How to Cook Dried Beans so They're Soft

I read an article somewhere in some food section long ago (probably the Post -- the Washington Post that is) all about beans, and why they sometimes don't seem to soften up when you cook them from dried. Well there was talk about adding the salt too early, or adding acidic things like tomato ingredients too soon, or having water that's too hard. First I tried not adding any salt until after the beans were cooked (and no other ingredients either). That didn't seem to make the difference I was hoping for, so, knowing I had very hard water where I lived at that time (in Michigan), I tried the recommendation for that problem.

baking soda

Yes, that's it, just a little dab'll do ya -- maybe a quarter teaspoon for a big pot. It doesn't seem to affect the flavor, and it seems to really help the beans fall apart and get that nice mooshy-bean texture one looks for in a soup, chili or what-have-you. Don't add the tomatoes or other acid ingredients before the baking soda, as it'll cancel out -- you want the baking soda to work it's magic on the beans unmolested. I also still don't add the salt or anything 'til later. I wouldn't want to jinx it, or contaminate the experiment, or whatever.

Gook luck!

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