes may never soften completely. Sometimes one finds a few firm beans in the pot of well cooked beans. I pick through a bag of beans not only to remove any stones but to remove any old wrinkled beans or broken beans that just don't look good. I have always been in the non soak camp and cook on the stove top. Usually it takes 2-3 hours depending. You have to stir occasionally and that's a good time to give a taste test to gauge the doneness. If you really don't want to fuss with them then the oven is a great alternative. No stirring needed. You will need to check every once in a while for doneness but the more you do the better sense of time you'll have with a particular bean.

                            I have started to use a pressure cooker and have even begun to soak. After being an anti-soaker for many years I can say that with soaking the beans have a better texture. I tend to not over cook them and in the pressure cooker soaked beans are cooked for only 8-10 min before a natural cool down. I can also gauge the amount of water better after they've been soak. They don't take up much more water when cooking. When making Cuban black beans I don't want it watery and will puree a cup full of beans to thicken the dish. I was having trouble when using the pressure cooker with how much water to add. Unlike a pot on the stove you can't just look at it and say it needs a little more. Anyway keep at it. Beans are great and good for you. If you are using beans off the grocery store shelf there may always be freshness issue but most of the time they will cook fine. If you really want to best check out ranchogordo linked above.

                            1. re: scubadoo97

                              Question. When was the last time you found stones in your beans? In over 20 years of cooking dried beans, I've never found a single one.

                              1. re: Karl S

                                As I've gone through the process, I always wondered why I sorted through the beans, but did it anyway. Then one day, I found a small stone in some blackeyed peas. Made a believer out of me.

                                1. re: CocoaNut

                                  Same here, I have found stones on several occasions. I think it depended a bit on which company the beans came from though.

                                2. re: Karl S

                                  Depends on the bean. Just pull one out of bag of black beans. Lentils, more often. Not a significant amount but one here or there. They are dirt or clay clumps not really stones. I would imagine they would break down during cooking so you wouldn't know there were there if you didn't find them before hand. More often I am pulling out beans that look past their prime when buying off the shelf beans.

                                  1. re: Karl S

                                    Found my first stone in some black beans last year and another last week.
                                    I"ve never (in four decades of cooking) found stones in some of the larger beans...yet.
                                    But I've only been cooking black beans for five years (because Jacques Pepin's recipe sounded right.

                                    1. re: shallots

                                      yep, i find stones in my black beans

                                    2. re: Karl S

                                      My first job over 60 years ago was at a mexican restaurant in the Farmer's Market in Los Angeles. It involved picking through pinto beans for stones.

                                      I still do that and I still find a stick or a stone in one out of five bags, regardless of type.

                                      1. re: Karl S

                                        I've found small stones (def. not dirt) in lentils, black beans, and I think once a small white bean (can't remember the variety). So, yes it's a pain, but I always sort them. Generally dump them on a sheet pan and shift them around in a single layer. When I can, I "enlist" an offspring to help with this!

                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          Found one in black beans today. I was thinking "this is dumb" when I found it...Not the first time either, but usually with pigeon peas. Now I have to continue the ritual....

                                        2. re: scubadoo97

                                          Wow! Really? Y'all just "rarely" find stones, dirt, etc?

                                          I can truthfully say that I've been cooking dried beans, (mainly red and pinto), my whole life and I almost always find a stone or a small dirt clod while picking through the beans. I also pick out any that are blemished or even just broken in half.

                                          My experience stretches over three decades and many different brands. It's just a reality of dried beans. <shrug>

                                        3. re: chewy_bakah

                                          Actually, all the various brands of dried supermarket legumes in my cupboard DO have use-by dates. But you need to look hard, with good lighting. It is usually on or near the seam at the top or bottom of the bag, and is lightly stamped - not apparent at all. What that says about when they were bagged, I do not know. I suppose one could ask the company, but even then, they may well have been picked many months before they were bagged.