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Beans: To Soak or Not to Soak?
Credit: Rancho Gordo
Good news: soaking is not necessary for food safety nor does it significantly improve the taste of the beans.
Bad news: if you don't soak the beans, they will take slightly longer to cook and may not cook as evenly.
Conclusion: the decision is yours to make!
Why do we soak beans?Soaking beans for 4-6 hours before cooking is recommended in many recipes because it allows for two things: (1) even cooking and (2) decreased cooking time. There has been much debate over whether or not soaking cuts down on indigestion, as well; according to Rancho Gordo (quite the bean experts), if you use fresh beans, soaking is not needed for any reason besides the two listed above.
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In short, soaking beans allows their seed coats to soften and hydrate, allowing water to flow through the surface and cook the interior of the bean. If cooking older or more dried out beans, soaking can reduce cooking time much more significantly, so in this case we recommend it. This process cuts down on the cook time by roughly 15-30 minutes for fresh beans and around an hour for older beans.
Many factors play into a bean's cooking time, so it's important to keep a close eye on the pot once you're close to the recipe's slated time. Should you choose to not soak your beans, be sure to add a little time to the recipe's suggestion and check frequently on the cooking progress.
Credit: Eiliv-Sonas Aceron
What about washing the beans?
One thing is for certain despite the controversy around soaking: always remember to thoroughly wash your beans before cooking, whether you soak or not. This will remove bean debris which no one wants to ingest! We recommend rinsing 2-3 times with fresh water.
Credit: Eiliv-Sonas AceronSo, ultimately, the choice is up to you whether or not to soak your beans! If you're looking for some new beans to try, check out Rancho Gordo's Heirloom Bean Sampler, Brown Tepary beans, and Marcella Cannellini beans.