Beans and The Power Soak

On March 31, 2012, the FDA declined a petition to remove BPA from food packaging citing insufficient scientific evidence. The move is ‘not final’ and they support further research. Meanwhile, if you’d rather not use canned beans anymore here’s an excellent alternative.  We already know that presoaking beans overnight not only cuts down on cooking time by up to 25 percent, it also helps the beans cook evenly without splitting. However, if you don’t have the time to presoak consider the “power soak” method.  Others have described this technique and currently you’ll see it in Bon Appetite magazine (reported in their March 2012 issue).

Much faster than soaking beans overnight, power soaking breaks down more of the complex sugars that can make beans hard to digest. The simple process begins with placing beans in a pot and covering with water by three inches.  Bring to a boil and simmer briskly for two minutes, remove from heat, cover, and let stand for one hour. Drain, and your beans are ready to use in your favorite recipes (note that they are not fully cooked, rather brought to the same state as if they had been presoaked).

12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Deb G on April 12, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Not to mention that beans prepared from “scratch” are sodium controlled and much more thrifty alternatives to the canned variety – you can get a much greater yield from the same cost when you do it yourself – dried beans are among the cheapest items around!!
    Don’t forget though, never add salt until beans are nearly cooked to yield a tender bean and keep the amount of sodium to a reasonable level to maintain the goodness of the end product.


    • Thank you for your comment, Deb – true on all accounts! Beans are such a nutritious, inexpensive food. Salting towards the end of cooking beans will make them more tender. This is an exception to the general rule of salting food throughout the cooking process.


  2. Posted by Maria on April 12, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Thanks Joy for the great hint on how to speed up the overnight soak. Can’t wait to try this short cut. I like being able to add my own seasoning.It’s my way of being creative. Also I like being able to make big batches and freeze some for future use. Plus you can find many different varieties that you don’t find canned.


  3. Those are good points, Maria. Beans can be seasoned so many different ways. I had forgotton about how many varieties there are in dried that don’t become main stream and thus available in cans. Kudos for your insight!


  4. Posted by Gord on April 12, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    I’ve never used home soaked beans: I generally use canned ones, but I wouldn’t mind giving it a shot to lose the salt. I have this great recipe for Mexican Chicken that I got from a very good friend, and altered somewhat, that calls for a can of black beans with he fluids and a can kidney beans with or without the fluids. Would power soaking or soaking reproduce that or is there more to it than that?


    • Thanks for the question, Gord. The liquid in canned beans typically contains salt and water. The slippery texture of the liquid in the can comes from the breakdown of the bean’s sugars during heat processing. On average there is about 6.5 ounces of water in a can of beans, depending on the size of the bean somewhat. If your recipe called for ‘seasoned black beans’, that means it has a sauce rather than just water & salt, and you won’t get the same results. Does that help?


  5. Posted by Gord on April 12, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Absolutely! And right you are: Seasoned black beans.

    Of course, looking in my pantry I don’t have any of those canned black beans at the moment so I can’t look at the label, but I would imagine that there would be a sort of standard set of seasonings that would be used. Having said that, how would you reproduce the results?


    • I have a post in this blog called ‘Kicking Canned Beans up a Notch’ where I make a seasoned sauce for beans that may be just what you are looking for. The sauce is basically a vinaigrette (oil, red wine vinegar, garlic, onions, green bell pepper, cumin, & oregano). This is a very flavorful mix that does a great job with otherwise bland beans, and the ingredients fit a Mexican flavor profile. My guess is that some, if not all of those flavorings are in a seasoned black bean preparation. Let me know how else I can help!


  6. Posted by pam on April 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Is the nutritional value of one type of bean better than the others?


    • Pam, thank you for a very good question on the nutritional value of beans (also known as legumes, a group that includes peanuts, peas, lentils, and soybeans). Beans are excellent sources of protein and soluble fiber, minerals and vitamins, particularly B vitamins, and folate. The makeup of these nutritents will vary by variety.

      Not counting peanuts, in order of percentage soybeans, lentils, and green peas are among those higher in protein. When considering other attributes it is green peas that are the more nutritionally balanced with a higher percentage of B vitamins and minerals over the other two. Give peas a chance! 🙂

      Since there are other measures worthy of consideration it is fair to say that determining which beans are more nutritious may depend on where one places the emphasis. Overall, beans get my vote as being one of the most delicious, versatile and nutrient-dense foods…..the more, the merrier!


      • Posted by pam on April 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm

        This is so good to know. With the exception of canned green pea soup, I haven’t been giving these powerhouse legumes a second thought. I’ll be including them more often now that I know their true value. Who knew? Thanks for the heads up.

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