To settle the inevitable debates about soaking and salting beans, we consulted writer and food scientist Harold McGee and Chicago chef Rick Bayless—who cooks almost 12,000 pounds of beans a year—and then went into the SAVEUR Kitchen to test their theories. Here's what we found:
1.SOAKING beans really isn't necessary. It does minimally shorten cooking time and leach away some oligosaccharides (those pesky gas-producing sugars) but it also soaks away nutrients. Cooking beans without soaking may take 15 minutes longer and require a little more water, but the results are delicious.
2.SALTING before the beans have cooked completely has always been taboo. But we added salt to the cooking water (2 tsp. salt to 1 cup beans and 2 cups water) and got flavorful beans with intact skins and creamy, tender interiors.
3.COVERING the cooking pot produces beans with a creamier texture; uncovered, they stay separate and whole.