Kitchen Q&A

Soaking beans helps them cook faster

 

The Charlotte Observer

Q. Why are we supposed to soak dried beans? It’s seems like such an elaborate step. I’ve cooked dried black-eyed peas in boiling water in about 90 minutes without soaking them.

Soaking dried beans isn’t all that elaborate, but it does take remembering to cover them with water the night before. The reason we do it is because beans are dried for storage. If you don’t soak them, you’re looking at a longer cooking time.

Once upon a time, cooking something meant chopping wood or burning something expensive like coal. So cooking efficiency was critical. You didn’t want to burn more calories than you’d gain by eating the food.

These days, it’s easy to speed dried-bean prep with the quick-soak method: Cover them with water, bring them a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let them stand one hour and then cook them. It’s much easier and quicker than overnight soaking.

Since black-eyed peas are smaller than, say, a Great Northern bean, they may cook through faster. The age of dried beans also makes a difference in how long it takes them to cook. Beans that are especially old, like the ones people use in decorative jars, can cook for a long time without ever completely softening. So you also may have gotten lucky with your source of black-eyed peas.

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