Baking Soda Is The Key To Cooking Dried Beans Quickly

A pot of beans is a traditional comfort food for many that provides a nutritious and economical dinner. The downside to cooking dried beans is that they tend to require long soaking and cooking times. Generally, these types of beans need to be soaked overnight and can also take all day to cook. But let's say you're in a hurry and need them done sooner. Well, there is a simple solution that will make your beans cook in a fraction of the time: baking soda. 

Baking soda speeds up the soak and cook time of beans by softening them faster. Dried beans contain 16% moisture and, as they age, this moisture content decreases, which makes the beans harder and duller in color. Baking soda also brightens up the color of the beans and can help smooth out the grainy texture. Two common mistakes people make when cooking beans are using hard water and not soaking them prior to cooking. Baking soda helps both issues because it provides alkalinity to the water and reduces minerals that slow down the hydrating process. That's not all: Baking soda also reduces the amount of gas one gets from beans.

How baking soda speeds up cooking time

We know that baking soda makes the water for dried beans more alkaline, but what does that do? As America's Test Kitchen editor Dr. Guy Crosby explained to The Bean Institute, this "causes the pectin molecules to break down into smaller molecules ... causing the beans to soften much more rapidly." (Pectin is what "strengthens the cell walls in the beans," he notes.) Usually, beans require 1 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of beans while soaking or cooking, though some people recommend as little as ¼ teaspoon per cup.

Just remember that it is possible to use too much baking soda in beans. If you do, the beans will have a soapy taste. So, in this instance, less is more. You can either soak the beans in baking soda or you can add it straight into the hot water while they're cooking. If you use it twice, rinse the beans after they soak to eliminate excess baking soda. However, using baking soda during just one stage is sufficient for speedier cooking times and to preserve the natural earthy flavor of the beans.