Do you need to soak the beans before pressure cooking them?

My main motive for buying a pressure cooker was shortening the cooking times of vegetables and meats. One of my favorite ingredients in the kitchen are beans. If you didn’t know it, beans are one of the best foods you can eat. If you add to it some meat and cereals, you will have a complete and nutritious meal that will satisfy all you needs for proteins, minerals, folic acid, etc. Beans are very good for those you have problems with their cholesterol because they help reduce the levels back to normal.

When I bought my pressure cooker I thought that I didn’t have to soak my beans before cooking them. But I was wrong.  Although pressure cooking reduces considerably the bean’s cooking times (to 1/3 – 1/2 when compared to standard cooking methods) the soaking has to be done.  Soaking reduces the cooking times of beans as well. The  lesser you cook the beans the more ingredients you will preserve.

Beans are usually dry so they need to be re-hydrated to ensure even cooking. The re-hydration is usually over in 4 hours but it’s better if you soak them for 8-10 hours (I usually leave them soaking overnight). How do you know they are re-hydrated? You just need to cut one in half and see if the inside color is uniform. If there is a different color in the center the beans will need some more soaking.

Besides shortening the cooking times, soaking eliminates the indigestible sugars that cause gases. Remember while soaking, to change the water a couple of times (in this way you eliminate the sugars) and never to cook the beans in the water that you used for soaking. Always cook them in fresh cold water. And, before cooking, wash the beans thoroughly once more.

When soaking the beans add some salt to the water (1 teaspoon for 1 cup of beans). This will help keep the bean’s skin intact.

If you don’t have the needed time for soaking you can use your pressure cooker for “quick soaking”. You just have to bring to boil the beans in salted water (4 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt for 1 cup of beans), then lock the lid in place and bring the cooker to high heat. Then reduce the heat to maintain the needed pressure (for most beans 15 psi) and cook for 2 minutes. After that release the pressure, remove and drain the beans. Now, they are ready to be prepared in accordance with the chosen recipe.

Soaking times depend from many factors: the type of beans (lentils and split peas don’t require soaking while black bean require longer times), how dry are the beans (the drier the longer it takes), how were they stored, etc.

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