Can beans be overcooked? It’s one of those questions you’d get a different answer for based on who you ask.
Some cooks say that you can overcook beans, and that they’ll get soft and mushy if you reach the threshold. Others swear by their methods for slow-cooking beans for hours on end.
As we’re about to see in this article, the answer to this question is not cut and dry. There are plenty of methods for making sure your beans turn out perfect every time and, in the next few minutes, we will take a look at the best of them.
Why is everyone so enamored with beans, anyway?
Beans are a cheap and versatile ingredient. You can use them in a variety of ways, from bean stew and chili con carne to enchilada dips and taco fillings. Unsurprisingly, their versatility makes beans one of the most popular foods around the world.
Cooking beans, however, is not always straightforward!
Obviously, you should cook beans long enough to make sure that they’re edible. But not for so long that the beans get mushy and let go of some of their savory flavors (the good news is that, even if you get there, you’ll at least end up with tasty liquid).
Beans are an easy and quick way to get protein into your diet, as well. But overcooking can destroy some of the nutrients in beans. Overcooking also makes them much harder to digest and leads to flatulence (your stomach, as a general rule of thumb, has an easier time digesting crisp and firm foods).
Nevertheless, beans are an easy way for vegetarians and vegans to get their daily proteins as well as a few vitamins, such as vitamins B1 and B5. For the same reasons, they are one of the most eaten foods by vegetarians and vegans.
How To Cook Beans
Beans are a staple of many diets because they’re high in protein, fiber, and minerals. You can use beans as an extender for meat dishes or other recipes that call for more than one pound of ground beef.
But when you cook them, how long is too long?
It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all cooking time for beans because the age of the bean, its size before they dried it, and several other factors can affect how long you need to cook them to become tender.
The obvious piece of advice here is that, if not cooked properly, beans will leave your dish dry and tasteless.
But, for those of you who come to Home Cook World for the specific and practical advice that we give, there are some general guidelines to follow:
Cook beans for at least one hour on medium heat, without adding additional water or liquid not to dilute your dish’s flavor. Then, add salt and spices towards the end of cooking, as they can increase the time it takes for the beans to get tender.
Should You Soak Your Beans?
What are the benefits of soaking beans?
The long answer short is that soaked—and therefore tenderized—beans require less cooking time.
Another perk, especially for those who like to make bean dishes ahead of time or freeze them for later use, is that leaving your legumes in water overnight will help prevent a considerable loss of cooking liquid once you add the beans to a recipe.
Soaking and draining also allow much of the gas-producing oligosaccharides (complex sugars that can cause flatulence) found in legumes to break down, which will help your digestive system digest them with minor discomfort or distress.
However, you should never soak beans for more than 24 hours. After that period, the beans will begin to germinate, affecting their flavor and texture before cooking.
Is there a disadvantage to presoaking beans?
Some people argue that soaking legumes removes nutrients like protein, which is false.
While it’s true that some of the carbohydrates within dried beans may break down during soaking and others lost in cooking water if you neglect to save your bean broth (which you should always do), there are also plenty of nutrients that get released into the cooking water.
In addition, many of the nutrients in legumes reside within their skins, and soaking is a great way to help preserve them for maximum nutrient benefit when you cook your beans.
What Is the Best Heat Setting When Cooking Beans?
What heat setting to use when boiling beans comes down to the goal of cooking.
If you boil beans over high heat, the cooking liquid will thicken and the beans will cook faster. If you simmer them gently over medium heat, the sauce won’t evaporate as fast and the flavors of your soup or stew will meld together.
Like many other things in cooking, it comes down to trade-offs that you, the cook, need to make. When you’re short on time, use medium-high to high heat at the expense of flavor. When you’ve plenty of time—for example, you’re cooking up Sunday dinner—cook the beans low and slow to develop the flavor.
How To Tell When You’ve Overcooked Beans
One of the biggest fears people have with beans is cooking them too long and making them mushy.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to tell exactly when you’ve overcooked your beans, but as soon as they start turning pasty, it’s time to get rid of them! You can also test if your beans are done or not by tasting one. If it’s still hard, they’re still not cooked yet.
The good news is that overcooked beans still taste just fine in most recipes, especially if you add some spices and vegetables.
They’re also easy to mash with a fork or puree into a sauce using an immersion blender. If you don’t have enough time for the beans to cook entirely on their own, adding them later after the rest of the food is cooked can also help.
How To Tell When You’ve Undercooked Beans and How To Fix Them
When you undercook beans, they’re harder to chew and have a less desirable texture. They may also be more difficult for your digestive system to break down, causing gas or stomach discomfort.
Undercooked beans can look like overcooked beans; there are ways you can tell the difference between them both visually and when eating them. You can fix undercooked beans by cooking them a little bit longer.
Beans have tough skin, and if you undercook them, the skin is difficult to chew. In addition, undercooked beans are harder for your digestive system to break down, which can cause gas or stomach discomfort. If you cook them too long, they become mushy like overcooked beans but look similar on the outside.
How To Tell When You’ve Cooked Your Beans Just Right
Cooking beans feels very often like a Goldilocks and the Three Bears situation. If you undercook them, they won’t absorb enough water and will come out overly crunchy. Overcook them, and they’ll come out mushy and flavorless.
How do you know when they’re just right?
One trick is to bite into a single bean. Undercooked beans are chalky and hard, while overcooked ones are soft all the way through. The “just right” stage falls in between.
You can still see (and feel) tiny white dots on the surface of the bean where it has not yet softened completely. If you cook them until the dots disappear, you’ll end up with mushy beans. It is easy to tell when you’ve cooked beans just right.
Just right beans “should not be hard in the center nor mushy,” according to ChefSteps.com, a cooking website that provides recipes and techniques for home cooks. Beans cooked just right should also have an even consistency throughout, not too moist or dry.
They are fully tender but will still hold their shape if you cut them in half. You can recognize overcooked beans when they turn gray or purple and fall apart completely, according to The Kitchn. Beans cooked just right will not have this color change.
A Few Tips on Serving Your Cooked Beans
Serve the beans when they are warm. They shouldn’t sit out for too long, as the heat will evaporate and make them cold quickly. Ideally, you should eat them within an hour of cooking for the best taste and flavor.
If you want to store your beans, refrigerate them for a maximum of a day or two, or freeze them for storage of 3-4 months. Also, remember that you should keep beans in a dry place and not near any moisture.
You have probably heard that beans are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. Well, they’re also very versatile!
For example, it’s easy to cook up some rice with beans or make some soup out of them for an extra tasty meal. Just remember to follow these tips for delicious beans every time.
Beans are most served alongside rice or as soup, but they’re also great on their own! If you want to make their soups with carrots and potatoes, add the veggies to the cooking water. As far as storage goes, it’s best to freeze your cooked beans rather than let them go bad in the fridge overnight.
Freeze your beans with some broth to get a delicious, flavorful soup when you’re ready for it!
Can you overcook beans?
The long answer short is, “it depends.” Overcooked beans come out soft, mushy, and less appetizing, but they can still be eaten.
So, while over-cooking doesn’t necessarily make food harmful, it certainly can take away from the flavor and make beans taste bad. But, if you overcook your beans, don’t worry! Just add some seasoning (especially salt) to help mask that off-putting texture.
And if worse comes to worst, remember: most people will spit out overcooked food before swallowing it.