Can you cook beans in the can? (1 Reason to Avoid)
In this brief guide, we will answer the question, can you cook beans in the can? We will discuss some reasons that would discourage you from cooking beans straight in the can and the associated scientific aspect. We will also discuss a method to prepare canned beans.
Can you cook beans in the can?
You can not cook beans in the can. Cooking food in the can releases harmful chemicals including BPA. Even though tin cans are supposed to use tin-plated steel, some manufacturers use plastics instead.
The internal coating material of cans used to preserve food are are epoxy films, often composed of phenolic polymers produced from bisphenol A. It is well established that because a residual amount of monomer remains after the polymerization process, BPA and other components migrate, at very low concentrations (parts per billion), from the epoxy coatings into the contents during processing and storage (2).
Bisphenols are of great concern due to the similar structure to the natural estrogen, so they can interfere with the normal function of the endocrine system. The main causes of exposure to BPs are diabetes, obesity, developmental problems, and infertility, among others (3).
Canned beans are usually already cooked and it is not needed for you to cook the contents again. You can heat the beans to a gentle temperature while the beans are still in the can but avoid heating the can for long periods or at a high temperature.
Industrially processed products currently make up 75% of world food sales. Ultra-processed foodstuffs dominate the food supply of high-income countries, with relative growth being highest in the emerging markets of low- and middle-income countries (1).
Why must you refrain from cooking beans in the can?
According to studies, there are health risks that are associated with heating cans. Needless to say, it depends on the constituents and the manufacturing process, but cooking cans directly could release Bisphenol A, chromium, and nickels. Other metals such as As, Cd, and Pb in canned food samples sold in markets exceeded the permissible limits set by health organizations such as FAO/WHO (2,4).
While there are recipes and claims that require you to heat food while they are still in the can, it can have negative health consequences.
Canned food products offer several advantages, either for the producers or the consumers, namely ease of packaging, sterilizing, handling, transportation and preserving anaerobic environment of the food products. To prevent corrosion and food contamination, metallic cans are commonly coated with a thin polymeric film on their inner surface. Yet, it is now well documented that polymerization of lacquer may not be fully complete and that a significant amount of unreacted compounds can be released in food packaged in coated cans. Indeed, migration from packaging materials is of great concern due to possible adverse health effects (5).
Even though cans are designed to transport and store food, during packaging the food is subjected to high pressure and temperatures. However, this does not mean that the consumer is free to do so as well.
At the industrial level, heating and cooking are carefully monitored and controlled according to the food being manufactured and the can material.
Foods cans that are made in the US, use steel rather than tin. Steel cans come with a layer of chromium and nickel, which could easily make their way into the food in minute quantities if the heat was applied to them.
You can buy dried beans and cook them to your liking as they have a richer taste and can be used in more versatile ways than canned beans. However, canned beans are also a good option as it spares the hefty task of washing, soaking and waiting hours for them to cook.
Beverage cans are usually made of aluminum which has even more detrimental consequences on your health. To name a predominant health concern, aluminum cans are linked to nervous disorders.
Other toxic heavy metals that can migrate from packaging to the food are considered to be the most dangerous form of pollutants when consumed excessively over a long time period through food or water. This is due to the adverse health effects exhibited by heavy metals when they accumulate to toxic levels in tissues and organs of humans and animals (4).
Moreover, the deadly Bisphenol A chemical is a plastic hardener that is used as epoxy in cans, is a menace to the human reproductive system, and is associated with cancer and diabetes (3).
Graciously enough, there is a small chunk of food manufacturers who resort to using a natural alternative to BPA as an epoxy. Eden Food Company uses enamel lining sourced from plant oils and resin which works as epoxy in their food packaging. The coating is baked on oleoresinous c-enamel lining that does not contain bisphenol-A (BPA) (6).
How to cook canned beans?
Instead of cooking beans while they are still in their packaging, there is a safer way to do so. Even though canned beans come pe-cooked, there lies a temptation to cook them to improve their taste. Canned beans lack in flavor, and tend to have a bland and metallic taste.
To cook canned beans, first, open the can and drain the liquid away. Getting rid of the liquid, significantly improves the quality of the beans as it gets rid of the liquid that has an unpleasant starchy and salty taste to it.
Transfer the beans to a pot and then season them with olive oil, salt, onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and celery. Also add garlic, cumin, cinnamon, coriander, chili, and spices to the beans. Put it on the stove and let it cook on a medium flame for 15 minutes as a significant part of the liquid evaporates.
The cooked beans can not only be used instantly but can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container.
Canned beans are quite versatile, you could either devour them on their own with a salad or toast or make it into a recipe. You can use them as an ingredient in hummus and dip, salad, or veggie burgers. You could also follow the classic recipe and eat the cooked canned beans on toast.
Beans are also a great option for veggie burgers. Moreover, you do not need to replace the meat altogether, you could add the beans to your meat-based recipe for additional nutritional value to your food and stretch the meat longer.
In this brief guide, we answered the question, can you cook beans in the can? We discussed some reasons that would discourage you from cooking beans straight in the can and the associated scientific aspect.
Other FAQs about Beans that you may be interested in.
- Juul, Filippa, and Erik Hemmingsson. Trends in consumption of ultra-processed foods and obesity in Sweden between 1960 and 2010. Public health nutr, 2015, 18, 3096-3107.
- Noonan, Gregory O., Luke K. Ackerman, and Timothy H. Begley. Concentration of bisphenol A in highly consumed canned foods on the US market. J agric food chem, 2011, 59, 7178-7185.
- González, Neus, et al. Biomonitoring of co-exposure to bisphenols by consumers of canned foodstuffs. Environ Int, 2020, 140, 105760.
- Massadeh, Adnan M., and Sameh Kharibeh. Determination of selected elements in canned food sold in Jordan markets. Environ Sci Poll Res 25.4, 2018, 3501-3509.
- El Moussawi, Sara Noureddine, et al. Simultaneous migration of bisphenol compounds and trace metals in canned vegetable food. Food chem, 2019, 288, 228-238.
- Herring, Kelley. Smart Cooks Age Better. 2007.