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Soaking dry beans, for many, is a given. It cuts down on cooking time and, as the Bean Institute will have you know, breaks down flatulence-causing compounds. Plus, although there are a variety of methods, it is a relatively straightforward process: soak, discard soaking water, then cook.
Not so, says Molly Wizenberg of Orangette; after many failures, she finally found a soaking/cooking method that turned her into a bean-soaking believer. She soaks dried beans for 24 hours and then uses John Thorne's cooking method. Rather than discarding the soaking water, the beans are strained and seasoned while the soaking water is boiled; the boiling soaking water is poured over the beans, which are then cooked in an oven rather than on a stovetop.
Russ Parsons and J. Kenji López-Alt, on the other hand, are anti-soaking. One seems to have converted the other, at least as far as black beans go. And according to López-Alt's experiments (in which he tested out soaked, unsoaked, and Weizenberg's favored cooked-in-soak-water beans), the difference between cooking time was a mere twenty minutes. The key here, though, is that he found unsoaked beans to be packed with flavor while the soaked beans tasted watered down (pun fully intended). And it's worth noting that Parsons has firmly held his anti-soaking stance for over twenty years.
Verdict: Not Worth It—It's not worth compromising flavor or taking the effort to prepare an overnight soak if the difference between cooking time is under thirty minutes.
How do you feel about soaking beans? Is it really that much of a time saver? Do you find that beans just don't taste as good? Does it depend on the bean? Tell us about your adventures in bean soaking!