When you are preparing your beans for cooking, it’s important to get the timing right. You’ve already decided that you are going to soak your beans before cooking them. The question is, “How long a soak is too long?”
It is possible to soak beans for too long before cooking. Beans should soak for 8 to 10 hours overnight. If they are soaked for longer than 12 hours, they can lose their familiar flavor and become overly mushy. For the best result, refrain from soaking them for too long.
Keep reading to learn how to properly soak beans, why they should be soaked, and how to soak them so they are just right.
You Can Soak Beans For Too Long
While beans should be soaked for quite a long time prior to cooking, there is such a thing as too long.
Beans should not be soaked for longer than 12 hours. They should be soaked for eight to ten hours at most. Some say that beans should be only be soaked for 4 hours, but 12 hours is the upper limit.
If you soak the beans for longer than 12 hours, you run the risk of the beans losing both their characteristic flavor and texture. At that point, you’ll be dealing with a gritty, tasteless bean that does no one any favors at dinnertime.
Not to mention the fact that beans left to soak for a lengthy amount of time will begin to spoil.
Bean Soaking Recommendations
When determining how long to soak your beans, you should do so based on what type of bean you are cooking.
The general recommendations for each bean type vary. For instance, if you are making black beans, you should soak them for 4 hours, whereas great northern beans should soak for much longer – 8-12 hours.
Check out this helpful table to see soak time recommendations for lots of different types of beans. This table will also demonstrate how the amount of time you soak your beans will inevitably affect how long they should simmer afterward. If you soak your beans for longer than necessary, your cooking time will be shortened. Still, remember to avoid soaking for longer than 12 hours.
Note: Certain beans, like split peas and lentils, generally do not need to be soaked to reduce the cooking time. You may choose to soak them anyway, but this is not necessary.
Quick-Soak Method for Beans
If you’ve never heard of the quick-soak method, you need to know about this! This shortcut is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a quicker way to soak your beans.
It requires that you take the following steps:
- Pick through your beans that get rid of any that are broken.
- Rinse your beans for a couple of minutes with cold water.
- Put your beans, 1 tbsp of salt, and enough water to cover up your beans into a pot.
- Turn the stove on medium to high and bring the beans to a boil.
- Once the beans start to boil, turn off the heat and place a top on the pot.
- Allow the beans to soak for 60-90 minutes.
This is the fastest way to soak your beans while preserving their texture and flavor.
How to Determine When Beans are Done Soaking
If you are someone who likes to avoid charts and recipes, you’ll be delighted to know that beans tell you when they’re done soaking. How do they do that, you ask?
- Observe their appearance. Beans that have soaked long enough will begin to look plump from the outside
- Try splitting a bean down the middle. If the bean does not split apart cleanly, it could use more time to soak. If it splits cleanly down the middle, it has had enough soaking time.
- See if you can peel the skin of a bean. Sufficiently soaked beans will also have skin that can be easily peeled away. The skin will not fall off- that would mean that they have soaked too long.
- Feel for the texture of a bean. If done soaking, the beans will have a slight bounciness when they are pressed between your fingers.
Now that you know how well-soaked beans will behave and appear.
What to Do with Soak Water: Keep It or Toss It?
After the beans are soaked, should you use that same water for cooking the beans? Or should you discard that water and cook the beans in fresh water. Viewpoints vary on this topic, but for the most part, personal preference rules out.
Some prefer to cook the beans in the soak water because they believe that it adds extra beany essence to the final dish. In this case, they keep the soak water and add it to the pot when it’s time to simmer the beans.
People who throw their soak water out often do so because they believe that the water harbors gas inducing sugars.
If you have painful bloating and flatulence when eating beans that have been cooked in soak water, there is no real benefit to using the water. On the other hand, if you don’t have any gas issues, feel free to add the soak water into the beans as you cook them.
Do You Need to Soak Your Beans at All?
This is a topic of much debate. Some assert with conviction that beans should be soaked while others believe that they shouldn’t be. In the sections below, we will look into each viewpoint.
Why Beans Should Be Soaked
Those who are for soaking beans believe that soaking them removes sugars that can’t be digested adequately by the body. Moreover, they believe that the absence of these sugars lessens bean-associated gas and flatulence. This notion is widely believed by everyday cooks and some medical professionals.
Soaking beans overnight also helps them cook faster on the stove. Though, the time the beans spend soaking could technically be factored into the overall cooking time.
Why Beans Should Not Be Soaked
People who’d rather not soak their beans overnight state that the step is a waste of time. They state that, while unsoaked beans may take a bit longer to cook, they will still eventually cook through. Also, proponents of not soaking beans will tell you that they can tell when beans have been soaked – they say that the flavor and body of the resulting broth lack depth.
Beans Not Right After Soaking and Cooking
Sometimes, after following all of the rules of soaking, you may still have trouble cooking your beans all the way through. If this happens, it could be that you have hard water. Those who have hard water or water with high mineral content may find that their beans never get soft.
If mineral deposits are sitting on top of your beans, they will still come out tough. Here are a couple of remedies to fix your beans.
- Add baking soda. If you suspect that you may have hard water, adding ¼ of a teaspoon of baking soda per 1 pound of beans can help to soften them. Less baking soda is better than more, as too much baking soda can make your beans mushy and leave an off-taste.
- Use bottled water. You could also use bottled water in place of your tap water to cook the beans.
- Use fresh beans. Old beans will not soften enough to be enjoyable to eat. Make sure that you’re keeping track of when you bought the beans and throw out any expired beans.
In this article, we have shared with you how long a soak is too long for beans, and we’ve provided resources to help you soak your beans appropriately. We’ve also shared the contrasting viewpoint existing on the bean soaking debate. Hopefully, this guide has helped you to determine how long to soak your beans, if you decide to soak them at all.