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Salt or Not to Salt the Bean Is the Question?

The common misconception spreading through the ages about adding salt to beans makes them though couldn’t be further from the facts.

Traditionally, the advice is against adding salt to bean soaking water, fearing it would hinder softening.

A simple comparison reveals that salting beans throughout the process, from soaking to cooking, actually achieves the opposite effect – softer skins. Apparently no one cared to check.

The secret lies in magnesium and calcium ions, present in bean skins and responsible for their structural integrity. Soaking beans in salted water allows sodium ions to replace some of these minerals, effectively weakening the skins. This results in creamier beans with enhanced flavor and a reduced risk of bursting during cooking.

Debunking the Myth

Conducting a simple experiment reveals that salting both the soaking and cooking water yielded the most favorable outcome. Beans cooked in salted water display:

  • Improved Texture
    Salted beans were less prone to bursting, resulting in a creamier and more intact final product.
  • Enhanced Flavor
    Salted beans boasted a more concentrated and desirable flavor profile.

The Science Behind the Seasoning

Soaking and cooking beans in salted water allows sodium ions to replace calcium and magnesium ions within the bean’s skin. This facilitates increased water penetration into the bean cells, leading to even cooking and preventing the tough outer skin from rupturing.

Recommendations for Salting Beans

  • Soaking Water
    Utilize one tablespoon of salt per quart (approximately 15 grams per liter) of soaking water.
  • Cooking Water
    Season the cooking water moderately to avoid excessive saltiness after reduction.

Embrace Salting for Superior Beans

Incorporating salt into both the soaking and cooking water unlocks the full potential of our beans. This simple technique offers a path to achieving flavorful, creamy, and perfectly cooked beans, ideal for anyone seeking to integrate this nutritious legume into their diet.

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