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Facts and fiction about food and cooking, by Peter Aitken
Tag Archives: beans
Navy beans and great northern beans are the same
September 4, 2017Posted by on
They are, to tell the truth, quite similar. But not the same. In most cases it does not make any practical difference. Navy beans are smaller yet take longer to cook than great northern beans. They feature in famous recipes such as Boston baked beans and Senate bean soup. But great northern beans taste pretty much the same. So don’t worry about which kind you have as long as you are aware of the cooking time difference.
Myths about dried beans
April 4, 2011Posted by on
There are three “facts” you’ll often hear about cooking dried beans, such as kidney and great northern beans. It turns out they are all myths.
- You must soak beans before cooking. You can soak beans of course, but the only advantage it provides is to shorten the cooking time. There’s no reason not to start cooking dry beans directly as long as you have the time to simmer them long enough.
- You must not add salt to beans during cooking or they will not soften. Tests show that the only difference between beans cooked side by side with and without salt is that one is salty and the other is not. Some people feel that salting during cooking gives better flavor because some of the salt ends up inside the beans.
- You must not add acid, such as tomatoes, to beans during cooking or they will not soften. Acid does in fact have an effect on beans, tending to keep the skins intact, while alkaline substances (baking soda) help the skins to break down. In both cases however the beans cook perfectly well. You can use this to your advantage, adding tomatoes during or after cooking depending on whether you want whole beans or mushy beans.
Note, however, soaking can help reduce the “gas attack” effect that some people experience after eating beans. Bring dry beans and water to a boil, remove from heat, and let sit for an hour. Drain, add fresh water, and continue cooking. This removes some of the chemicals in the beans that cause the gas.