Dry beans are some of the most inexpensive and versatile ingredients to use in your cooking. They are especially tasty as protein in vegetable soups and stews or pureed as an appetizer, such as hummus or a smooth black bean dip, served with bread or chips. Although soaking beans before you cook them is not absolutely necessary, you should still soak most types of beans if you have the time.
Two types of dried legumes never need to be soaked before cooking, and they cook in just 30 minutes. Split peas and lentils are small and don't have the skins that tend to keep water out of most beans, making them ideal choices for times when you need to make dinner in a hurry. They are both commonly used to make soups, which might require 45 minutes to an hour of cooking time. Lentils also work well as a pilaf, which only takes 30 minutes.
Effects of Not Soaking
Although soaking the beans is highly recommended, it is not completely necessary. Thoroughly rinse the dry beans under running water, put them in a pot with water and start cooking. However, you might end up with some undesirable results. They take longer to cook because soaking softens them and accelerates the cooking process. Starting with unsoaked beans usually adds 45 to 60 minutes to the cooking time. The beans also might cook inconsistently, with some ending up mushy and others still hard. Lastly, you do not have a chance to dump out the water with the indigestible complex sugars that come out of the bean skin during soaking, so the beans might be harder to digest.
The easiest way to soak dry beans is to put them in a bowl with three or four times as much cold water as beans for about eight hours before cooking. If you are preparing the beans for dinner, start soaking as soon as you wake up in the morning. If you plan to to begin cooking the beans at lunch time or earlier, start soaking them before you go to bed the night before.
Use the fast soaking method when you don't have time to soak the beans for eight hours. Put the beans in a large pot, cover them with water to at least two inches above the beans, put the lid on and turn the burner to high. After the water has been simmering for two minutes, turn off the heat and leave the lid tightly on for one hour. This generally works about as well as the slow soak for softening and cleaning the beans, but it might not break down the complex sugars as well.