Why does it take me forever to cook lentils when most recipes list a shorter cooking time?
Whenever I cook lentils (or split peas), the recipe always calls for a cooking time of about 20-40 minutes. However, it takes me several hours to get lentils to a stage that is even approaching soft - one time, I cooked them for 3 hours, left them soaking overnight, then cooked them some more in the morning and they STILL were chewy. I've heard that having hard water can affect the cooking time dramatically, and I live in an area where the water is hard.
So, Foodpicklers, what can I do to cut down on the cooking time for lentils? Is it due to the hard water situation? Is it because I'm doing something wrong? If it is due to the water, what can I do to combat this?
Thanks so much!
Recommended by Food52
I try to get the freshest beans I can, and not more than I would use in a couple of years (I have that food storage gene, so I have to at least have some for emergencies!). I've also read so many things in so many places about what not to put in the beans that I just don't put anything but filtered water in them now. I add all seasonings at the end. I know the bit about tomatoes and lemons leading to toughness, but I've also read that salt does the same thing. Mark Bittman, in How to Cook Everything, refutes as myth the theories that salt and acids with make the beans tougher, though he does say that you should wait to salt them until the middle, so they don't turn gritty and fall apart. He also says that baking soda "helps to break down the skin of beans, and acid helps keep them intact." He then adds "if you like well-defined, individual beans, include a teaspoonful of vinegar or lemon juice in the water."
Again, there are many opinions. But if lentils are taking more than 3 hours, when they shouldn't take more than 40 minutes, I dunno. I would start with buying some new lentils from a different source, and see what happens.
In Easy Beans, by Trish Ross, she says beans could be tough for one of three reasons, age, hard water, and altitude, the higher you are, the longer they take to soften.
Do you know if they're French Lentils those can take longer but hold their shape very well.
I use the baking soda trick all the time with dried beans that have aged a bit and just aren't getting soft....just a pinch of tho, it'll mush up if you add too much and kill all the flavor.