In part 1 of our quest to cook the perfect dry bean, we tested different soaking methods. Obviously water is essential to cooking beans, but should any other ingredient be added to make the tastiest bean possible, in the shortest amount of time? In part two, we explore different ingredients that can be added in to help cook your beans faster.
Cooking Dry Beans with Salt to Cook Beans Quickly
It is often suggested that salt should be added to the water when cooking dry beans. This concept is the same as brining meat in salt to make it more tender. The idea is that adding salt to the soaking or cooking water of dry beans will help the beans absorb water better, thus resulting in a tastier, tender bean. It will also help your dry beans cook faster.
There is a bit of a debate about when to add the salt to your beans. One method suggests that you should add salt to the water at the beginning of the cooking process. Another suggests that you shouldn't adding salt at the end speeds up the cooking process. We will test out both methods in our experiment.
Cooking Dry Beans with Baking Soda
This method suggests that the best cooked bean is created by adding 1 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of dry beans into your cooking water. **warning, chemistry lesson alert** The reason is that adding baking soda creates an alkaline environment, which supposedly helps your beans cook faster by breaking down the hard shell of the bean. And surprise, surprise, this method also claims to help break down those rude gas producing sugars. We sure are desperate to get rid of gas!
One article I read, however, said that using baking soda reduces nutritional value and leaves the beans with an "unsavory, soapy aftertaste and a little slimy mouth-feel." Let's play "Would You Rather." Would you rather have a gassy husband or a slimy mouth-feel?
Testing the Salting Methods Out
For our test, we used black beans cooked on the stove. All of the beans had been soaked in hot water for 1 hour prior to cooking. In one pot we added in baking soda, in another salt at the beginning, and another we added salt at the end. We wanted to find out how these additions affected the appearance, texture. taste and cook time for the beans.
The baking soda beans ended up being covered in a frothy light brown substance. During the cooking process, the pot bubbled over with this stuff, while the other two pots just looked like beans in water. The baking soda beans also split open significantly more than either of the beans that were cooked in salt. They also had a red hue to them.
There was no noticeable difference between the two salted beans. They were both dark in color with few split beans
The texture of the baking soda beans were not like any other beans we'd had before. It seemed like a lot of the inner part of the beans had slipped out of the skin and had become powdery. It was not a good texture.
There was no noticeable difference between the texture of the salted beans. They both were evenly cooked and tender.
The baking soda beans did not taste like beans. One taste tester said, "Something doesn't taste right with these beans." Another one thought they tasted just like scrambled eggs. This was after the beans had been thoroughly rinsed to get all the excess baking soda off of them.
Both of the salted beans tasted really good and there was no taste difference.
The baking soda beans finished cooking about 10 minutes faster than either of the salted beans. The beans that had salt added at the beginning finished cooking about 5 minutes before the beans that had salted added at the end.
So, should I add anything to the cooking water of my beans to speed up the cooking?
If someone ever tells you to add baking soda to your beans, you should assume they are playing a joke on you. Did I just fall for a prank by actually testing this idea out?
Yes, the baking soda did help the beans cook a lot faster, but the taste and texture of the beans were awful. I would not recommend this method under any circumstance.
Salting the beans at the beginning of the cooking process is the winner!
I would recommend adding salt to your beans at the beginning of the cooking process. While it didn't make much of difference to taste, texture or appearance, it did help the beans cook a little bit faster.
Sources and Further Reading about Salting Dry Beans
Up Next: Dry Bean Cooking Methods!
In our final post of the series, we test out beans cooked in the pressure cooker, the stove top, the crock pot and the oven.
Did you miss part one of the series? Check out "GUIDE TO COOKING DRY BEANS, PART 1: TO SOAK OR NOT TO SOAK"