Forget the tinny tasting beans from a can. Make your own delicious meals from dried beans, which are nutritious, economical (they are three times cheaper than canned beans, opened with a safe can opener) and aren’t as hard to make as you may think. Plus dried beans that are cooked from scratch are healthier for you since you control the sodium and there will be no preservatives.
If you’ve never made meals out of dried beans, here are fool-proof tips to get dried beans ready to be cooked.
Soak First Before Cooking Beans
Dried beans are just that – they are dried and need moisture before cooking. While many cooks say that you can just throw them in a crockpot without soaking first, it is still a good idea to get them soaked.
- Pour beans in bowl of water and make sure there are no pebbles or shriveled up beans in the package. Treat beans like raw produce and wash thoroughly. Discard any beans that float to the top.
- For a quick soak: Put cleaned beans in a large pot and fill up with enough water to cover the beans. Boil for three minutes. Take off the stove and set them aside. Cover and let sit for 2-4 hours. Drain the beans and discard the water. Rinse the beans. They are now ready for your recipe.
- For a long soak: Put cleaned beans in a large bowl and fill up with enough water to cover the beans. Soak the beans overnight or for 8 hours until the beans have doubled in size (this is a good option for before you go to work since the beans will be ready for your recipe when you come home).
Don’t Use Salt While Cooking Beans
While you can add salt to the soaking beans (and then you must rinse the beans before you cook them), don’t add salt anytime you are cooking the beans since this will harden up the beans. Also don’t add any acidic acid ingredients (such as tomatoes, vinegar or wine) until the beans have cooked through and are soft. Hard water is also rough on beans since there’s a lot of sodium and other minerals that will keep the beans hard.
Freeze the Beans
After the bean soak, you can freeze the beans until you’re ready to use them in a recipe. Freeze in 1 or 2 cup portions (and label) so that it will be easy to add to recipes. These should last in the freezer for about three months.
Once the beans are “recipe ready” you can cook them. Put the beans in a large pot or Dutch oven and cover with six cups of water or broth for each pound of beans. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil or substitution (this will prevent the whole thing from boiling over) and seasonings. Boil gently with lid a little off in order to let the steam escape for 1 to 2 hours. Watch every half hour to make sure you’re not losing too much liquid (since this will dry out the beans). Don’t worry about the foam that forms while beans are cooking and don’t remove it since this is a water-soluble protein that is released from the beans and will eventually be absorbed back into the liquid.
If you’d rather not baby sit your beans, you can use a crock pot or cook the beans in the oven:
- Crock pot: Remember to cook the beans slowly in a crock pot, but not too low a setting or you’ll end up cooking them for close to an entire 24 hours. High setting is just as bad: the liquid will evaporate too fast and the beans will dry out. Choose a medium setting and keep an eye on it for the first time you do this to get it right (and there is enough water in the pot). This will take about 8-10 hours to cook.
- Oven: This is the perfect way to make baked beans and bean pot casseroles, but special precautions must be taken or you’ll end up with dried up hard beans. Also, make sure that your beans are not cooked before baking (but soaked in the quick or slow method), or your recipe will turn to mush. Use earthenware bean pot that are made specifically for oven baked beans (don’t use metal baking pans). Read the recipe carefully then cover and bake for 1 to 1.5 hours. To brown the beans, remove the lid and bake another 20 minutes.
Additional Dried Bean Tips:
- Don’t let cooked beans stand at room temperature for too long (2-3 hours) since they can ferment and get sour.
- Keep the heat low and the pot partially uncovered or completely uncovered to prevent the beans from bursting out of their skins.
- Add sugar to the recipe to keep the beans from turning into mush.
- To remedy tough beans that are slow to cook add some baking soda to the water (about ½ teaspoon).
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