How make soft beans?

41
10
Joined Feb 19, 2003
Hi,

When I cook beans I never get them as soft as I would like no matter how long I cook them.

I usually make black beans, red beans or pink beans. I'm starting with dried beans in a plastic bag, usually Goya brand.

Basically I just boil them straight through for whatever length of time or try some variation of soaking and boiling. Sometimes I soak them first. I've tried boiling them briefly, then soaking them for several hours, then cooking them. I've tried not adding salt until they were mostly cooked. I usually but don't always add onions, garlic, bay leaf and/or whatever. All just variations on boiling though.

Do you know how Campbells canned beans are? I'd like to get them soft like that.

Can someone share how it's done? How does Campbell's do it? Do I have to bake them or something?

Cheers. :smiles:
 
3,853
12
Joined May 26, 2001
My authority for beans and their cooking is my pal Rancho Gordo. He says:
  • Soaking is helpful, but not absolutely necessary.
  • If you do soak, don't do it for too long (check out the blog for more information)
  • When you are ready to cook the beans, make sure they are covered with at least one inch of water.
  • Bring the beans to a hard boil, boil for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer.
  • Simmer until the beans are done; this can take a lot of time, or only a little, depending on the type of bean and how old it is.
That last bit is more important than you might think. Odd as it sounds, fresher dried beans cook up better than old, stale dried beans. A lot of times, supermarket beans are old. :( They've been sitting around in the store or in a warehouse longer than they should. That makes them even drier and tougher.

The other important thing is to simmer them, not cook them at a constant boil. Treat them gently and they will be tender. And be patient -- you can't rush them. They will tell you when they are done, if you ask nicely. :eek:

Finally, I trust Rancho Gordo's suggestions about not adding salt or acidic ingredients until the very end. There's a lot of debate in the food science world about when to add salt, but when I cook beans the RG way, they are yummy -- and that's what matters. :D
 
32
10
Joined Feb 22, 2007
I don't know anyone who died from B vitamin deficiency because he or she put baking soda in the bean pot when they were being cooked. I've read all that stuff about salt, acidic ingredients and other recycled unhelpful advice on how to cook beans.

Stop fooling around, measure 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda for every cup of dry beans and toss it in the pot. I throw in a 1/2 teaspoon of salt (more at the table when I'm eating) to prevent beans from being unpalatable. Your beans will be like marshmallows well before 90 minutes of very slow simmering. If you don't care about them falling apart, you don't have to keep on simmer.
 

phatch

Moderator
Staff member
9,205
876
Joined Mar 29, 2002
You can also use a pressure cooker.

Another issue is altitude. I remember watching a cooking show once and they were at a ski resort in Colorado above 10000 feet. They basically had to reinvent cooking.

Bread rise and quick bread behavior was radically different as were cakes and cookies of course.

And the only way to cook the beans was in a pressure cooker. The boiling point was low enough that the beans wouldn't cook.

I use a pressure cooker for cooking beans for the time factor. I can cook a pot of beans in an hour start to finish. Black beans need about 40 minutes at 15 pounds, red beans about 45 and pintos about 50 minutes. Those won't be as soft as campbells, so add another 5 minutes if you want them that soft.

The pressure cooker sets the same pressure regardless of altitude so things cook the same every time everywhere.

No fussing with soaking or getting things going a day before hand.

And it cooks risotto in 6 minutes with no stirring.
 

shel

Banned
3,446
14
Joined Dec 20, 2006
So, is there any way to tell if beans are old or fresh? I generally buy my grains and cereals in bulk, and I'd like to try my hand at making my own beans rather than buying canned. Even though I can sometimes see when the beans are added to the bins, I still don't know how long they've been in transit. How old is considered too old?

Shel
 
5,192
296
Joined Jul 28, 2001
Please treat your beans gently.
Suzannes info is spot on. SIMMER!! Boiling beans is like 2000 people on a 20X20 dance floor. The outsides will be shredded and the insides will still want to dance. NO salt(baking soda) if you do add some epizote. The salt will make the skins tough and will hold the sugars that produce well you know:p. If soaking also rinse a few times to get rid of the little sugars. Grocery store beans can be years old. Soaking helps. Treat your beans nice:D
bean lover
 
1,310
15
Joined Dec 4, 2001
I don't know if there is a way to tell by looking at the beans or using any of the other senses. I'd say find a reputable store and stick with it. Buying from bulk stock, the more rapidly the product is turned the fresher the beans are likly to be. But ulimately the proof is in the eating. If your beans cook up well in a reasonable time they are good enough I'd say.

I live in the Mission District in San Francisco which, for those who don't know, is the Hispanic neighborhood and there is no shortage of good fresh beans.

Jock
 
316
10
Joined May 24, 2006
Heres the Rancho Gordo way video for you.. Gotta love the background music! :lol:


Do check out the Rancho Gordo website that Suzanne posted..
Lots of good info..
 
41
10
Joined Feb 19, 2003
Hi bigfoot. I never heard of using baking soda with beans. I'll try it. Why do you even mention about vitamin B? Does baking soda affect the nutritional content?

Cheers.
 
41
10
Joined Feb 19, 2003
Hi phatch,

No problem with altitude. I'm at about 150' ASL. I don't have a pressure cooker, but I'll keep that in mind for the future. Maybe it would pay for itself in reduced gas costs.

Cheers.
 
41
10
Joined Feb 19, 2003
Hi Suzanne,
Rancho has some nice recipes there. I've bookmarked him. He reminded me to make some refried beans next time which I haven't done in a while. They are great.

I do keep the beans only on a simmer once they've come to a boil.

I'll try finding some beans somewhere other than where I've been buying them lately and see if I luck into any fresher ones. There are a lot of Hispanics around here in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, so I think the beans ought to be moving off the shelves pretty quickly. I haven't usually been buying them in a Spanish deli though. I'll make a point of doing that next time.

Cheers.
 
41
10
Joined Feb 19, 2003
Hi panini,
I've heard not to put salt in until the end. I've tried it both ways and haven't noticed a difference.

Why do you say not to add baking soda? Does it have the same effect as salt? I'd never heard about adding baking soda anyway until Bigfoot mentioned it above.

That epizote looks pretty interesting (I Goggled it.) I'll see if I can get some. Oh, the spelling I came up with is epazote. :)

Cheers
 
41
10
Joined Feb 19, 2003
Hi Joyfull,
That's a cool video. I like that clay pot he was using. He had a special name for it, but I misssed it.
 
573
11
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Shel:

Buy your dried beans at a Hispanic market. The beans won't sit around there for more than a day or two. At your suburban megamart? Could be years.
 

shel

Banned
3,446
14
Joined Dec 20, 2006
That seems like pretty good advice. I do like to buy organic whenever possible, so I think I'll check with the people at the local organic markets and see how much turnover they get with their beans. In addition, there is a new Hispanic section that's developed near me. A lot of shops have opened recently, so it's definitely time to explore that area as well.

For the most part, I don't shop at supermarkets, usually just specialty shops and farmer's markets. An exception might be the local Trader Joe's for some specific items, likewise Whole Foods for certain items.

Shel
 
3,853
12
Joined May 26, 2001
My test for "how old is too old" for packaged beans is: if there's dust on them, they're too old. :eek: Seriously.

I would trust a Hispanic grocery more than Whole Foods, though -- buy where people who use the product shop. And goodness knows, Sunset Park has lots of Mexicans now. :D Tom -- do you have a source for fresh tortillas, too?

I'm glad you guys like RG -- he's a real sweetie, and boy oh boy, he knows his beans. They are more expensive than supermarket beans, but the difference in flavor is worth it. And you should taste his popcorn! :lips:
 
425
10
Joined Sep 5, 2006
Jock-
What's a Scottish boy doing in a hispanic neighborhood? LOL (not teaching anymore? "at home cook" now?)

Want to know how fresh the bulk are- ask a store employee- perhaps you can actually find out who stocks the bins...???

I always soak my beans overnite and then throw them into the crockpot all day- they come out wonderful!
 
5,192
296
Joined Jul 28, 2001
Tom,
The salt or baking soda will make the skins tuff. Here in Texas we have access to fresh beans so it makes a bigger difference then if the beans were old to begin with. The salt will also trap those little sugars in the skin that will go crazy:crazy: in the intestines causing rumbling and agida.
I can't believe I made a spelling error with epazote, at one time, Cape Chef and I were the best epicurion spellers around:lol: sorry Tom, inside joke
pan
 
Top Bottom