home Forums Problems or Issues Foods cooking in way longer time than expected, figuring out water ratios

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    Hello everyone. First of all I would like to deliver my best wishes to Laura who is currently recovering from certain health issues. I hope you will get better as soon as possible :)

    1) I have been using a Fagor Rapid Express pressure cooker for almost 3 years now. I mainly use it to cook mostly beans, lentils, cereals.
    I seem to run into several problems that I am struggling to find solutions into.
    The most important one seem to be the cooking times, I noticed that on the cooking time charts on this website, the times required for beans to cook (soaked or dry) seem to be way shorter than it is in my firsthand experience.

    I have recently tried to pressure cook unsoaked white beans. It took almost a little over an hour for the beans to be not crunchy, around 70 minutes.

    I thought maybe it had to do with the fact that I do salt them, but it turns out that salt actually makes the beans cook faster as opposed to the internet myth which states exactly otherwise.

    This is not just a problem with one type of bean unfortunately. Kidney beans have a similar issue as well. I would soak them over 12 hours, and upon cooking them for like 25ish minutes, I would still get some crunchy beans. I’d love to be able to cook them for 6 minutes, and then wait 5-10 minutes for the pressure to come down naturally and have perfectly edible beans, but unfortunately this has never been the case.

    Another suspect for me is the water hardness. Water in my region is supposed to be fairly hard. Around 285 ppm.

    How much should I increase the cooking time to compensate for this. Should this be a factor of several times?

    2) Furthermore, is there any way to figure out how much water beans, cereals would absorb upon cooking. My goal is to cook them in a way that there is little excess water left that it doesn’t need to be tossed out. In my experience, beans for example usually absorb around 1-1.25 times the water compared to their own weight.
    I realized recently that I should do this by volume instead of weight.

    Before then, if I wanted to cook 200g of white beans for instance, I would add around 200g of required minimum liquid + 250g of water fro the beans to absorb + around 50 g for the water that would evaporate in 30 minutes. Do I have to do this with every food individually to figure out the correct ratios.

    I thank everyone for their suggestions in advance ;)



    Heyjudek, until Laura gets back to replying regularly, I can respond to some of your questions. I make beans once, sometimes twice a week and usually use a stovetop pressure cooker. I’ve been pressure cooking for about 5 years now.

    Timing Charts
    My experience has been that while pressure cooker timing charts are a good place to start, I usually end up adjusting the cook times for specific types of bean over time. I keep a chart on the refrig door with the timings that have worked best for each type of bean I use. Is it my tap water, the age of beans, the stock of beans my food co-op carries, or my taste in how soft beans should be that make the cook times different from the professional charts? I’ll never know, but my own chart is more dependable for my situation.

    Cooking beans with salt
    If you are salting your beans for cooking without first soaking them in brine, that could explain your crunchy beans and long cook times. My experience has been that salting beans when you start cooking them does make them take longer to cook. But if you soak the beans beforehand in a brine (1 1/2 Tbsp salt to 2 quarts water) for 8 – 24 hours, discard the brine, and then add a bit more salt to the cooking water (approx. 1/2 – 1 tsp per lb of beans), then the cooking time is shortened. Salting during the soak is the key. Moreover, brining beans makes them more resistant to blowing out and makes them cook creamier and more uniformly.

    However, brining some types of bean can make them cook too fast to control in a pressure cooker. One batch of brined chickpeas that I cooked on High for one minute came out mushy. And brining seems to make cranberry beans’ tendency to bloat up with too much liquid even worse. However, a soup recipe that cooked brined chickpeas in liquid with some tomato for 12 minutes worked. The tomato slowed down the softening of the beans, I assume.

    My Bean Philosophy
    Different beans benefit from different approaches, depending on the result you want. For example, (brined) white beans and small red beans stay intact best cooked in the oven. Small (brined) red beans also cook more uniformly in the oven — no crunchy beans. (Brined) Pintos/Rio Zapes, chickpeas, and giant lima beans do fine in the pressure cooker because the pintos/R.Z.s and chickpeas are sturdy enough to stay intact and tend to cook uniformly. And while the lima beans do break down somewhat and throw starch into the stew, this works for the stews I make with them.

    Try brining your kidney beans before you pressure cook them to make them cook faster. Six minutes or even less may be enough, then. If you prefer to not brine, then just cooking them without salt may bring their cook time closer to the chart timings. Absolutely don’t brine white beans for the pressure cooker — they come out mushy.

    Maybe try using distilled water to cook beans if your water is hard?? Also I’ve read that throwing some baking soda in during cooking can defeat the hard water problem, but I’ve not tried it. Some folks cook beans with kombu seaweed and say it softens them faster. But you may taste the seaweed in the beans.

    Also, what is your altitude? If you are at a high altitude, then your beans will take longer to pressure cook. And don’t try to cook old beans. They take forever.

    Good luck in your bean cookery!



    Thank you very much Suzanne, I did try brining per your suggestion and I was surprised how well they turned out. Do you know if the added salt being makes a difference?




    Glad it worked out for you. I can provide a link that explains the science behind brining beans if you like. I’m afraid autocorrect has jumbled your question beyond my understanding. Can you repost that last question?



    Thanks Suzanne, yes I would really appreciate that link actually. So, feel free to send it :)

    My question was, whether beans being brined with iodized salt would have any negative effect. But my experiments over the last couple weeks turned out fine. I could actually cook brined beans in 5-10 minutes. Sometimes some beans are very hard that they take almost no water. In that case, I cook them maybe like 20 minutes which is still much shorter than cooking them in a normal pot.

    In the meantime, I am planning to switch to a new pressure cooker from WMF which operates at 13.8 PSI compared to my current Fagor cooker which operatoes at 15 PSI.
    If my understanding is correct, the effect on cooking times is very marginal, maybe several percent, right?

    Best regards



    It is about comparable to cooking in your 15PSI cooker at 2,500ft instead of sea level. If you REALLY wanted to adjust, add about 5% to the timing. But for most things, the difference is trivial.

    For future reference, the pressure you cook at is Ambient (Nominally 15PSI but varies with altitude AND the weather) PLUS pressure cooker pressure. Traditionally also 15PSI, making a total of 30PSI. But increasingly pressure cookers are being made that are less than that. If you use a nonstandard pressure cooker and are at significant altitude, then you will definitely need to adjust.



    Greg, thanks for quantifying adjustments needed with lower pressure cookers.

    Heyjudek, here’s the explanation for why brining works:

    “Our favorite bean-cooking method calls for overnight brining; the sodium in the salt solution replaces some of the calcium and magnesium in the bean skins, making them more permeable and resulting in more tender beans inside and out.”
    The quote is from https:/Slashwww.cooksillustrated.comSlash9how_tosSlash6385-flavoring-dried-beans-with-seaweed
    (I’m copying Greg’s work-around to avoid longer waits on moderated posts. Replace the “Slash” with the usual forward slash used in links.)

    So, because the bean skins are made more permeable, the beans absorb water faster. This quicker absorption is also helpful when, after you soak the beans (a long soak: 20-22 hours), some beans are thoroughly hydrated and some are not (skins wrinkled). Beans like this tend to cook more uniformly when brined first.

    Glad to hear your bean problems are mostly solved. I’m not sure from your description if you are saying that sometimes a whole batch of beans doesn’t hydrate well, or that some of the beans in a batch don’t hydrate.

    A whole batch of beans doesn’t absorb water well?
    Maybe the beans are old. According to Steve Sando at Rancho Gordo, commodity beans, the type you buy in a plastic bag at the grocery store, can be 3-4 years old or older when you get them. My natural foods co-op bulk beans seem to be reliably fresh. Also, if you are cooking in liquid that contains acid ingredients, such as tomatoes or vinegar, the beans will take much longer to soften. I don’t know how hard water has to be to be bad for cooking beans, but if you are managing to cook some batches of beans expeditiously and well, then it seem unlikely your hardish water is causing the problem. Are the troublesome beans always the same type, such as chickpeas or pintos?

    A percentage of beans in a batch don’t hydrate well?
    I see this problem more in heirloom beans, which may be one reason those bean types aren’t more widely used. It is a pain and takes some time to fix. My beloved small red beans, although not an heirloom bean, are reliably prone to this problem. When I go to the specialists — aka Louisiana chefs who make red beans and rice — they seem to overcome this problem not by brining, but by cooking the beans for many hours, until the beans really break down and the pot is about 1/3 bean starch. This is great for red beans and rice, but not for chili beans, which should be intact.

    So my approach for red beans is to brine them a long time, then rinse, spread out the beans in a sheet pan, and first pick out the small hard ones that have absorbed no water. They are easy to see because the skins stay dark maroon, while the hydrated beans have turned light pink. (If you are cooking lighter beans, you can take small handfuls of them and drop them on a non-plastic plate. The hard ones will go “clink” and the hydrated ones will go thud.)

    Then pick out the beans that are only partly hydrated (have areas of wrinkled skin). If there is a little area of hard bean/wrinkled skin — say, 20 percent — that bean will probably soften and can stay with the hydrated ones. Much more, say 50 percent unhydrated — and that bean will likely still be crunchy by the time the hydrated beans have cooked and should be picked out. Discard the beans you picked out and cook the rest.

    Doing this is more work. I do it only with small red beans, which are easy to pick because of the color change in their skins.

    Different subject: you probably already know this, kidney beans need to be boiled at least 10 minutes to destroy haemagglutinin, a harmful compound. I don’t eat kidney beans, so I’ve never worked out how you can tell if they’ve boiled 10 minutes in a pressure cooker. When you start to reduce cook times due to brining, maybe something to keep in mind. Greg might have some thoughts on how much boiling is going on in the pressure cooking.

    Way back you asked how to get your bean/grain to liquid ratio correct. I follow PC time charts for grains. For beans I make sure there is from a half inch to 3/4 inch of water above the beans. Closer to 1/2 inch usually works best. Not very exact, I’m afraid.



    Adding a few extra lines because the Avatar covers the first few…


    I don’t eat Red Kidney Beans either and I am not aware of the reason why they need to be boiled that long. But assuming it is because they need to be at or near 100°C for 10 minutes for the heat to break down the toxins, then I am pretty sure even the 5 minutes Laura gives for soaked Red Kidney Beans will be more than enough.

    Pressure will not start to rise until the lid locks. That will not happen until the water boils. It will remain at or above boiling point (mostly above!) until the lid unlocks again. I know if I take the lid off my Kuhn Rikon as soon as the button drops, the contents will be boiling. That whole process takes at least 19 minutes for my Kuhn Rikons. (5 from lock to high pressure, 5 cooking and 9 for natural (slow) release. Odds are the toxins will break down even faster at pressure cooker temperatures anyway.

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