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.