Cooking Beans

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Dried beans are much cheaper than their canned counterparts and are a good source of protein and fiber. A lot of folks have never cooked them before, but it's not too hard. Variety can be added to the beans by cooking them in different spices and mixing in an assortment of vegetables.


A basic guide to cooking dried beans

You can cook them on the stove, in a crockpot, or in a pressure cooker. Whichever way you choose, the steps are basically the same unless you are using split peas, lentils or butterbeans which need slightly different treatment (no soaking, less cook time). You should start with at least two cups of dried beans, but they keep well so you might as well cook a large batch.

Rinse

Rinse your beans and make sure you don't have any shriveled ones or foreign objects in there. Sometimes a small pebble will get mixed in. You can rinse them in a colander in the sink and do a quick check.

Soak

Soak your beans for at least 8 hours (up to 2 days). Beans are soaked to improve texture, prevent splitting, reduce gas causing agents, and quicken cook time. Also, kidney beans contain a toxin that is broken down during the soak. It may be convenient to use the same pot you plan to cook the beans in to save some dishwashing. Add your beans to the soaking container and cover them with at least an inch of water. Keep in mind that as the beans soak they will absorb the water and expand, so your container will need to be large enough to allow that. You may want to check after a few hours to see if more water needs to be added until you get an idea of how much water is needed to keep the beans submerged. A rule of thumb is 3 parts water to 3 parts beans for soaking and cooking.

Cook

After the soak is complete, drain all of the soaking water off and replace it with enough fresh water to submerge the beans (2-3 inches) in your cooking vessel. At this point you can add spices to the beans. If you don't have a specific use in mind for the beans, a few bay leaves, some cumin, and a little cayenne will add a nice flavor that goes with many dishes. Do not add salt or acidic flavorings until the beans are almost done to get the best texture. Your beans are done when they've reached the level of softness you prefer. Just keep cooking them if they aren't there yet. However you cook your beans, you can save the broth after cooking for other uses like gravy.

Crockpot

Cover on the low setting and wait a while. This will take around 8 hours at sea level, or up to 12 at 9,000 ft. You will want to check on them occasionally the first time to learn how long it takes for your crockpot at your elevation to make the beans to your preferred level of doneness, then you can set a timer and forget about it in the future.

Stove

Keep the pot at a gentle boil and stir occasionally to prevent burning at the bottom. This will take 1.5-2.5 hours depending on your preferences for doneness.

Season

Toward the end of your cook time, you can add salt, acidic flavorings, and vegetables. Try cooking diced bell peppers and onions with a little garlic in some olive oil to add in when the beans are almost soft enough.

Eat!

You can use your beans in any recipe you'd normally use canned ones in or just by themselves with rice or in a tortilla. If you are new to eating beans, try looking up recipes for chili, Indian bean dishes, bean soups, or Mexican cuisine to get an idea of what's possible.