Reducing Cooking Times by Presoaking

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Though beans are an ideal food for slow, easy cooking in a low oven, it’s sometimes desirable to cook them faster. In mountainous areas, where high altitude lowers the boiling point, the cooking of dry beans can become an all-day affair.
There are several different ways to reduce the cooking time of beans and peas. The simplest way is to soak dried beans in water before cooking them. This reduces cooking time by 25% or more, and for a very basic reason: heat penetrates a dry seed faster than water does. If beans are cooked directly from the dry state, much of the cooking time is actually spent waiting for water to get to the center. Meanwhile the outer portions of the bean cook more than they need to and may get undesirably fragile.