Persistently Hard Beans

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
One problem that cooks commonly encounter when cooking dry beans is that some batches take unusually long to soften, or never quite do soften. This may have been caused by growing conditions on the farm, or storage conditions after harvest.
“Hard-seed” is a characteristic found in beans when temperatures are high and humidity and water supply are low during the growing season. The outer seed coat gets very water-resistant, so it takes much longer for water to move into the bean interior. Hard-seed beans are usually smaller than normal beans, so they can sometimes be avoided by picking over the beans and discarding the smallest ones before cooking.