Are dried beans made in a pressure cooker as good as canned?
I grew up on canned beans. I go through quite a few when I make my homemade chili. I just purchased a pressure cooker (8 quart) and have been reading up on how to use it. I was wondering if pressure cooked beans are as good (tender) as canned? I've made dried beans before by soaking then cooking a couple hours in a pot... they never seem to be as tender as the canned. Any thoughts or words of advice?
The answer is NO. The pressure cooked beans are better. You get to add as much or as little salt as you like, and season them however you want. You make a lot at once. As has been said, you can cook them to your liking. To repeat, a lot depends upon the age of the beans.
The other benefit is that you can cook heirloom beans, that they sell at Rancho Gordo, and get wonderful and unusual beans. Their beans are usually no more than a year old and cook up quickly in the pressure cooker -- usually between 4 and 10 minutes at pressure with a natural release, if you want to keep the beans looking good. If you are making hummus or bean dip, cook them longer and they get softer, and are ready to get mashed or blended.
One of my students figured out that what she saved by cooking her beans in the pressure cooker versus buying canned organic beans would pay for her PC in less than a year. I'd love to hear your results.
The only diff between pressure cooked beans and pot cooked beans is how long it takes to get them to the level of done-ness you want. It's just as easy to overcook one as the other.
Pampatz - I loved in Leadville, Colo, elevation 10,000+ and cooked beans all the time. Use a cast iron Dutch oven. it does take longer than at sealevel, true.
If you cook them the right amount of time. We use our pressure cooker for garbanzos and black beans, all the time, and various other kinds of beans whenever we have them. We generally soak them from the time we leave for work in the morning till we're ready to prepare supper. There's a great cookbook by Lorna Sass entitled "Cooking Under Pressure" which has a handy chart in the back inside cover. Presoaked black beans only take 4-6 minutes at high pressure then natural pressure release.
Pressure cooking is the only way my mom ever cooked red kidney beans - we never ate canned beans.
Pampatz is correct about beans getting old and not cooking as well. It sounds odd, but it's true. If possible, try to find the brand Camellia (out of NOLA) which is date stamped. They are very in tune with the freshness of their product and their beans produce an almost "creamy" broth/liquor.
Also, to aid in thorough cooking, do not salt until the end of cooking - allowing for about 30 minutes of additional cook time to get the seasoning into the bean. Early salting will not allow the bean to cook through to the center resulting in a hard little "grain" in each bean. Don't have any idea why this is, but it is.
The retort in which beans are canned is, in effect, a huge pressure cooker. So you definitely can get the beans as tender as you want.
A pre-soak is helpful but not necessary. Especially if the beans are older, it results in more even cooking.
The main trick will be figuring out exactly how long you need to cook your beans for; this will depend on the type of beans, their age, your water chemistry, and other factors. Trial and error is necessary, but your patience will be rewarded.
PS - let the pressure reduce naturally. Venting the steam all of a sudden tends to cause the skins to crack.
Our house in Mexico is at 7800 feet, so if I ever want to eat beans, they have to be cooked in a pressure cooker.
I do an abbreviated pre-soak. Pick and rinse the beans. In your pressure cooker, add enough water to cover the beans by about 1". Bring to a boil uncovered. When the water boils, turn off the stove, and cover the beans. Let them sit for one hour. Drain and rinse the beans. Put the beans back into the pressure cooker with one half of the seasons that you intend to use and water to cover the beans by about 1 1/2". Seal the cover and bring to a boil. Turn the heat back until the pressure isn't whistling insanely, just whistling gently. Cook for 30 minutes. Let the steam bleed off until is it safe to open, then taste the beans. They will probably need to simmer a little while longer. Add the second half of your seasoning and more liquid as needed.
I have only had tough beans once using this method and the concensus of this board was that the beans were old and dried out.