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Advice on my plate of beans...
January 11, 2011 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Is there any reason to soak beans before cooking them in a slow cooker?

I'm not really concerned with cooking time, if I was I wouldn't be using the slow cooker in the first place. I have heard that soaking reduces the gas creating properties of beans, but I feel like slow cooking should do the same thing if I discard the water and rinse the beans when I'm done. There are a ton of opinions on this question online, anyone have anything authoritative?
posted by furiousxgeorge to Food & Drink (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think soaking makes a better texture and some beans take a long time to cook if you don't soak them. I rarely soak beans because I use a pressure cooker and then discard the water. It quick and keeps my farting to a minimum.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:14 PM on January 11, 2011


Beans that are not soaked well will not be digested by the body. That means a really bad night for most people.
posted by parmanparman at 7:18 PM on January 11, 2011


also, if you are discarding the water from cooking the beans, you are losing a wonderful flavor source. So, don't follow bonobothegreat's thoughts about doing so.
posted by parmanparman at 7:19 PM on January 11, 2011


From On Food and Cooking page 486:

"A commonly used method for reducing the gassiness of beans is to boil them briefly in excess water, let them stand for an hour, then discard the soaking water and start the cooking with fresh water. This does leach out of most of the water-soluble oligosaccharides- but also leaches out significant quantities of water solubles vitamins, minerals, simple sugars, and seed coat pigments; that is, nutrients, flavor, color, and antioxidants. That's a high price to pay. An alternative is simple prolonged cooking..."

Oligosaccharides are the carbohydrate that causes gassiness. So yeah, you don't really have to soak them if you do slow cooking.
posted by Carius at 7:22 PM on January 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


To elaborate on parmanparman's post, from what I have read, there is a particular enzyme in beans that most people find it hard to digest which is removed in the soaking process. Apparently, the slow cooker won't provide the amount of soaking needed to do this (I got this information from a slow cooker cook book).

However, I have never soaked beans before cooking with them, and have never had any problems digesting them, either. YMMV, but sometimes I think the necessity of certain cooking rules get a bit exaggerated.
posted by wansac at 7:22 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


A good compromise between "discard the water!" and "don't discard the water!" is to use the water as a base for vegetable stock.
posted by Sara C. at 7:26 PM on January 11, 2011


I picked up pre-soaking beans in baking soda solution from Dr. Gabe. Before that, any bean dish would have me lolling about bloatedly in bed, emitting colossal eye-watering blanket-lifters on the quarter hours all night.
posted by scruss at 7:28 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's a high price to pay.

Yeah, but if you're not eating beans because of the gas, you're not getting any of those nutrients anyway. You may be better off discarding some of the nutrients if it allows you to eat the rest.

More anecdata: Some people report that eating some beans every day eventually reduces the gas production as your body and its resident biota adapt to the diet.
posted by Bruce H. at 8:13 PM on January 11, 2011


I once made a pot of slow-cooker chili without soaking the beans ahead of time. It was not good. The beans were still kind of crunchy.

I always soak 'em now.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 8:42 PM on January 11, 2011


Yeah, but if you're not eating beans because of the gas, you're not getting any of those nutrients anyway. You may be better off discarding some of the nutrients if it allows you to eat the rest.

More anecdata: Some people report that eating some beans every day eventually reduces the gas production as your body and its resident biota adapt to the diet.


Harold McGee is not advocating not eating bean because of the gas or that you can't discard the soaked water. He's just pointing out it's wasteful from nutritional point of view to soak the beans and discard all the nutrients just to reduce the gassiness. A better way he advocates is just prolong the cooking. Because when if you cooked beans long enough the offensive oligosaccharides that caused the problem will eventually broken down into harmless and easily digestible simple sugars.

That's not saying soaking is completely useless. It does speed up cooking time by 25%. But the asker here doesn't care about cooking time. Adding salt at concentration of 1%( 2 teaspoons/qt) will also speed up the cooking time by 25%.

I have to agree with you that your body will eventually adopt if you eat beans often enough.
posted by Carius at 9:40 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


If the beans you're talking about are dried beans (and we almost never see our familiar dried beans in their fresh form), then I think you should soak them in cold water several hours or overnight. Consider that you don't know how long the beans have been dry or how dry they are. Dried beans are really hard. Soaking them as they cook, which is what you are doing in the slow cooker, does not soften and cook them as evenly as would be the case if the beans are pre-soaked in unheated water. Dried beans are slow food. I also think there is an alchemy that happens between properly pre-soaked beans and the aromatics and seasonings with which they are cooked that just doesn't happen with non-soaked beans.

This is the topic of a prolonged though gentle debate with my favorite cooking friend who never has time to soak the beans and doesn't think it even matters. (It does.)
posted by Anitanola at 9:43 PM on January 11, 2011


Soak the beans! Overnight, in water, with a splash (a few tablespoons) of vinegar. The next morning, discard the soaking water and rinse the beans. Cook as usual. Don't worry if the beans smell a bit like vinegar after rinsing them - you won't be able to taste it. The vinegar pre-soak will rid you of the gas problem. Trust me. Hmm, I'll have to look into the baking soda suggestion from above.
posted by ticketmaster10 at 10:46 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I soak beans in plain water overnight first, but that's because I want to boost their nutritive value (or at least my body's ability to absorb those nutrients) by letting them just barely start to sprout. I consider reducing gas to be a bonus. I've also found that dry beans vary a lot in cooking times, which I'm told has a lot to do with how fresh they are. Soaking makes the cooking times more consistent.
posted by cali at 10:52 PM on January 11, 2011


If you do exactly as ticketmaster says, but you leave out the vinegar, that works just fine as well.

I use my discarded bean soaking water to water the houseplants. So far, I haven't noticed any of them farting.

I have made beans with cold soaking, and beans without cold soaking, and I always get less farting and better flavor from the soaked ones. Pre-boil and hot soak gives me fart-free beans that don't taste as good.
posted by flabdablet at 10:55 PM on January 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you are going to cook beans in a slow cooker, be aware that you should never slow cook raw kidney beans. They should be boiled for at least 10 minutes (after which you can add them to the slow cooker), to destroy a toxin that can cause severe food poisoning.

From the linked page:
The following procedure has been recommended by the PHLS to render kidney, and other, beans safe for consumption:

Soak in water for at least 5 hours.
Pour away the water.
Boil briskly in fresh water, with occasional stirring, for at least 10 minutes.
Undercooked beans may be more toxic than raw beans.

posted by davar at 1:23 AM on January 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I'm aware of that one, but since this question will be exposed to the google forever it's a very good thing to point out.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:25 AM on January 12, 2011


I don't soak smaller legumes such as lentils or split peas as these seem to cook fine in in liquid in an hour or so.

For larger beans: Red kidney, Haricot, Cannellini, Pinto, Black Beans, Chickpeas or Fava beans etc. then yes I like to soak them in cold water overnight, then discard the soaking water. They seem to cook better and more evenly.
posted by mary8nne at 7:59 AM on January 12, 2011


I don't soak my beans ever sine I discovered the 90 minute no soak method. They come out perfect every time.
posted by KathrynT at 8:44 AM on January 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I followed KathrynT's prescription today and am completely converted. I can't believe that works.
posted by Rat Spatula at 4:15 PM on January 30, 2011


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