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I'm guessing there are different answers depending on the type of dried bean (pinto, kidney, navy, white, etc.) and I am interested in all of them.

So: how long should dry beans be soaked?

Should the water be just tap water, or salted?

Should the soaking water be discarded or used later?

Thanks!

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3  
The soak water is great for watering plants with - it's slightly fertile. –  user9243 Feb 22 '12 at 21:39
    
"Should the water be just tap water, or salted?" is answered on cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/20754/… –  Mien Feb 22 '12 at 23:52

3 Answers 3

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Overnight is ideal, but even an hour or two will help. If you don't have much time, you can speed the processs by using hot water. Tap water, and not salted - salt toughens the skin of beans if it used before they are cooked. Most folks discard the soaking water, as it is thought to produce flatulence. Also, if you have a pressure cooker, you can cook dried beans without a pre-soak and get great results.

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Good answer. Also, the soaking water can have dirt in it, which you might not want to eat! That's an argument for at least rinsing your beans before you pressure cook them! (And in my experience, soaking beans before pressure cooking does improve the texture...) –  Harlan Sep 2 '10 at 20:38

This website has an excellent chart showing the soaking and cooking times for various types of dried beans. Some beans don't need to be soaked at all, while others need at least 8 hours.

I personally always discard the soaking water. I don't like the flavors, and in some cases, colors that the water adds to the food, not to mention the dirt/rocks that settle to the bottom. I normally soak and cook beans in filtered water, but that is only because the area I live in has lots of chlorine in the water and I don't like the taste. Throwing out the water also removes some of the starch so your beans don't foam so much when you cook them.

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An alternative to pre-soaking is pre-cooking. I have 200g borlotti beans and tomato sauce in the oven right now in a covered casserole. After three hours cooking at 110C I'll take them out and leave them covered until I get home from work after which time they should be nice and soft.

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