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Can we talk about dried beans?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
I am totally intimidated by dried beans. I have no idea what to do with them. I have been buying canned beans for years, as a result. I am getting sick of paying twice as much for my canned beans, also I don't like the environmental impact of processing those beans and would much rather buy them dried in bulk from the local co-op. However, the convenience and ease of canned beans keeps me from making the switch, plus the fact I mentioned before of having no clue how to prepare dried beans. The sad thing is, I have tried to research this subject and it's almost as bad as the vax debate. To soak, or not to soak; rinse the beans or cook them in the soaking liquid; how long to soak, if you choose to do so... etc.

Can someone help me out here? Surely it's not that complicated, people have been doing it for a long time now. The beans I use most often are black beans, garbanzos, and great northerns.
post #2 of 19
Good for you for wanting to try this! It takes time but it is not hard. I find that having frozen beans is even more convenient than a can because I can chip out a small quantity if I need it and throw the rest back in the freezer. And I appreciate the cost savings.
This is my approximate method for pinto, black, great northern, and garbanzo beans:

Rinse
Soak overnight (2 cups of beans with 6-8 c. water)
Drain off soaking water and add new water
(about 6 cups; I have heard draining is important in reducing the gas potential of the beans)
simmer for a couple hours (usually about 3?) until soft
cool and drain
freeze in quantities that you will use (I use 1 pint containers)

No-nos: My biggest bean disaster ever was cooking great northern beans for a white bean chicken chili soup. I was in a hurry and even though the beans were not soft yet, I added them to the soup. They stayed quite chewy. My roommates graciously picked out the chicken but could not eat the beans. We cooked the leftovers for 2 more days in the crockpot and the beans still did not turn soft. Turns out that any salt or tomato products will stop the softening process. Oops.
post #3 of 19
A lot depends on how you want to use those beans, how much time you have to make them, what equipment you have available, and what nutritional "beliefs" you hold.

If you're a "typical" busy person, with just basic equipment and not a lot of time, soak the beans overnight (or all day while at work), then rinse them, pop them into a pan with water and cook them about an hour. Alternately you can just dump them in a crockpot with water and go to work. My main beef with this method is the texture is a bit softer, and especially with the crockpot, it's not that difficult to overcook them to mushiness.

If you have time, simmer them low and long, adding more water every hour or as it's needed. This method will take several hours... but you don't have to be in the kitchen the entire time, just pop back in every so often to stir and check water levels. Beans are done when you can lift the bean out of the pot on a spoon, and blowing on it makes the skin peel back. If you soaked first though, this test doesn't work as well. IMO, this method produces the best texture, but most of us don't have time for this.

If you subscribe to certain NT beliefs, then you'd want to soak the beans overnight (with something) in order to reduce phytates. I'm not the best person to give you advice on that matter, though.

Never add acid (vinegar, tomato, etc.) to beans before they are fully cooked, as it makes them never get soft. Don't add baking soda, as it causes the beans cell walls to dissolve and you wind up with mush. Adding salt to beans is a much debated topic. I do, because I hate bland beans.

If you're putting your beans into soup, you probably want to undercook them by just a touch so that they finish cooking in your soup without overcooking. If you're putting them into your salad, you'll probably want a bit firmer texture to your beans, but if you're planning to mash them, overcooking them a bit isn't a bad idea, as it makes them mash easier. How long it will take to cook a particular bean is dependent on a number of factors... relative humidity, the age of the bean, the size of the bean, the hardness of your water, the wattage of your crockpot, etc. It's something that you can't really write a recipe for, and may be part of why you see so many different suggestions on how to do it. Basically you have to learn how it works for you by trial and error.

I've also heard that beans freeze fairly well, so you can make a large batch and freeze. I've never tried it though.

HTH
post #4 of 19
I think I've used two cans of beans in my life. I just don't know what to do with them and they taste funny to me.

Here's what I do. It is the super lazy foolproof method:

Pick through and rinse thoroughly.

I don't soak. Soaking lessens the cooking time a bit, and more importantly it makes all of the beans cook evenly. By not soaking you'll have to check several of the beans to make sure that the first couple that you check haven't cooked more quickly than the rest. The reason that I don't soak is that I seem to lack planning or carry through or something . If I soak them, I am almost guaranteed not to get around to actually cooking them. So I just throw them in a pot and boil.

Garlic, onion, tomato and salt will all toughen the skins a little bit (I honestly can't tell the difference though). That said, I cook my beans with garlic, onion and salt. I've even been known to put tomato in there from the start, the biggest problem with that is that as you know, tomato burns. I don't like the flavor of beans when I cook them plain and then add seasonings. I like the garlic, onion, salt etc to permeate well. PP, I don't know why that happened to your beans. I've cooked hundreds of pots of beans with all of those items in it from the start, no soaking. I'd be more suspicious of old beans or nice thick stock (lacking enough water to hydrate and cook the beans) but I don't know.

Just boil them in water, they'll take at least 4 times the volume to cook properly (IME) so if you are cooking a cup of beans, cook them in at least a quart of water. More is never a bad thing. Peek at them once in a while, give a little stir now and then, and start bite-testing them when the skins curl and peel when you take a few out and blow on them.
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
So what is the benefit of soaking? Less gas or easier to cook? Also - how long does it take to cook dried beans? I guess I should probably just take a day when we're having leftovers or something easy, and cook a pot of beans for the next day and see for myself. I do want to freeze some but would that alter the texture, i.e. make them mushier? I wonder if I could use frozen cooked beans in a cold salad, for instance.

Interesting about the skin test... thanks, that is helpful.
post #6 of 19
The main benefit to soaking is that they cook more evenly. The other thing that it does is to reduce cooking time a bit. Since I don't soak, I don't know how much more quickly they cook when soaked.

Unsoaked beans take anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours to cook. It mainly depends on the age of the beans (and how hard you're boiling them of course).

They're really easy. Easier than cooking rice.
post #7 of 19
We soak them because we've found it reduces the gasiness they produce. We soak them until we see bubbles in the soaking water, it usually takes about a day and a half. So, I usually plan on cooking them 2 mornings after the night I begin soaking them.

I do cook them sometimes without soaking, though, I just know I'm going to have more gas

I usually just cook them all day in my crockpot or if I'm running low on time I'll use my rice cooker. A lot of things say you "can't" use your rice cooker for beans, but you can. You just need to keep an eye on it and if it starts pushing water out of the hole on top, shut it off, the beans are boiling over.
post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by famousmockngbrd View Post
So what is the benefit of soaking? Less gas or easier to cook? Also - how long does it take to cook dried beans? I guess I should probably just take a day when we're having leftovers or something easy, and cook a pot of beans for the next day and see for myself.
Growing up, beans always simmered all day... black or pinto. Garbanzos generally take longer since they are thicker.

My stepmother would always add garlic, onions and salt to her beans, but tomato will make them stay hard... like you, I learned that one the hard way. Once you've added tomato to partially cooked beans, they will never soften, you have to wait until they're the right softness to add the tomato.

The benefits of soaking are debated. Like the pp mentioned, it can make them cook more evenly. Some people find it reduces gas. I soak because it speeds up cooking.

I learned this trick years ago... if you want to cook beans TONIGHT and don't want to wait hours for them to soak, soak them in boiling water (full rolling boil). Soak them for an hour, then put them back over the heat and they usually only need to simmer for another hour or so. This is really handy because you can take the beans off the stove while you make dinner, then when you're done cooking, put them back on to simmer, and by the time dinner is over and the dishes are done, the beans should be too.
post #9 of 19
I'm assuming your talking about pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans etc here? If so... I don't typically soak them, just pick through, rinse/wash and throw in the crockpot the morning I'm going to use them on high, and check them around 2 or 3 and see how they're doing. If they look 'done' or close to, I turn them down to low, if not, I leave'm on high.
post #10 of 19
Famousmockngbrd,

I recommend you *get crazy* and buy a package of beans and go for it! You can just follow the directions on the package. Later you can try some new recipes. I make a lot of beans, and have usually done the quick soak or overnight soak. However, many cooks from other cultures (meaning not American, since I'm American), don't soak at all. So lately I've skipped the soak and it's been fine.

Since I'm not a vegetarian, I do often add a bit of meat (ham slice or ham hock, etc.) to my beans to give them more flavor.

I try to buy my beans from Whole Foods, because I do believe they are fresher there. (In my area, there is not a lot of turnover in beans in the supermarket. This varies depending on where you live.) Old beans are tougher and do not always soften, in my experience. But I think they have to be pretty old for that to be a problem.

Go for it! Good luck. Report back!
post #11 of 19
Soaking beans- all grains, nuts, seeds, peas, and legumes for that matter- aids in digestion and ensures that all the nutrients will be assimilated.

The soaking process neutralizes phytic acid, enzyme inhibitors, and breaks down complex sugars- farrinose and stachyose which are difficult to digest.

The foam that rises to the top is carefully skimmed off, don't worry if you miss some. It's impossible to get it all so don't sweat it.

I just beans and homemade sauerkraut

Maddy123- I'm just curious as to which cultures don't soak
post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamadelbosque View Post
I'm assuming your talking about pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans etc here? If so... I don't typically soak them, just pick through, rinse/wash and throw in the crockpot the morning I'm going to use them on high, and check them around 2 or 3 and see how they're doing. If they look 'done' or close to, I turn them down to low, if not, I leave'm on high.

This is exactly what I do. I throw a little salt in at the end and then freeze them in 1.5-2 cup portions with a little of the liquid.
post #13 of 19
Lentils, mung, split pea all cook pretty quick without soaking.

I soak black, pinto, and kidney beans.

I stick with canned for garbanzos since I usually use them for hummus and am usually looking for instant gratification.
post #14 of 19
I really like the book Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair because there is a section on preparing beans (both big and little beans) that I refer to a lot. I'm one of those people who can make a dish a hundred times and still need a recipe. The cookbook also has instructions on making quinoa, millet and a lot of other grains that might be intimidating at first. I love making beans! I feel better about saving packaging and reducing BPA exposure from cans. HOWEVER, I've started to worry a little about where the bulk beans are coming from at Whole Foods. I've asked the bulk manager and he couldn't tell me, but some of the bulk bags in the back were from China. I guess that's for another post...
post #15 of 19
Beans cook more quickly (and without soaking) in a pressure cooker, if you have one. There are good instructions in the Complete Tightwad Gazette.
post #16 of 19
Soaking gets rid of the, to quote Veganomicon (I think), "musical properties".
post #17 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamadelbosque View Post
I'm assuming your talking about pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans etc here? If so... I don't typically soak them, just pick through, rinse/wash and throw in the crockpot the morning I'm going to use them on high, and check them around 2 or 3 and see how they're doing. If they look 'done' or close to, I turn them down to low, if not, I leave'm on high.
This is what i do to. Its so much easier, and they are ready for dinner. I don't have to think ahead a day or two.
post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bird Girl View Post
Beans cook more quickly (and without soaking) in a pressure cooker, if you have one. There are good instructions in the Complete Tightwad Gazette.
A rice cooker is basically a pressure cooker with an automatic shutoff, that's why I use mine occassionally.
post #19 of 19
I never bother soaking and just use my pressure cooker, in fact it's the only thing I've never used it for . I use the times in Lorna Sass' Complete Vegetarian Cookbook as a guideline.
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