Cool beans !!
Updated: Jan 20, 2020
A handy guide about how to buy, store, soak and cook beans.
Let’s talk about beans today, shall we? Oh no no! I’m not going on babbling about what particular minerals and vitamins and other nutrients beans do contain. Good information they are, but they have their place in the nutrition class. Or internet research pages when you feel like learning things. Today let’s just chat about a few quick and handy things about beans that will help us a lot in our everyday cooking. After all you are going to have to make them a staple in your kitchen if you are a vegan (or vegetarian). Beans are one of the main non-animal protein sources, right?
So the first burning question –
Dry or canned?
Canned beans are really very convenient when you are pressed for time. I have to admit that! Still, I personally prefer dry beans over canned. And there are a few reasons for that.
1. Cost effectiveness -- Dry beans are way cheaper. They cost almost a third of the canned ones. You can even buy them in bulk and save some more money than buying smaller bags. Don’t be intimidated to buy in bulk. Stored in air tight containers at a cool dry dark place, dry beans have a lifetime of nearly four years! They will start losing some of the flavor and moisture after two years alright. But with all the scrumptious recipes available these days, I bet your beans won’t sit on the shelf that long.
2. Additives -- Canned beans usually contain a hefty dose of sodium. In this era of increasing blood pressure and other health risks doctors keep telling us to reduce sodium intake as much as we can. So, if you must use canned beans, try to buy the ‘no salt added’ variety.
There are other additives like Calcium chloride and Disodium EDTA in some brands of cans. These chemicals are not ‘toxic’ per se, but they can cause some health issues in small doses.
So, if you are using canned beans pour them on a strainer and rinse them well under a flow of tap water to get rid of these chemicals.
3. BPA – The linings in many cans contain a chemical called bisphenol A or BPA. It’s known that exposure to this chemical can cause an array of diseases starting from heart disease to hormonal issues. It can affect the brain and even cause cancer! BPA level in these can linings are not very high but when you hear about the possibilities of these diseases it sure feels like “Yikes”! So once again, if you’re using canned beans, rinsing them well is a good idea.
4. Minimizing waste – It’s true that you can recycle bean cans. But if the can lining contains BPA, it contaminates the recycle stream. So, please make sure that your recycling facility has a separate bin for BPA containing materials. Using dry beans generates no waste at all. I quite love that fact.
All that said, of course the thing that matters the most is what you feel comfortable to work with. So, if it’s canned beans for you, go with canned beans by all means. If you choose dry beans though you’ll need to know about soaking and cooking methods.
They say you need to soak dry beans in order to cook them to a nice tenderness. They are right. But, it’s not only the tenderness you are soaking your beans for. There is a much more important issue you need to address. That issue is ‘phytic acid’. Phyt… what?! Well, this phytic acid thing is a substance that is naturally present in beans, legumes, whole grains and nuts. It inhibits the uptake of certain minerals like iron in your body. If there is too much phytic acid present in your food, your body will not absorb all the nutrients. Not good, huh? Some people say it is not that of a bad guy, this phytic acid! If you get your minerals from various sources you should be okay. Because every food doesn’t contain phytic acid after all! That is true, if you are an omnivore. People who eat exclusively plant based will be in a jam though! Most of our meals have to have a serving of beans or legumes and/or whole grains to get us all the required nutrients. So presence of phytic acid for us? Ain’t no good baby! We need to get rid of this as much as we can. When you cook your beans and grains, some of the phytic acid is disintegrated. Soaking them before cooking, removes even more. Also sprouting beans, grains and nuts helps to take out some of it. But as sprouting is a time consuming method, you always don’t have to do it. Just go with soaking and cooking. You will be alright.
Soaking beans helps in another way. Beans contain certain starches that are not easily digested. This causes flatulence. Yeah, make you gassy! Some of the starches get removed when beans are soaked. That way you can digest them easily and won’t have to wish you were invisible when there occurs a mass nose crinkling at the Sunday church!
Now, how do you soak your beans? There are two methods actually.
1. Long soaking – This is the conventional method. Soak your dry beans in clean cold tap water. For every cup of bean, add 4-5 cups of water. Keep in the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter overnight or for at least 8 hours. Next day, you’ll find that the beans have absorbed most of the water and become plump. This is the sign that they are hydrated.
Drain them in a colander and rinse with tap water. You should not use the bean soaking liquid. All the phytic acid has been leached in that water. Some people even soak for up to 24 hours to remove even more phytic acid. In that case you should change the water after 10 -12 hours and let the soaking be inside your refrigerator. I personally think an overnight soak is workable and alright.
2. Quick soaking -- If you are not that concerned about washing away phytic acid and you are pressed for time, there is a quicker method too. Rinse your beans. Put them in a large pot along with clean tap water. Yeah, that same 5 parts of water for 1 part of beans ratio. Then bring the water to a boil over a medium heat. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes. Then remove from heat and let the beans soak in the hot water for one hour. Discard the liquid and rinse the beans before cooking. This will make your beans tender enough.
How to cook the beans?
Now that our beans are soaked and hydrated enough we are ready for cooking. You must be wandering how much dry beans you need to have equal amount of one can. Well, 1/2 heaping cup of dry gives you the same amount as a 15 oz can. They actually almost triple after cooking. So one cup of dry bean will give you 3 cups of cooked. And 2 cups dry will be equivalent to a pound of cooked beans.
Cooking them in a pressure cooker saves a lot of time. You just have to add them in the cooker and cover them with clean tap water, then put on medium heat for two whistles (takes about 10 minutes). Let the pressure get released by itself before you open it. That will take 10-15 minutes more.
If you don’t have a pressure cooker, don’t sweat! You can just cook them in a heavy bottom pan. Put the beans in the pan, cover them with water. Put the pan, on medium high heat. When it starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium low so that it simmers gently. Cook the beans covered for 45 minutes to two hours depending upon how much beans you have (until they are just tender).
Adding salt or acid (like lemon juice or vinegar) during cooking keeps them from getting tender. So wait to add them until the beans are cooked. You can add smashed garlic or herbs during the cooking process if you like. They meld well and amp up the flavor.
You can cook beans in big batches, put them in a zip top bag and freeze for later. They will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months. Just add them directly to the pot when you’re making a stew or chili. They thaw nicely in there while the other things are cooking.
So, that’s about all you need to know for the basic. Are ya’ll ready to cook some cool beans now or what?
Let’s get started then. Scotty, bean us up!
I'd love to know if you have any questions or thoughts. Feel free to comment below.
1/16/2020, at 12:25 AM
Very informative. Do share more.
1/19/2020, at 7.44 AM
Thank you! I'll keep them coming.