Dry beans are a great source of nutrition and can be quite tasty provided they are soft in texture after being cooked. But, getting them to be soft is tricky. If you overcook them, they simply disintegrate. If they are undercooked, they may retain their hardness and become unappealing to the palate.
When dry beans are stored for a long time, its moisture content is lost and the beans become harder and incapable of absorbing moisture. This causes the beans to remain hard despite soaking and simmering. As they age, the beans undergo chemical changes and the outer skin hardens and prevents moisture absorption. So, how do you tenderize dry beans? And, can we prevent the beans from causing gas?
Baking Soda To Tenderize Dry Beans
Many people recommend using baking soda to soften the dry beans. Baking soda adjusts the pH level in the water and makes the beans soft. Baking soda also helps tenderize beans by accelerating the deterioration of pectin, which is vital to plant cell structure and strength. Most people add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per pound of dried beans to the soaking water. This method is said to soften the beans giving them a nice creamy texture when cooked. But, there is a downside of using baking soda.
Soak The Beans Overnight
Dry beans can be cooked in many different ways without soaking them. But, soaking the beans overnight for at least eight hours is the best method to ensure that the beans are evenly cooked, especially on the inside. So, immerse the dry beans in a vessel containing plenty of water and allow it to soak up the water and expand as much as it can. For best results, use four times the amount of water as you have beans.
Another benefit of soaking dry beans is it can help prevent gas when eaten. Just remember to discard the water before cooking the soaked beans. The water absorbs some of the gas causing complex sugars. Soaking also helps remove dust and dirt that may be on the beans.
How Does Soaking Prevent Gas?
Most legumes contain complex oligosaccharides, a type of complex sugar. When we digest this complex sugar, it causes flatulence. By soaking the beans, we can eliminate some of this excess sugar. Make sure that you discard this water. One specific study noted that soaking the dry beans in the 0.5% baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) solution can improve softening of the testa (external seed covering) and cotyledons (inner part of the bean) that could increase the sugars extraction.1
Disadvantages Of Using Baking Soda
- Baking soda is not entirely tasteless. It gives a salty or soapy flavor to your delicious beans.
- Using baking soda has a negative impact on nutrition. Studies confirm that protein destruction during cooking tripled when baking soda was added.
- Important nutrients in the beans such as vitamin B-1 (thiamine) and vitamin B-2 (riboflavin) are lost by the introduction of baking soda.
- One specific study showed that the sugar contents decreased only by a few percent with baking soda.2
The Final Verdict
Ultimately, the combination of an 18-hour soak in the baking soda solution followed by cooking in a pressure cooker achieved the highest reductions in gas-causing sugars (up to 70%). Pressure cooking also destroys these sugars more effectively than conventional cooking. Since an increased soaking time has a much greater effect on gas-causing sugars, baking soda should perhaps be reserved for situations where preparation time is limited.
|↑1||KU, SHUN, L. S. Wei, M. P. Steinberg, A. I. Nelson, and T. Hymowitz. “Extraction of oligosaccharides during cooking of whole soybeans.” Journal of Food Science 41, no. 2 (1976): 361-364.|
|↑2||Jood, Sudesh, Usha Mehta, Randhir Singh, and Cheranjit M. Bhat. “Effect of processing on flatus-producing factors in legumes.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 33, no. 2 (1985): 268-271.|