Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cooking Dried Beans

Here's a quick tutorial for cooking dried beans. They are a frugal meal option that is really healthy.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total time: 2 to 4 hours, with optional soaking time of 6 to 10 hours

Servings: 20 servings, 1/2 cup each


  • 2 pounds dried beans
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 12 cups water


  1. Clean the beans. Clean the beans by putting about a cup of them on one side of a light-colored plate and pushing them a few at a time towards you. Pick out anything that is not a bean, such as small stones or stems. Also pick out any beans that look much smaller and more wrinkled than the rest. (These mummy beans tend to stay hard no matter how long you cook them.) After you’ve worked a batch of beans over to the other side of the plate, dump them into a colander and pick over another batch until you’ve checked them all. Rinse the beans well under running water.
  2. Soak beans if you want, an option that saves energy and may reduce side effects. The FDA recommends always soaking kidney beans for at least five hours and throwing away the soaking liquid to avoid problems with a toxin in some kidney beans. Once you’ve picked over and rinsed the beans, you can soak them in water for several hours or overnight. Soaking beans softens them without heat and cuts the cooking time by 30 minutes or an hour. Use plenty of water: twelve cups should be enough for two pounds of beans. You can soak the beans in the crockpot or pot that you will be cooking them in. Leaving them on the counter is fine; you don’t need to refrigerate them. Many people throw away the soaking liquid and then cook the beans in fresh water (always do this with kidney beans). This will throw some of the taste and nutrients down the drain but may help if beans give you gas, especially when you first start eating them regularly. Cook soaked beans in a crockpot or pot just as you would unsoaked beans
  3. Cook the beans. Cook beans in a crockpot or on the stove until they are creamy and tender. Undercooked beans are hard to digest. Test three or four beans when you check for doneness; they don’t always cook evenly. I like to use a crockpot because it’s so easy and the beans get the best texture because they cook very slowly. You’ll also save energy compared to cooking beans on the stove.
    • Using a crockpot (best way): Put the rinsed (and possibly soaked) beans into a crockpot that will hold at least 14 cups. Add water and salt. Turn crockpot on low. Cook until the beans are tender, adding extra water if needed to keep them covered. If you are in a hurry, bring the water to a boil before adding it to the crockpot and turn the crockpot on high.
    • Using a pot on the stove: Put the rinsed (and possibly soaked) beans into a pot that will hold at least 14 cups. Add water and salt. Bring the beans to a boil, then turn the heat down to low. Cover the pot with its lid. Cook until the beans are tender, adding extra water if needed to keep them covered.
  4. Drain the beans if you want. Either use right away, refrigerate, or freeze.

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