Don't Follow This Traditional Boston Baked Beans Step

What's in a nickname? New York has The Big Apple. Chicago has The Windy City. Boston? Beantown. For the uninitiated, this locally reviled nickname given to Massachusetts' biggest city seems odd and downright goofy. So why is the city that birthed the American Revolution nicknamed after a legume? Well, because of Boston's famous baked beans.

With Boston being a primary New England city for trade, the combination of imported beans and molasses created a quick, cheap meal that became extremely popular with passing merchants. Thus, as the story goes, the Beantown nickname was born (via Boston Magazine). Other events, such as the horrifying Great Molasses Flood of 1919, and products, Boston Baked Beans candy, helped solidify the nickname. Of course, as with any iconic dish, there is a traditional way to make them. However, omitting one particular step from the traditional recipe can save you time and frustration in the case of Boston baked beans. The step in question? Preparing the beans.

How to avoid overly mushy baked beans

Yes, the quality of your homemade Boston baked beans has everything to do with how you prepare your beans. As per Serious Eats, the result you're going for is "a thick stew, rich with a deep color and caramelized crust." Your beans should remain mostly intact, though they've softened significantly due to the traditional method of slow cooking them in molasses. This process can take hours to achieve, as the molecular structure of molasses strengthens the beans' cell wall. If you want to cut down on time, you can par boil your beans in water.

The original Fannie Farmer recipe from 1918 calls for you to soak the beans overnight before cooking them "until the skins burst." While this does have the intended effect of thickening your baked beans, the result is often more of a bean paste than a proper stew. Serious Eats parboiled the beans until just tender, about 45 minutes. The resulting stew was adequately thick and maintained the integrity of the beans. They kept their shape and took on the intended flavors while not dissolving completely. You'll find endless recipes and suggestions online for how to make the perfect Boston baked beans. Experiment. See what you like.