Should You Salt Beans Before Cooking Them?

Nothing warms you up from the tip of your toes to the top of your head faster than a hot meal. And, if legions of mothers everywhere are to be believed, absolutely no dish sticks to the ribs better than a bowl of homemade beans. So if you need to increase your core temperature and fill up a large hollow spot in your tummy, it would seem that a tasty bowl of your favorite baked beans recipe could do the trick.

If only you could get your beans to taste as good as your mother's. She's tried to teach you her technique, but you just can't get it right. Perhaps, your beans are past their prime. Yes, dried beans can spoil. Good Housekeeping says that old beans taste different than fresh and that after between two and three years they begin shedding their nutrients. Really, what's the point of eating beans if they've lost their nutritional benefits? It is also important to rinse dried beans, a step that many forget. According to the Los Angeles Times, this will help you take out anything that isn't a bean (like a stone, for instance) and those nasty former beans that have gone bad.

You may have heard some advice to the contrary, but perhaps your beans aren't as good as mom's because you're forgetting to salt them. If you just experienced an "a-ha" moment, you will likely be even more surprised to learn why salt can be a bean baker's best friend.

Brining your beans makes for a softer skin

If you've given credence to the claim that salted beans will remain too hard or take longer to cook, you will be shocked to discover that it isn't true. It's one of those myths like the one that says if you drink Coke and eat pop rocks together, your stomach will explode (the Liberty Science Center assures everyone that it won't). In fact, several well-known culinary outlets agree that, when used correctly, salt can greatly enhance your final product.

The folks at Serious Eats decided to put salted beans to the test, discovering that when salt isn't used, the beans have a greater tendency to rupture. The salted beans also had a nicer flavor overall. America's Test Kitchen recommends that you brine the beans (via YouTube), claiming that letting them soak in salted water for eight to 24 hours enables the skins to become softer while preserving the integrity of the innards. The best type of salt for brining beans, according to the tester is traditional table salt.

The next time you're trying to make a batch of beans the way mom used to make them, you may want to add salt to your list of ingredients. Perhaps, your beans will even surpass your mother's.