HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Do you cook your dried beans with or without smoked meats?

  • a

In other words, should I cook the beans alone and then add them to sauteed bacon/onions/garlic, or cook the beans with the bacon from the very begining? Also, does anyone have any great black bean recipes? Thanks.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I always use a hamhock or leftover ham bone and then take that out and use my other ing. like bacon, I also include a few bay leaves and some whole garlic.
    Husband recently catered a party with non pork eaters and cooked his beans with a smoked turkey leg.

    1. When I make refried beans, I saute bacon and onion in the pot of the pressure cooker then add the beans and water.

      1. Although we're not vegetarian, my family dislikes the dominating flavour of smoked bacon/ham in dried bean dishes. I must admit that I would usually prefer to add the meat. With sufficient spicing, however, the smokey flavour is completely unnecessary. Lots of cumin, coriander, onion, garlic, fresh cilantro, hot peppers etc. provide wonderful flavour to cooked beans or lentils.

        1. I would put the source of fat into the pot early, because many of the flavor esters in onions and celery and some of the herbs are fat soluble, not water soluble. The addition of the fat or oil allows them to render their full flavor. But you could also do that by cooking the beans separately and sauteeing the onions and the like and then combining them. Smoked meats are used in a lot of traditional bean dishes because they were the "low on the hog" foods that the poor got to keep and because they provided both the needed lipid for the diet and a modicum of complementary protein for the beans. But the lipid doesn't have to come from smoked meat. Olive oil can be used, for example. And real lard is great with pinto beans. I sometimes cook butter beans with onions and celery sauteeed in olive oil, water, fresh sage, a bit of bay leaf, and a scraping of lemon zest and a splash of white wine. I got the recipe from a clerk in a Greek market for use with Fasolia gigantes. The more usual Greek recipe includes tomato paste. John Thorne's book "Serious Pig" has some great bean recipes in it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Father Kitchen

            Check www.ranchogordo.com for all you ever wanted to know about beans but were afraid to ask. Rancho is THE leading authority on all things bean, including great recipes and trip reports.

          2. I use dried African game meat (sustainably harvested) that has to go in with the beans early--takes just as long to cook and really integrate flavors.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              But are you sure it really came over from Africa? I read a definitive study that proves that all African game meat really came over from Spain, with the Jesuits.

              Sorry, Sam, I couldn't help myself. Email me if you have time: piensalo44@hotmail.com

              1. re: cristina

                Hahahahahaha!!!!! Cristina, priceless! THANK YOU. I just tried to email, but some construction people broke our institute's land line last Saturday just before I got back here (Cali). I sent you a note yesterday on the Acapulco thread. Am taking a day off and will email when the problem gets fixed.

            2. I usually put it all in at once but it does get mushy. Cooks Illustrated recommends avoiding it by making a broth with the smoky meat first. Then you cook the beans in the broth. The vegetables are sauteed on the side and then added in later. It's good but IMO not worth the extra effort.

              2 Replies
              1. re: chowser

                What gets mushy if you put everything in all at once? The meat or the beans? Which CI recipe was this advised for? I'm interested in reading what they have to say.

                1. re: Humbucker

                  It was for split pea soup. They said the vegetables and peas become indistinguishably mushy. After I sauteed the mirepoix, I deglazed the pan w/ vinegar and drizzled that over a bowl of soup--it was really good. C.I. recommends drizzling balsamic vinegar on it and this was one step up.

              2. We prefer our beans without the dominating flavor that meat adds. Properly cooked pintos are very "meaty" all by themselves.

                1. For a simple way to great black bean soup, I use the crockpot. It saves the time of soaking or long cooking on the stove, and when I get home there's a delicious smell in the house. This recipe can also be vegetarian if you use vegetable stock, so that's nice.
                  Just saute onions, bell peppers, and garlic in olive oil with some cumin. Pour a 1lb bag of black beans into the slow cooker, top with the onion/pepper mixture, add a tbs of chopped canned chipoltles (or more or less, or put fresh peppers in from the beginning, whatever you have), add 7 cups hot stock. Cover and cook on high for about 6 hours. If you like a thicker soup you can give at little buzz with a stick blender at the end. Easy, cheap, healthy, yum. So much simpler than buying salt pork or a ham hock or whatever to cook with the beans. This recipe makes black bean soup a cupboard fall back meal, not one I have to plan for with special ingredients.

                  1. Yes, I add smoked turkey neck, wings or legs. whatever is on sale or cheaper that day. To my surprise, my family could not tell the difference between this and what I would normally use, hamhocks.

                    1. If I *have* to, I fry some (pork) bacon first, then cook the beans. But I do everything I can to avoid putting pig products in anything. I tried turkey bacon too, and it was really bad. Turkey sausage isn't too bad.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: xnyorkr

                        try using smoked turkey wing or neck...it's a good sub for the pork

                        1. re: xnyorkr

                          I've used dried chipotles -- all of the smoke, none of the guilt.

                          that being said, I usually prefer pig.

                            1. re: bolivianita

                              I agree! Haven't you heard the ancient saying, "El puerco es inocente"? Or, in France, "Le cochon n'est pas coupable"?

                              I just made a white bean soup last night using a ham hock. The meat falls off the bone but is certainly not "mushy". I put in lots of onions, carrots, some celery, bay leaves and thyme. Near the end I added some really good canned Italian tomatoes squished up. Served the whole thing with gremolata.

                              As for the statement that beans "properly cooked are very 'meaty' all by themselves.", that may be true in texture, but certainly not in taste. Although good beans DO have a bit of flavor, I certainly would never choose to eat beans cooked in water without seasonings...even if salt and pepper were added.

                              I second the Rancho Gordo rec. above as a source for beans. Lots ot times beans have been sitting around on the shelf or in the bin for a long time and are old, broken and stale.

                              1. re: oakjoan

                                I don't have any guilt, but somebody else up the thread did. I love everything, including the "oink" and I always end up armwrestling my mother for the hambone after Christmas dinner.

                                "As for the statement that beans "properly cooked are very 'meaty' all by themselves.", that may be true in texture, but certainly not in taste. Although good beans DO have a bit of flavor, I certainly would never choose to eat beans cooked in water without seasonings...even if salt and pepper were added."

                                That reminds me of the time my husband tried to cook lentils while he was working out of town. He said "they taste TERRIBLE -- what did I do wrong." I asked him what he'd cooked them in, and he said "what do you mean -- I just boiled them and ate them." Not even salt.

                                I gag a little just thinking about it.

                        2. Here in Mexico, it's highly unusual to cook beans in anything but plain ol' water. None of this fancy-dancy mirepoix, none of this high-falutin' ham hock, nary a clove of garlic. We just put the beans and the water in the pot and cook'em till they're done. At the end, we add enough salt to perk up the bean flavor. I've never known a Mexican housewife who put anything but water in the bean pot.

                          Of course after that it's all up for grabs. Refried beans...charro beans...drunken beans...frijoles puercos...there are a lot of ways to season a bean once it's properly cooked. But a basic pot of beans--frijoles de la olla--has nothing but water and salt, cooked to humble perfection.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: cristina

                            I thought epazote and lard were routinely used in frijoles de la olla. Maybe that's why my pot beans never end up tasting anything like the ones at the taqueria. I can't help but add some pork product, garlic, onions, cumin and oregano. Next time I'll try to keep it simple.

                            1. re: Humbucker

                              Epazote is used occasionally--depending on what part of Mexico you're in--but lard, no. "Frijoles de la olla" simply means 'frijoles from the pot'--without benefit of any of the things you'd use to make the other kinds of frijoles I mentioned.

                          2. My black bean recipe is SUPER simple. I just add 1lb of black beans, 1 large onion quartered (White or Brown will be fine), and a big spoonful of lard. Fill with water about a few inches above the beans and then boil and simmer.

                            When the bean's skin start to get soft, add salt and when the beans are ALMOST ready add Epazote.