I've been cooking non-soaked beans in the oven. It takes 90 minutes or so and the results are good, at least for pinto beans.
-put in pot with tight fitting lid (put some foil around the top if lid jiggles)
-cover with 1-2 inches water (or stock. you can add salt to the water too), bring to boil
-put in oven somewhere between 275-350F, depending on your oven - need to keep at just the barest simmer. i do 300F.
-put timer on 45 minutes, then check to see if it needs any more water and check on how cooked the beans are
-cook another 30-45 minutes, then take out and let rest for around 20 minutes.
highly recommend this method! i end up with far fewer broken/overcooked beans this way than by soaking/slowly simmering.
I have had lots of problems with cooking beans. I posted a question about it on Serious Eats a while ago, and someone suggested that I could live in a area with hard water (I live in London, so this rings true) and that it might help to acidify the water a bit when I'm cooking the beans. The person who suggested this adds beer to her beans, but I have started adding a few tablespoons of vinegar to the cooking liquid, and I have found that it really helps with achieveing more evenly cooked beans, and also a shorter cooking time. I made black beans two nights ago, and it probably took an hour for them to cook.
Maybe you have similar problems, in which case you might give it a try.
Here's the official word from Steve Sando at Rancho Gordo – a guy who knows from beans.
I use his basic approach all the time, and the beans always turn out perfect. It really helps to have fresh beans, not ones that have been languishing in a warehouse or your pantry for a couple of years.
Get a large pot on the stove filled with water, add 1 or 2 onions coarsely chopped and a few peeled garlic cloves (I leave them whole)& a bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, rinse 2 cups or so of dried beans, then add to the pot. Cook on med-low heat (simmering nicely) for 1.5 to 2 hours, until you test one & it's soft. Add salt only at this point. While it's cooking you may need to add some boiling water to bring it up to about an inch above the beans. Enjoy them when they're freshly cooked as a soup (you can add chopped avocado,cheese etc on top of each serving), next day mixed with salsa & rice, next day mashed & fried (fry some onion in the oil before you add the mashed beans)...on & on. You can freeze plain cooked beans in containers to use later in different ways. Practical.
And don't worry - it's just ' cook until done'!
You didn't say but if you want them to be like the black beans in Cuban restaurants you should puree about half of them after they're cooked soft. You can put half of them through a food processor or blender. Or just wade in with the potato masher. But you want that semi-pureed gravy-like effect. Also cook with some onion, green pepper, garlic, bay leaf, and some garlic powder, and definitely some comino (powdered cumin) with the beans, and it doesn't hurt if you have a ham bone. Then puree, then correct the seasoning with more salt, garlic powder, and comino. If you do this right you can make up a lot at once and freeze the product in pints. Then you can use it either as black bean soup (add a glug of sherry) or to spoon over rice with any meat or fish as an entree.
re: Sam Fujisaka
i use sam's method, with addition of bay leaf & celery trimmings. the 2 soaking methods will also work great, but those methods work best for bigger beans like kidney, dried lima, etc. with little beans like most black beans or navy you can get away with a quick soak while rinsing.
adding salt or acidic foods (beware the tomato) too early in the cooking can toughen the skins of the beans, so add them last, after the beans are already soft. don't forget to fish out your bay leaves. once you get the hang of beans you can do them in your sleep. i like to get them from food co-ops, they are always cheap in bulk and very fresh, which means they don't take as long to cook.
This is a different way to cook them without soaking overnight.
Pick through the beans and wash thoroughly. In a large pot add water to cover by about 1". Bring to a boil, covered. Turn off heat and let the beans sit for 1/2 hour. Drain, add fresh water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook til tender. Add seasonings in the last hour of cooking.
If you use epazote, use it sparingly. It is strong and an acquired taste.