Cooking dried beans is probably one of the most asked for set of cooking instructions I get here at CHK . Its right up there with frying chicken. So, I thought I’d set down all the methods for cooking and preserving beans that I am aware of, in hopes that you can use it.
Beans can be cooked in a pan over the stove, in the oven, on an open fire, in the microwave or in a pressure cooker.
All dried bean cooking consists of three components:
3. Salt and other flavors
Beans will not cook and get soft if cooked in hard water. You can try adding 1/2 tsp baking soda to every big pot of beans to soften the water and help the beans get soft as they cook. I have lived in areas where the water was so hard that not even baking soda worked. You must cook beans in enough water to cover all the beans throughout the cooking process or some of the beans may dry out.
Any oil or fat will do. Some people like to cook beans with meat such as smoked pork or sausage. You can use olive oil though or even vegetable oil. A small piece of lard will also work. The fats give the beans a richer flavor.
There is another reason for using oils or fats in beans though; the fats keep the beans from foaming and boiling over.
SALT and OTHER FLAVORS
Salt should be added to the beans to bring out the flavor. I add salt at the beginning of the cooking process and have found that I moderately hard water it does not keep the beans from getting soft while cooking and it makes for a more flavorful bean.
If you have hard water you may want to experiment with adding salt at the end of the cooking process so that the salt will not hinder the softening of the beans. Be careful of adding too much salt if you are going to be adding salted meats to the beans.
If you are going to be adding acidic ingredients like tomatoes, add them after the beans have cooked completely. The acid will keep the beans from cooking and getting soft.
A phenomenon that occurs sometimes and keeps the beans from getting soft is called Hard Bean Syndrome. This is a genetic abnormality that occurs in some beans and it doesn’t affect people who eat them, just keeps the beans from getting soft. Old beans will also have a hard time cooking up soft.
The following methods are for cooking pintos, great northern and navy beans.
BASIC BOIL and COOK METHOD
Also known as the Quick Boil and Soak Method
Wash beans well. They are an agricultural product and all manner of dirt and plant matter can hang around in them. Strain them through a colander after you’ve washed them and picked out all the dried up, hard, off color and damaged beans.
Place the beans in a heavy bottomed pot and cover them by about 2 inches with fresh water.
If you would like to remove some of the gas-forming properties of the beans, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda at this point. Bring to a boil. Boil hard for 2 minutes.
Remove pot from heat. Cover the pot and allow to sit for 2 hours.
Drain the cooking water and discard. Cover the beans with fresh water, bring to a boil, lower heat, cover pot, season, and cook til tender.
BASIC SOAK AND COOK METHOD
Wash beans thoroughly. Pick through for rocks or disfigured beans. Cover with water and soak for at least 8 hours or over night. I leave them on the countertop unless my kitchen is very warm, in that case I refrigerate them while they soak.
Discard soaking water. Place beans in a large heavy bottomed pot, cover with water by 2 inches. Add 2 tbsp oil. Bring to a boil, add seasonings and meat if using, lower heat, cover pot, cook til tender. If you use this method you won’t need to add baking soda.
Most soaked beans, and black eyed peas, usually take from 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours to cook. Limas however only take 45-60 minutes as do split green peas and lentils. Soybeans can take 3 hours or more.
Often, beans are baked in an oven. I have found this process to be laborious unless you have first cooked the beans a while in water. Don’t over-cook them though or they will be mushy after baking.
Preheat your oven according to the recipe you are using for baked beans. Then combine the drained cooked beans, seasonings, liquids and other ingredients in a casserole dish. Cover the dish and bake for 1 to 1½ hours. You can brown the tops of the beans by removing the lid and baking the beans 15 to 30 minutes longer.