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

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  • #887663

    heyjudek
    Participant

    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 ;)

    #887723

    Suzanne
    Participant

    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!

    #888480

    heyjudek
    Participant

    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?

    #888489

    Suzanne
    Participant

    Heyjudek,

    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?

    #888565

    heyjudek
    Participant

    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

    #888566

    Greg
    Participant

    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.

    #888585

    Suzanne
    Participant

    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.

    #888597

    Greg
    Participant

    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.

    #888838

    heyjudek
    Participant

    Dear Suzanne and Greg,

    Thanks to both of you for the explanations.
    I really appreciate the principle regarding brining, although it got me curious about one thing.
    Does the salt solution replacing calcium and magnesium on bean skins means that they are leached to the water. If yes, is that a significant loss of calcium or magnesium to be worried about?

    Even with brining, there are certain beans (not the whole batch, sometimes up to around 10% of the whole batch) that will remain stone hard. I can kind of identify these beans just by seeing them not swell up at all, so they are smaller than the hydrates ones. Also, they usually sink to the bottom of the pot.
    I have also read in a lot of places that this has to do with the age of the beans. But my experience showed a totally different outcome. In my experience, if the bean was going to be hydrated well, it doesn’t really matter, how long they are kept before they are cooked.. I have used more than several years old beans that hydrated perfectly. But if they had that stone hard consistency, you just have to pressure cook them 3-4 times more than the regular beans’ time to get them to soften.
    So it looks like, some beans are like that before they are even packaged. But this isn’t a really big issue, as I just take those beans out after brining.

    And regarding kidney beans, they seemed to be fine after they are brined, except the few beans that didn’t hydrate well, which is not a big issue for me ;)

    #888867

    Suzanne
    Participant

    Heyjudek, you asked, “If yes, is that a significant loss of calcium or magnesium to be worried about?”

    If you are soaking beans, even without the salt you are losing nutrients. But there are also benefits, as you have found. The downside: Food science writer Harold McGee says, “The disadvantage of presoaking is that you also leach out many other soluble materials, including vitamins and minerals.”
    (To find the article, google “harold mcgee nytimes beans” and click on “A better way to boil beans.” And, yes, that was me asking the question.)

    So my impression is the calcium and magnesium lost in brining is in addition to what is lost when soaking in plain water. One author I read — can’t remember who — said you lose about 30 percent of water-soluble vitamins and minerals when you presoak beans and discard the water.

    To put this into perspective, consider that you are not absorbing all the mineral content in legumes anyway. That’s because the phytic acid in the bean binds to minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and others, rendering them less bioavailable. My calcium chart on the refrigerator says calcium is absorbed from legumes at about 17-20 percent. So any percentage of calcium you lose to the soak water or brine reduces that already low percentage, and does not amount to much.

    McGee continues, “You retain more nutrients by cooking the beans in the soak water, but you also retain the gassy carbohydrates. I recommend soaking beans, then cooking them in the same water at a bare simmer for at least a couple of hours, even if they’re soft before then. Extended cooking breaks down the gassy carbohydrates.”

    I have not found McGee’s solution to be very feasible. First of all, you cannot cook beans in the brine — too salty. So you can’t brine problem beans. I have tried McGee’s solution using the plain soak water to cook beans to my doneness preference in the oven at a low temperature. The cooking liquid and beans end up being too gassy. Longer cooking — more than just a couple of hours — does alleviate this a bit, but then the beans, in my opinion, are overcooked and not pleasant to eat. Not worth the slight improvement. Maybe a slow cooker would handle this approach better.

    My approach is to ask myself, do I have enough other sources of vitamins and minerals in my diet to make up for the ones lost in soaking beans? If the answer is yes, then soak/ brine the beans and discard the soak water.

    Because the journey of micronutrients from beans to absorption in your gut is so prone to losses, I do not depend on beans for vitamins and minerals. I try to make sure I am getting the needed amounts from other food sources. There are preparation methods for minimizing the losses from phytic acid, but they are inconvenient and change the flavor of the beans. Helpful for folks with limited food options, but unnecessary for folks who have a balanced diet. Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist.

    You observed, “So it looks like some beans are like that [too hard to cook] before they are even packaged.”

    I believe it was in McGee’s book “On Food and Cooking” where I read this: When bean plants experience sporadic droughts, the seeds can develop the “hard to cook” problem. Something like that, can’t quote him in an extended way. So, yes, you may have bought dried beans that were fresh but were quite difficult to soften.

    I’m glad to hear you bean cookery is feeling more doable and successful. I’m curious as to why you are transitioning from a Fagor to a WMF. Has it become to difficult to get replacement parts? Just curious.

    #888931

    heyjudek
    Participant

    Thanks Suzanne,
    I am kind of aware of the fact that soaking the beans will amount to some nutrient loss. I was just not sure how much brining would add up to it.
    I did in fact the statement by Harold Mcgee regarding how to cook beans the best.
    Personally, I find brining and cooking with new liquid in a pressure cooker the best.
    I am not really convinced that there should be any significant difference between soaking in plain water versus soaking in brined water when it comes to nutrient loss. If you do have any information on this, I will of course appreciate it :)
    So, In short, I don’t think soaking should be ignored and coaking beans for 6 hours in soak water seems impractical and kills the purpose of pressure cooking for me.

    Regarding my switch from Fagor to WMF, there doesn’t seem to be a really significant reason for this. The FAGOR model I am using (Rapid Express), while a little hard to buy “officially”, can be easily gotten through ebay and it becomes sporadically available in German Amazon from time to time.
    In the meantime, WMF cookers are way easy to come by and maintain since I am living in Germany anyway.
    Also, I do not like the fact, that in Fagor cookers, after the valve comes up I still have to wait for the light hiss and consistent stream of vapor to know the cooker has reached the pressure.
    My main reason for buying this cooker, was the fact that it was cooking in around 15 PSI, while WMF cookers are around 13.8 PSI, doesn’t this only translate to around 5% increase in cooking time which is very insignificant?

    #888942

    Annette
    Participant

    @heyjudek: If you haven’t gone out and bought your WMF pot yet, I would like to recommend the Silit e-control. Silit are Germany’s pressure-cooking pioneers. The company is now owned by WMF but their pot is, to my mind, superior to the regular WMF pots. The ceramic coating makes it very durable (heavy, too), and the controls on the e-control are not slides but a knob you turn, so you really have a lot more control when you depressurize. And the indicator is very well done – you really know what the pot is doing (as compared to the Fissler vitavit edition which I also own – those controls aren’t nearly as well made).
    So the Silit e-control gets my vote – I own (coughs) three of them.

    #888949

    heyjudek
    Participant

    Thanks Annette :)
    No I have not bought anything yet. Incidentally I have never heard of the Silit E-control but I am really considering buying this instead of the WMF one.
    So, I would appreciate if you addressed several of my concerns

    1) In the manual, it states that they operate at 90 kPa, which is around 13.05 PSI, (instead of 13.8 of Usual WMF cookers) But the manual also states that the temperature is around 119 degrees Celsius at cooking level 2. But I assume this small difference in pressure would have little effect in practice right?
    2) When you mentioned the ceramic coating, did you mean anti-stick ceramic coating at the botton of the pot?
    My main concern with my pressure cookers is that they should be durable/sustainable, I mean that I do not want the functionality of my cookers decrease with regular use and preferably, little to no cosmetic wear. That’s why I always use wooden utensils with my pressure cookers.
    But since you stressed that these cookers are well made, then I guess I don’t really worry about this, right?

    #888952

    Annette
    Participant

    I really don’t know about the specific pressure rate of the cooker – I know that it appears to be significantly faster than the Instant Pot, based on recipes I’ve seen around the net. (Don’t own an Instant Pot; never will.) I think I remember that the Fissler seemed to be slightly faster but it also takes longer to come up to pressure so that may be the reason.

    Re durability: impressive. I have had my first e-control for, oh, ten years maybe, and you wouldn’t know it to look at it. (The Fissler, by comparison, looks pretty scratched even though I use it much less frequently.) One caveat: the coating seems to make scorching more likely, so I am careful with tomatoes (basically use Lorna Sass’s trick of adding them last and then not stirring), and I also never thicken with flour before pressure cooking.
    I *love* the control – as I said before, you really know where you are with this, and it is so helpful. (The Fissler’s indicator is much wider, so I’m having a harder time seeing what it is doing; also it goes seamlessly from LOW to HIGH, whereas the Silit has a in-between zone.) Also, fastening the lid to the pot is a lot easier than with the Fissler.

    #888953

    Annette
    Participant

    Re sustainability: I know right?! If I were a stove-top pressure cooker manufacturer, I would stress this *so much*. Flash forward fifteen years: I would love to know how many Instant Pots will clutter up the landfills, simply because the electronics gave out, and they were not fixable? I fully expect to have my pot forever.p

    #889005

    heyjudek
    Participant

    Thanks again for the well-informed response:)
    I will definitely buy Silit E-control instead of WMF then.
    I have also never tried electric pressure cookers and probably never will since they seem to “over-engineered” to me compared to what I’m used to seeing, just a steel pot.
    Apart from not using metal utensils, is there anything I should watch out for to make sure I’m not damaging my cooker over time?

    #889011

    Annette
    Participant

    Actually, you *can* use metal utensils: I used a metal serving spoon in my pot initially, and the ceramic is so hard that a little bit of the spoon metal came off (looked like scratches but wasn’t). But yes, wooden or silicon utensils are better.
    Things to watch out for, as with any pressure cooker: rising foods might mess up the valve. I didn’t realize that blood is one of them, and when I cooked venison stew without drying the meat off or browning it first, that messed up the valve royally. Same goes for quick release of congee – don’t do it. And I have managed, twice, to use the steaming insert without putting liquid in the pot and then wondering why I don’t get pressure. Luckily I was right there, so nothing happened. Still, it’s obviously a bad idea.
    I *think* the silicon rings last longer if you take them out of the lid after use.
    Other than that, I can’t think of anything. Enjoy!

    #889070

    heyjudek
    Participant

    Thanks for the tips :)
    So, the way I see it, the ceramic coating isn’t similar to those found in anti-stick pans then (as it is strongly recommended not to use metal utensils with them)

    Also, when you mean the valve getting messed up, do you mean that it just gets dirty or blocked, or is it taking mechanical damage in some way?
    I also take out the silicon ring by the way, but mainly to prevent the moisture build up which causes rust spots around the ring and the lid.

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