Bean Disaster

donnar57August 11, 2014

I am trying to make a recipe for "Barbecue Molasses Beans". It calls for a 1 lb bag of dry pinto beans, 3 cups water, an 18 oz bottle of barbecue sauce, 1/4 cup molasses and a bit of onion.

I tried soaking the beans overnight in 6 cups of water -- 14 hours, to be exact. Then I drained the original water, put in the rest of the ingredients, and cooked on Low in the slow cooker for 10 hours (the recipe said 8-9 hours).

The beans are still fairly hard. I am frustrated. Any suggestions?


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Two possibilities, one is a longshot. Acid will turn beans into impermeable entities, if you add acid to a bean recipe before they are cooked through, no amount of time or water or cooking will ever get them soft. (Ask me how I know!). So possibly the barbecue sauce was too acid and got to your beans. But that seems rather implausible. The second is that sometimes you just get "old" beans and they just never soften up. Does not happen very often, but again, when it does there is very little you can do. I would add more water and cook on high for a little longer, (like maybe an hour) and if it doesn't work, throw out and start over. There's really no going back, I have found. I cook beans a lot, and this just happens every once and a while--old beans.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 10:28PM
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My crockpot won't cook dried beans. I have to do them on the stovetop. It's about 10 years old. Not sure if it doesn't get hot enough, or maintain a steady, consistent, temperature through the day.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 10:58PM
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Because of the 'tell me how i know'...i cook dried beans solo....soak, then heat and soak...
without any additions of salts or acids. Till almost tender and watch them. Very difficult to tell how fresh dried beans are if they are not labeled with a harvest date. Often the recipes and the packages have direction times to tender very different than reality.
Learned that from white or black bean chili's and now cook the beans separately to insure the proper tenderness...then add the beans later on because of so many times i trusted the cooking times on the package....I've not had a failure since establishing this method.
You may get tender beans eventually but not as the recipe suggests. Very frustrating.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 11:05PM
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1. Where do you live? If you live on high elevation (Denver), simmering beans may not be getting you high enough temperature.

2. Use a pressure cooker. No beans are too tough for a pressure cooker.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 11:22PM
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How to tell if the pinto beans are old.... If they are a creamy tan color, they are "new" crop beans. The older they are the darker they get - avoid buying dark pinto beans.

Another possibility is hard tap water (high in calcium). Do you have the same problem cooking beans on the stove top? If so, try using bottled water.


    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 4:28AM
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I buy large bags of beans and store them in air-tight containers, but that didn't help last year when I tried to cook a pot of pinto beans that I'd had for awhile. And yes, they were beginning to darken but I didn't know this would be a factor. I cooked those beans for hours to no avail. I've also heard from the old timers that you should never add salt until they are tender.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 6:03AM
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In 40 years of cooking, I've never had any luck with dried beans. I've tried everything and wasted a lot of time and ingredients.

I always use canned beans for my recipes.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 8:09AM
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"---In 40 years of cooking, I've never had any luck with dried beans. I've tried everything and wasted a lot of time and ingredients.----"

It has been a while since I made beans.

The last time, I discovered a bag of beans in my pantry, may be 15 years old beans. It was a bag of "15 beans".

I put the beans in the pressure cooker with a few other stuff, I think it was prok hocks. The beans were not soaked.

An hour later, perfect "15-bean" stew. The 15 varieties of beans, not one was tough.


    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 8:18AM
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No luck in 40-years???? Do you have hard tap water? If so, that could be the biggest problem.

If it's not a hard water problem, have you tried these lesser know ways to prepare beans: sprouting, brining, rice cooker, or "cooking" in a thermos?

Personally, I sprout beans because it increases the nutrition and makes them easier to digest, then I cook them (usually in a Thermos to save energy). They also cook in less time on the stove top when you sprout them first. More information:

The link below shows how to brine beans.


Here is a link that might be useful: America's Test Kitchen - brining beans

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 8:58AM
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We like all types of baked beans and I have never had good results with beans going right from the soaking to baking. I finally gave up on that method.

However, when I change the water and parcook the soaked beans by simmering for an hour or two, then add the sauce and bake, they have always turned out OK. I often parcook and drain the beans one day and then bake them a day or two later.

So far, I haven't ever had beans that didn't soften up at all - probably because we eat a lot of them so quickly turn the inventory.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 9:28AM
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No luck in 40-years???? Do you have hard tap water? If so, that could be the biggest problem.


I've had a variety of waters in 40 years, I'm just not interested, any more, in trying to soak and cook beans, when someone else can do it for me.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 10:31AM
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I had some vacuum sealed pintos that I used for baked beans. I soaked them, cooked them for HOURS before adding the rest of the ingredients. They would not get soft. Baked them for several hours that day and the next day. They would not get soft. I ended up freezing the leftovers (I have a friend that actually likes semi-hard baked beans) and was surprised to find that when I defrosted them, they were soft enough to eat.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 11:25AM
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Interesting technique Oasis, I'll have to try that some time. I would add that the number of times I have had beans that did not eventually soften has been maybe one or two times in my lifetime. Once I got a crockpot I started doing my beans in that on weekends, and then freezing the cooked beans for later use. Has worked like a charm and has saved me some money over canned and better taste. I freeze in glass pint jars, doesn't pick up that "tinny" taste that canned beans sometimes get. I still use the canned ones sometimes though. But I forgot about the hard water issue too, that could be a problem. The one time I did have the terminally hard beans was pintos. Maybe they don't turn over as fast as other varieties. My experience with acid was back when I was just starting out and I didn't know any better and threw all the raw ingredients for black bean soup into a big pot (including dried black beans and the vinegar) and cooked it for a VERY long time and couldn't understand why it never worked out, until someone told me about the acid thing. I even put it all in a blender hoping that would help soften them! I was making the pot for a huge community event and needed the soup to serve so I was making it on my stovetop the night before. I left it cooking for hours, overnight, did the blender thing and then cooked it over an open fire for a little bit longer. The only thing I ended up with was crunchy black bean soup with a burned taste. Luckily I was one of three people who were assigned to make the soup!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 11:53AM
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Gosh, the only time I've ever had a problem with dried beans is before I was told to not add any salt until they are tender. After that one disaster, I never had a problem again. My sister is the person that told me because I was telling her about the beans and she also found out the hard way and someone told HER to not use salt before they are tender. Just passin' along the information....HA!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 6:30PM
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My water is very hard, but typically I soak them 48 hours. They cook fine, and are more digestible soaked this long. Chickpeas even put out little shoots, about 1/4 inch.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 6:35PM
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Wow, you all are great! No, my water isn't hard. No, the beans weren't old, they were nice and tan. I'd just purchased the bag at the Commissary. My slow cooker is perhaps 6 or 7 years old, so I suppose it may not get super hot. I live in San Diego so high elevation isn't an issue either.

Never thought about the pressure cooker.....I will definitely try that, as I love making things in the PC. Mine is a 30 year old Mirro, and works beautifully.



    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 9:27PM
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When I cook beans in the crock pot (or actually anywhere), I avoid adding salt or any acid sauce, until they start to soften. It sounds so appealing to add all the ingredients at once, but the beans could stay hard like that. Once the bean skins soften, then adding the salt or sauce or whatever, helps halt the beans from getting too mushy, and everything can be simmered together to meld the flavors.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 1:48PM
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Ditto on the salt. We never add salt till the beans are partially/mostly cooked. Also, we use purified water. This works dependably for us.

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 2:20PM
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Up thread I talked about beans done in a pressure cooker can be tender quickly without soaking.

But I don't remember if I salted or cooked the beans in acid.

So I did this experiment tonight.

Bought a bag of "15 beans" from the store. Obviously not very fresh beans.

I put the beans in water and added lots of salt and a quarter cup of vinegar in the pressure cooker.

45 minutes later, all the beans were completely tender, and many of the beans were so tender they were bean paste, as you can see from the photos.


This post was edited by dcarch on Thu, Aug 14, 14 at 21:51

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 9:20PM
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Very cool info on the bean brining! So now I have two new bean cooking techniques to try, brining and freezing. I know a pressure cooker is the way to go for energy saving cooking, particularly with beans, but I just haven't had the time or money or compelling motivation to get one yet. Too many other chaotic things going on in my life and I find the crockpot method fits in well with my lifestyle right now, along with the canned beans. I have a small pressure canner but I absolutely HATE fussing with the pressure gauge and all the "rocking" etc. I don't care what anyone says, I just hate it. I am one persnickety you-know-what! I know the newer ones just for cooking are great and maybe someday, but it won't be for a good long while with all the moving and job and family stuff going on in my life right now. Meanwhile I have a pot of garbanzos in the crockpot today, my last dried beans to use up in my old kitchen as I clear it out. Sad days.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2014 at 10:48AM
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