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How to Presoak Beans

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Q. How long should I let my soup beans presoak? I have about 3 cups of them.

A. You have several choices. If you want to be old-fashioned and just soak the dried beans in cold water, put them in a large pot and add water to cover by at least two inches. Soak them for at least 6 hours and as long as 24. The beans will swell to double or triple in size, depending on how long you soak them. If you cut a bean open, it should be moist all the way through. If it isn't, continue soaking. If your kitchen is very warm, you might want to put the pot in the refrigerator to keep the mixture from starting to ferment.

Another choice is to put the beans in a pot and add enough boiling water to cover by at least two inches. Cover the pot and let them soak until the beans have doubled in size and absorbed most of the water, which will take an hour or two. An advantage of this process is that the beans remain somewhat firm and will keep their shape when cooked.

A third option is to put the beans in the pot, cover with water by at least two inches, bring the mixture to boiling, simmer it for two minutes, then cover, and let stand for an hour. This process may result in some of the beans splitting and losing their shape.

Finally, you can also microwave the beans in a large covered casserole, in a ratio of 1 pound of beans to 4 cups of water. Bring it to a boil, which will probably take between 12 and 17 minutes, then microwave for 2 additional minutes. Stir the beans and let the dish stand, covered, for an hour.

With any method, drain and rinse the beans before the final cooking.

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