I'd like to make better, tastier beans from scratch. Mine are fine but as tasty as some restaurants. What are you tricks? Prefer pinto or black.
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Help Me Make Better Beans
I like to soak them for about 8-12 hours, drain and rinse them, and then cook them in a pressure cooker with a little vegetable oil and a little handful of salt. For some reason, the pressure cooker gives them a creamier texture, and really brings out the flavor. it also saves energy because you cook them for much less time.
I've long wanted to be able to get my beans as soft/tender as from a can but never have. I've not tried a pressure cooker, though. I think a lot might have to do w/ how fresh the dry beans are which I have no clue... Your soaking for 8-12 hrs sounds similar to my technique but I'd love to hear a better strategy :)
Soak overnight or boil some water, take off of heat, add beans and soak for a couple of hours. I do the hot water in a pinch, but prefer overnight.
I add some onion, garlic, bay leaf and whatever else seasonings to a ouple tnbs of oil and saute until light brown. Add in beans, small diced carrot and celery and cover with vegetable broth. I bring it up to a boil and then reduce heat to a low simmer.
I take my time with beans and let them cook on the slow simmer until nice and tender.
I think you're right about the age of the beans. That's definitely a factor in whether all of them become soft or not. Beans are harvested at the end of the summer where we live (N. New Mexico). We buy a 100 pound bag and they last all year long. By the end of the bag, the beans definitely take longer to soak and cook.
You can tell if the beans are ready to cook if almost all of them have absorbed the soaking water. If a lot of them are small and/or wrinkly, leave them to soak longer. You can switch out the soaking water if it seems like it needs it.
Another factor that has helped us - never mix batches. Don't buy one bag from the bulk department, use all of them but a cup, and then cook that last cup with a new bag. They might be different ages, and then some of them cook all the way before others do. (My dp has a thing about partially cooked beans. They really gross him out, so we always make sure that they're completely soft around here.)
Also, unless you're using a pressure cooker, don't add salt until the beans have reached their desired tenderness. This can make them tough and prevent them from cooking all the way.
At sea level we never needed the pressure cooker. Just boiling the soaked beans for a few hours usually worked just fine. But up here, we live at more than 5000 feet, and unpressure cooked beans never seem to cook all the way because the boiling temperature of water is lower than at sea level.
The age of beans matters, as does the soaking. I either soak overnight or do a quick-soak which is putting 3 inches of water above the beans and bringing to a boil for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and let the beans sit, covered, for 1 hour. Drain the beans from the water and then cook - preferably in a pressure cooker.
If you like softer beans, cook the beans for longer than the suggested cooking time. Black, pinto, white and kidney beans cook in about 6 minutes at high pressure with a natural pressure release. If you wanted them softer, I'd add another couple of minutes.
I do not add salt when pressure cooking any of the beans mentioned as it tends to make the bean skins tougher.
You can easily add flavorings, as suggested above, when cooking beans in the pressure cooker to make them taste great. With black or pinto beans, I like add a strip of kombu (seaweed), cumin seeds, onion, garlic, epazote (an herb - when I can find it) and sometimes chipotle chili powder or the chile.
I love pressure cooking and beans. d hope that this helps. I have been teaching people how to successfully pressure cook for more than 15 years. I even wrote a book on it: The New Fast Food.
I throw the dried beans into the slowcooker and cover with water. Crank it on high and in about 4 hours they're done. Check them at 3h. I usually leave them a touch under cooked then throw them into whatever recipes calling for them and let them finish cooking then
You can season the water with whatever seasonings you use most. For me I do garlic and pepper. I'll do full bags of dried beans this way then portion them out in 2c servings and freeze in the bean water. Then thaw and use when needed
It's interesting that many of you mentioned not salting the beans during the soaking process because it makes the skin tough. Cooks Illustrated did a test on how to make the skin softer. This was the result:
"Brining isn’t just for meat. When you soak dried beans in salted water, they cook up with softer skins. Why? It has to do with how the sodium ions in salt interact with the cells of the bean skins. As the beans soak, the sodium ions replace some of the calcium and magnesium ions in the skins. Because sodium ions are more weakly charged than calcium and magnesium ions, they allow more water to penetrate into the skins, leading to a softer texture. During soaking, the sodium ions will only filter partway into the beans, so their greatest effect is on the cells in the outermost part of the beans.
Brining Formula: For 1 pound of dried beans, dissolve 3 tablespoons of table salt in 4 quarts of cold water. Soak the beans at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours. Drain and rinse them well before using."
I sometimes use less salt. Soaking it closer to 24 hours allows lots of bubbles to come up. I believe this gas is what makes people need Bean-o type pill. My 3.5 yo doesn't have any digestive issues with beans prepared this way, and eats them straight out of the pot, without my having to cook them into something.
I tried to research more about the salting vs. not salting beans and I cannot find much that definitively tells me one way is better than the other. The flavor, the skin toughness, and any gas issues may or may not work for you by salting them. In the end, it just might be your personal preference in taste and texture.
Huh! That's wild, 'cause I've always heard (and my experience has borne it out) that cooking beans in salted water keeps them from cooking up soft. I've never thought about soaking in salted water, though. Worth a try.
The best (and most energy-efficient) way I've found of cooking beans is the "witch oven" method. I use a terra-cotta pot with a lid, which seems to work best, but any sort of clay/ceramic/cast iron lidded pot that holds a lot of heat would probably work. I soak the beans all day in whatever pot, then dump the soaking water, rinse well, cover in clean cold water, then bring to a slow boil over a low flame on the stovetop.* Once they're boiling, I put the lid in the pot, then lower the pot into a cardboard box that has been well-padded with layers of rags and newspapers. Top with more rags and newspapers, wrapped tightly around the pot, then close up the box and let it sit overnight. The heat retained by the pot slow-cooks the beans. By morning, the beans are soft and perfectly cooked, and most importantly, I haven't burned a one of them. :)
*It's important to note that if you're using a terra-cotta pot, you MUST soak the beans IN that same pot so that the pot soaks up lots of water, otherwise it will crack when you put it on the stovetop.
Soaking beans in salted water makes them cook up softer...you must drain and rinse those beans and then cook them up in regular, non-salted water. Most grains and beans stay tougher with salt in the cooking water. It is easier to cook them and add salt to taste at the end. Or, with beans, salt the soaking water and then rinse and cook non-salted.
I cook black beans with sauteed onions, garlic, and celery (sometimes a bay leaf) in a slow cooker. I do not soak them before hand, just drain and rinse. I just put the rinsed beans with enough water in the slow cooker and then add the sauteed veggies. Then I let them cook on high for four or five hours (or while I'm at work on medium). Also, you can boil rinsed beans on the stove and then turn them off and let them sit for an hour. It is the same as an overnight soak (except for the gasses that rise to the top, per a previous poster). I do this with black beans, and then cook them for another hour or two until tender (depends on the bean).
My girlfriend is from Honduras and she said that they always have a pot of beans sitting on the stove. They usually make enough to last for three or four days and just leave the pot covered on the stove. They just heat it to boiling every morning, and then people can eat out of it all day long. Because of the boiling, it never spoils...then they only have to make beans once every few days!!
Cooking beans with green peppers also gives them a great flavor.
Your Brining Formula, i.e., for 1 pound of dried beans, dissolve 3 tablespoons of rather table salt in 4 quarts of cold water, I would distinguish Celtic salt or Sea salt and then 'Pure' water or 'Spring' water for improving the brining formula considerably. I mean for the sake of good health and healthy living. Then, soak the beans at a room temperature for 8 to 24 hours. Drain and rinse them well before using. I hoped this improved everyone's conscious and help everyone towards a healthier lifestyle.
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