Do you have to soak beans before cooking them? We look into different dry bean soaking methods, and what happens if you don't soak beans before cooking.
Welcome to my dry bean cooking series! This started out as a simple post about the best way to prepare dry beans. I quickly realized, however, that there was a crazy amount of information to learn and test about this subject. To help you be fully informed (that's a goal here at The Incredible Bulks), I've decided to break this down into a series of posts. There will be posts explaining the different methods of cooking dry beans, as well as posts about the experiments I did to test those methods. By the end, we'll all be bean geniuses. Now that's something you can put on a resume!
Part 1: Soaking Dry Beans
It is often suggested that before dry beans are cooked, they need to be soaked in water. Soaking the beans helps to soften them before cooking, which then drastically cuts down on cooking time for the beans. For example, the instructions that came with my Instant Pot say to cook dry beans for 25 minutes, and only 8 minutes for soaked dry beans.
Because the beans are softened when soaking supposedly the beans will cook more evenly, resulting in less split shells.
Additionally, it is also often suggested that soaking beans breaks down some of the sugars that can be hard for people to digest. Aka, maybe your husband will be less gassy after dinner if you soak your beans first. (🤞please, please, please, please🤞)!
Dry Bean Soaking Tips
- Soaking beans do not need to be refrigerated unless it is really hot in your kitchen.
- You should soak your beans for a maximum of 12 hours. After that point, the beans can become too water saturated and the end result could be quite mushy.
- It's a good idea to toss the water that the beans were soaked in and use fresh water to cook them. This will possibly result in you having less gas.
Soaking Dry Bean Methods
In my research, I found 3 different ways to soak your beans to produce the tastiest bean possible.
Long, Hot Soak
Beans and water are boiled together in a pot for 2-3 mins. They are then covered and soaked for 4 hours. Beans are then drained and cooked.
Quick, Hot Soak
Beans and water are boiled together for 2-3 mins, then covered and soaked for only 1 hour. Drain and cook.
Beans are covered in cold water and soaked for at least 8 hours. Beans are then drained and then cooked.
What happens if you don't soak beans before cooking?
Many people claim that soaking beans is not necessary. The argument for this method is while it does take longer to cook, unsoaked beans end up having better flavor. This method is great if you aren't good at remembering to do things ahead of time (me!). You still have hope for eating tasty beans when you want them.
Proponents of this method also often say it's been proven that soaking beans doesn't actually break down those gas causing sugars (dang it).
Testing the Soaking Methods Out
For the first round of our test, we used dried black beans cooked in the Instant Pot (pressure cooker), all for the same amount of time--6 minutes at high pressure. We tried out 3 different ways of soaking the beans: 8 hour cold soak, 4 hour hot soak, and a 1 hour hot soak. We also did a batch of beans that had not been soaked, and cooked them for 22 minutes. The purpose was to see how the different soaking methods affected the appearance, texture and taste of the dried black beans.
It may be difficult to tell from the photo, but the beans that were not soaked ended up being a darker color and had less splitting than all of the beans that had been soaked. All of the beans that were soaked had a similar amount of beans that split.
The beans that had been soaked in hot water were more evenly cooked than the beans that had not been soaked or the beans that had been soaked in cold water. However, there was no detectable difference between the beans that had soaked in hot water for 4 hours versus the beans that had soaked for 1 hour.
The beans that had not soaked, and the beans that had an 8 hour cold soak both had a bit of a chewier skin, while the inside of the bean was very tender. The chewier skin was not significant enough to make the beans unpleasant, however.
The beans that had not been soaked were very slightly more flavorful than the beans that had been soaked. The difference, however, was not big enough to be significant.
Stove Top Test
Because the results from the Instant Pot were so similar, we decided to try out another cooking method. For the 2nd round of our test we cooked beans on the stove top. We tried one pot of beans that had not been soaked, and one pot of beans that had been hot soaked for 4 hours.
The major difference between the two pots was the cook time. The soaked beans cooked in 1 hour and 13 minutes, while the unsoaked beans took 2 hours and 6 minutes.
So, do you have to soak beans before cooking them?
Well, honestly, the answer is no and yes. 😲
From a taste and texture standpoint, soaking dry beans is not necessary. While there is a difference, it is small enough not to matter.
The real benefit of soaking beans comes down to cook time. Soaked beans cook significantly faster than unsoaked beans. The different methods of soaking, however, seem to result in similar beans, so you can use the soaking method that works best for the time frame you have.
Are you surprised about the results of our test? Let me know what you think in the comments!
Sources and Further Reading on Soaking Dry Beans
Up Next: Dry Beans and When to Add Salt.
Part 2 of our cooking dry beans series is where we learn all about how to cook beans quicker.