Brining Beans

“I was eating beans by candle light for a decade.” ~ Eric Andre


The Science of Good Cooking book

The Science of Good Cooking book

The Science of Good Cooking, (by Cook’s Illustrated and the folks at America’s Test Kitchen on PBS) is a super book for cooks interested in the science of cooking. In its 486 pages and 37 chapters it covers everything you need to know about how cooking and other procedures affect food. This is not a health or a nutrition book—it’s a book about how to be a better cook. Last spring the book was offered at a discount to us subscribers of Cook’s Illustrated magazine and is now available at bookstores and on-line.


Like all the book’s chapters the one on brining beans explains all the procedures they used during each test, and the science behind each outcome. In brining beans the soaking process causes the exchange of some ions (calcium and magnesium) for other ions (sodium) which softens the skins and prevents the beans from exploding during cooking, resulting in tender unbroken skins. They recommend cooking the beans in the oven for even heating and to prevent the beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot which often happens with stovetop cooking.

The book also contains several recipes for each selected food.

I am in the process of changing my bean recipes to bake them in the oven and will share my results in a later blog. But keeping beans intact isn’t something we need when we cook frijoles, for example, and not necessary when making bean soups.

I have changed my decade’s long soaking method to include salt. (See here for more information about soaking and phytates.)

The section on soaking beans is called “Don’t Soak Beans—Brine ‘Em”. Though the book’s recipes for specific beans vary a bit, here is a summary of their basic brining method:

Stuben beans

Stuben beans


­For one pound of beans: 3 tablespoons of salt, 4 quarts of cold water.

For one-half pound (8 ounces) of beans: 1 ½ tablespoon salt, 2 quarts of cold water.

Rinse and pick through the beans, removing any gravel. Dissolve the salt in the water in a large bowl. Rinse the beans and pour them into the salted water. Let them sit overnight and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well before proceeding to your recipe.

Depending on the type of bean one pound will be around 2 heaping cups of beans. It’s not necessary to be exact because different beans will measure differently in cups due to their various shapes.

I buy beans in bulk whenever I can and store them in glass jars each of which holds around two cups of beans.

Author:Sharon Reese

Lacto-ovo vegetarian for over four decades.

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I will be pleased to hear from you. I’ll try to answer questions you might have about cooking or nutrition.

5 Responses to “Brining Beans”

  1. n church
    November 12, 2014 at 1:34 am #

    Please publish your recipe for Steuben bean soup. It was available to me once, but I’ve misplaced it. It was SO delicious.

    • Sharon
      November 21, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

      Thank you for your encouraging comments. I will be posting that recipe soon.

  2. November 21, 2014 at 4:16 am #

    Glad you’ve finally gotten your blog launched. I’ve always loved beans and think they get too little attention for being as nutritious and tasty as they are. You’ll never run out of new recipes and useful information about beans. Hope other people who love beans find you soon. You have a lot to offer them. Best of luck to you.

    • Sharon
      November 21, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

      Thank you for your comments, I really appreciate the support.


  1. Steuben Yellow Beans - Healthful Cooking - January 10, 2015

    […] all dried beans Steuben yellows should be soaked overnight before cooking. This helps remove phytates and makes them easier to […]

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