Degassing Beans: Here’s How to Silence the “Musical Fruit”
Beans don't have to be the musically embarrassing fruit. Try one of these proven methods for degassing beans.
Photo: Shutterstock / WAYHOME studio
Raising a crew of boys, I’m pretty much a self-declared expert on all things gassy. My guys love dishes like hearty bean soups and Boston baked beans, so you can just imagine how fragrant my home can be some nights. Soaking beans isn’t hard if you follow these guidelines, but it took a little research into degassing beans to learn how to remove some of their, um, musical properties. Needless to say, I set out on a mission determined to take as much gas as possible out of the bean dishes I cook.
What makes beans so gas-inducing?
In order to begin degassing beans, it’s important to understand what’s causing the problem. In this case, it’s a big fancy word, oligosaccharides. See the “saccharides” part of that word? Yup, that’s sugar. In fact, it’s a sugar our bodies can’t digest well, so when it lands in the lower part of the digestive system, it ferments. And, well, you know how that process ends. My research found several methods that claim to cut the process short, including one that even has the USDA behind it.
Method 1: Baking soda
To cut down on the gassy properties, you can add a little baking soda to your recipe. The baking soda helps break down some of the beans’ natural gas-making sugars. I tested this while fixing one of my favorite slow cooker recipes: red beans and sausage.
To degas with baking soda, add a teaspoon of baking soda to 4 quarts of water. Stir in the dried beans and bring to a boil. Then turn off the heat and let the beans soak at least four hours (I usually do this the night before I want to use them; the longer soak won’t hurt them). Drain, rinse and rinse again.
After this process, use them in your favorite chilis. This is an effective method because it does help with that noisy problem, and the small amount of baking soda doesn’t change the flavors of a recipe at all.
Method 2: Pressure cooking
Instant Pot owners all over the internet swear by this method. In this case, the pressure of the Instant Pot (or traditional pressure cooker) breaks down sugars quickly to eliminate unpleasant side effects.
To degas with a pressure cooker, start by soaking the beans for four to eight hours. Then drain well and give them a rinse. Once that prep is done, place them in the pot of the pressure cooker and add water—you want the water to be about 2 inches above the beans. Set the pressure to high or 15 pounds, based on your appliance. They need to cook 10 to 12 minutes, followed by a natural pressure release. You could use a rapid release, but beans can be foamy—and you could end up with a mess (ask me how I know!). Best to just let them release on their own. Drain, rinse and they’re ready to use!
Method 3: A long soak
This is by far the easiest method and the one the USDA stands behind. Simply place dried beans in a container, cover them with water and let them soak. They’ll need to soak eight to 12 hours, but the key to eliminating the gas is draining and rinsing every three hours. Yup, you read that right. Drain, rinse and start soaking again every three hours. Discarding the water frequently gets rid of the excess sugar starch—and that’s what you’re really aiming for here, so don’t skip this step!
A few bloggers use the spices ajwain (or carom seed) and epazote in beans to reduce the gas. Being the country farm girl that I am, these were totally new to me. Turns out ajwain is an Indian spice that tastes like a mix of cumin and thyme flavors. It’s used in a medicinal way in India for stomach upset, similar to the way we use peppermint in the States. Epazote is an herb native to South America and Mexico. It’s traditionally used to flavor black beans, and some folks claim it reduces gas-producing properties. I think I might try epazote in this black bean soup to see if it actually works!
There you have it: three proven ways to tone down the musical fruit (and a couple of fun new spices to try). Hopefully, the more you eat, the less you’ll toot! Once you master these three methods, learn how to cook green beans 4 different ways!