The taste of cooked beans depends on several factors. It isn't just about the recipe or the spices or herbs used. Even a simple process like soaking can decide its flavour, texture and nutrition. Trivial, it might sound, but one needs to know why soaking dry beans, especially a few kinds are a must. There are also many ways to do it. Learning the dos and don'ts can make a lot of difference.
If you've ever wondered whether soaking dry beans before cooking them is necessary, the answer is that it's not required all the time. It is also applicable to the type of beans you are using. However, soaking dry beans and legumes does have many benefits. The process can reduce the amount of gas produced when digesting them and improve their texture once cooked. Nonetheless, you don't need to worry about soaking lentils, split peas, or black-eyed peas (or cowpeas), as they are softer than dried beans and can be cooked within 5 to 20 minutes without any soaking time. While traditional cookbooks often recommend soaking dried beans, modern cooking websites may suggest it doesn't matter. The truth is that they're both right. Soaking beans may not be necessary, but pre-cooking has health benefits.
So, if you want to soak your dry beans, go for it! But if you're short on time or just don't feel like it, don't worry. Your beans will still turn out just fine.
Benefits of Soaking Beans:
There are several perks of soaking dry beans before cooking. You may consider or all the points mentioned below for deciding whether to soak or not.
Makes beans tender
Many dried beans, by nature, are too hard. They don't tend to get boiled when one cooks them directly sans the soaking. This is why people prefer soaking beans, particularly hot soak. It enhances the dried beans' tenderness after cooking.
To enhance digestibility
Dried beans that have not been soaked contain oligosaccharides that are difficult to digest. Even when they reach the small intestine, they cannot be fully broken down, and it is only in the large intestine that beneficial bacteria break them down, leading to gas formation. Thus, people soak beans to improve their digestibility and prevent gas formation.
Dried beans, Image Source: Unsplash
Breaking down oligosaccharides
Soaking can eliminate some oligosaccharides, making it easier for the body to break down the beans and reducing the likelihood of gas after consumption. Soaking beans overnight can dissolve 75% to 90% of the oligosaccharides into the soaking water, which can be discarded after soaking.
Reduce fuel wastage
When certain dry beans, such as kidney or pinto beans or navy beans, great northern beans take longer to cook. Soaking them softer and more porous to absorb water and spices. It also cuts down cooking time and saves fuel.
Ways of Soaking Beans
There are three main methods for soaking beans: quick, hot, and overnight. The method chosen will depend on personal preference and time constraints.
Quick soak method
The quick soak method involves leaving the beans immersed in water at room temperature for at least an hour. Although it is the fastest method, it may not be as effective as the other two methods in reducing gas.
Hot soak method:
It is preferred by many chefs because it consistently produces tender cooked beans and decreases cooking time while also dissolving some of the oligosaccharides that cause gas. Once the initial seven steps are completed, the beans should be left to soak at room temperature for 4 hours. This is the safe limit for bathing beans at room temperature, as any longer could increase harmful bacteria and toxin production in the beans or soaking water.
Overnight soak method:
A traditional method allows more oligosaccharides to dissolve into the water, which can be washed away when the beans are rinsed. After the initial steps, the pot is left to cool to room temperature and then placed in the fridge overnight or for at least eight hours.