Brining Beans in Half the Water

Is a full gallon of brine really necessary for soaking a pound of dried beans?

In the test kitchen we soak dried beans in salt water overnight to soften their skins, which helps them cook more evenly and reduces the number of beans that rupture. Our formula uses a gallon of water and 3 tablespoons of salt to soak 1 pound of beans. But some readers have asked if a full gallon of brine is really necessary. We tested lesser amounts to see just how little liquid we could get away with using. We found that 2 quarts of water (and 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt) will work perfectly well for a pound of beans, but it’s a good idea to use a deep container (a bowl rather than a wide Dutch oven) to ensure that the beans remain submerged as they hydrate and swell.

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