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May 5, 2012 05:01 PM

brining dried beans?

I saw a recipe online that called for brining beans. Really? I was taught never to salt until they get soft. Anyone brine and what can you tell me? Overnight in saltwater sounds weird.

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  1. You are correct. If you use salt in the soaking liquid or even too early in the cooking process, the beans will get tough and never soften. I first heard this from something Julia Childs said, but I do not have a reference.

    1 Reply
    1. Cooks Illustrated settled the science on this: "Why does soaking dried beans in salted water make them cook up with softer skins?

      It has to do with how the sodium ions in salt interact with the cells of the bean skins. As the beans soak, the sodium ions replace some of the calcium and magnesium ions in the skins. Because sodium ions are weaker than mineral ions, they allow more water to penetrate into the skins, leading to a softer texture. During soaking, the sodium ions will only filter partway into the beans, so their greatest effect is on the cells in the outermost part of the beans."

      1. I use it always, it works and there are many posts @ CH about this technique. The beans cook at a regular rate, do not toughen up or never soften. Do a search here for brining beans if you wish. Otherwise, just try it. It adds extra seasoning to your beans and doesn't effect the cooking results.

        Here's a thread to get you started:

        2 Replies
        1. re: bushwickgirl

          The recipe I found cuts the cooking time down ALOT. I'm going to try it. What the heck. Beans are cheap. I love Latin style beans but I make them from canned beans. I would love to control the sodium as i have high blood pressure and sadly three heart attacks in one day in Feb. And I am only 41. I use the bean goo from the can when I make the beans. I'd love to make my own beans and use the lower sodium goo from scratch.

          1. re: suzigirl

            I always rinse my beans before using to cut down on the tremendous sodium content of the canned product. Brining dried beans while soaking at home before cooking allows you to control the sodium content.

        2. lots of common long acknowledged knowledge is correct, and some isn't. I always followed the "don't salt or gets tough" until I read about the CI test here on CH. I don't always agree with CI directives, but I followed the threads (thanks for posting them) here when they were posted and wow, the beans turn out fine and better than ever.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Madrid

            I followed a roast beef recipe given to me by CH's from CI when I first started posting and it was PERFECT!!!! Now I am super interested in trying. I may switch to CI's recipe, though. Anyone else want to chime in w/ recipes or opinions

          2. Somewhere along the line things got confused -- salt doesn't make beans toughen nor keep them from softening.

            It's the acid -- save the tomatoes and other acidic foods until after the beans have softened -- the acid DOES prevent them from getting tender.

            1 Reply
            1. re: sunshine842

              Correct! Ding ding, we have a winner! I'm so glad you brought that up to clarify!

              Acidic foods include molasses, so if you're making New England style baked beans, wait til your beans are tender before adding the sweetener.