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cooking dried beans

I have avoided this in the past but am forcing myself to cook with dried beans. So far so good. What I'm needing to know is if you can cook the means in stock or with other veggies. I know this must seem like a very basic question, but this really is new territory for me.

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  1. I don't use broth. I use water. I've found beans create their own 'broth'. For veggies, I'll add garlic, onions but not any others until later, as they'll be cooked to mush / nothing by the time the cooking is done.

    What beans are going to be your test pilot?

    11 Replies
    1. re: JerryMe

      I actually did black beans last week and they worked really well. But this time I'm doing white beans to make a soup, and since the package says cook for an hour and a half, after which I'll add to the soup, I wondered if I could add the sliced carrots for the last 15-20 minutes so they'll soften up some.

      I do have to say I'm finding this pretty exciting. And even though canned beans are not especially expensive, this is absurdly cheap!

      1. re: Parrotgal

        It IS absurdly cheap. Plus your beans will have better texture -- you won't have to cook them until they turn to mush. And the sodium content will be much lower and healthier. All that and you'll be able to choose from an enormous variety of beans that don't come in cans.

        1. re: Parrotgal

          Check beans for doneness at the hour mark; they can be somewhat unreliable, due to freshness issues, and an hour and a half can be underdone, overdone, you get my point. I've had white beans finish in 1 hour.

          Yes, carrots at the last 15-20 minutes works. Are there onions and celery in the base soup recipe, as well as other seasonings?

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            Definitely onions. I'm not a big fan of cooked celery. I'm going to throw in some shredded cooked chicken for the last few minutes.

        2. re: JerryMe

          I've had the hardest time cooking beans recently. They just won't get done. They're not old, I'm buying at the same store I have for years, I've soaked, parboiled, everything. Our water has always been hard but it seems like it's become even harder lately. So I'm thinking it's the water that is causing the beans to take so long to cook. If it's not the hard water, I guess I'll be the first hillbilly in history who can no longer get a pot of beans done within a reasonable time.

          1. re: MellieMag

            I recently made a Jamie Oliver recipe for beans and he uses a peeled potato and smashed tomato in the cooking water to soften the beans. It worked very well, although I have never had a problem with beans not softening.

            Some folks use 1/8 tspn bicarbonate of soda per 1 cup of beans as a softener, (recipes in the River Cafe books for example) but it reduces the nutritional value and makes the beans taste soapy... or so I've heard never having used it..

            1. re: MellieMag

              I've tried the baking soda in tomato sauce (to cut the acid) and found it flattened the taste a lot so I would not try it with beans. Since acid toughens beans I can't understand why Jamie Oliver suggests including tomato in the cooking water. Since you suspect the hard water, why not try a gallon of spring water for soaking and cooking your beans? If that does the trick, you've got your answer. It would be a pain to have to buy water each time you cook beans, but still more economical than buying canned. Some bakers recommend using bottled water for bread-baking because chlorine in tap water negatively affects flavor and rise. And really, when something takes hours to make, isn't it worth it to spend a little extra for better water?

              1. re: greygarious

                <"Since acid toughens beans I can't understand why Jamie Oliver suggests including tomato in the cooking water.">

                That was my first thought when I read the recipe, greygarious, but the beans cooked perfectly according to his directions. Perhaps there's a reaction 'tween the tomato and potato, but I really don't think so since they're in the same plant family, Solanaceae (nightshade).

                Personally, I cook dried beans every other week or so. Sometimes I use the 1 minute boil, 1 hour soak method. Sometimes I soak overnight and cook in the AM.
                I do use an onion and carrot and some spices but not salt. Always have a lovely soft and tasty bean to use in a recipe...

              2. re: MellieMag

                When it comes to hard-to-cook beans, a pressure cooker's better than a magic wand.

                1. re: MellieMag

                  I do not soak my dried beans before cooking; I prefer the taste of unsoaked beans. However, once you begin heating the beans, once the water is hot, you CANNOT add any liquid that is colder than the water temperature in the beans, because if you do, the beans will stay hard no matter how long you cook them. If you must add more liquid to the beans, make sure it is boiling hot before you add it. Likewise, if you are making bean soup and add vegetables to the hot beans before they are completely done, you must heat the vegetables before adding them also.

                  1. re: vickih

                    My experience runs completely contrary to yours. Perhaps you added tomato, wine, or some other acidic liquids or solids? Acid prevents softening. If you are cooking any vegetables in a braise or stew or soup, and want them in there early to flavor it, adding wine when the vegetables are getting tender will slow their softening, improving your odds that they won't be mushy by the time the dish is finished.

              3. There are many threads about dried bean cooking here, too many to list.

                Do a "relevance" search for "cooking dried beans," "bean cooking" or search for whatever variety of bean you're using. There are postings about soaking, brining, which I think results in a superior cooked bean, broth vs water, cooking tips and techniques, boiling vs simmering, what to do with cooked beans etc.,lots of info.


                9 Replies
                1. re: bushwickgirl

                  Brining is the only way to go. I'm eating them for breakfast right now.

                  1. re: Woodfireguy

                    That's interesting. You think it makes noticeably better beans than just putting the salt in the cooking water?

                    1. re: jvanderh

                      i was happy with brining the beans while in soak. i made black eyed peas and they had good flavor, and maybe i'm deluding myself, but the salt flavor wasn't like "salt-forward" but it was just "good, seasoned bean."

                      oh, heck, maybe i'm crazy. now i have to do a danged side by side test run!

                      1. re: alkapal

                        Gosh, I sure would appreciate that. With a blind taste test, if it's not too much trouble :-)

                        1. re: jvanderh

                          get out two crockpots......two bags of black eyed peas. buy some pork for the beans -- or just use the bacon in the fridge.....CHECK. ;-).

                          blindfold? i'll have to make one from a kitchen towel i guess.

                          1. re: alkapal

                            If you can recruit a friend, you can test each other :-D

                            1. re: jvanderh

                              ooh, sounds a little naughty. ;^D.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                Haha. A blind bean taste test is ONLY sexy to a foodie.

                                1. re: jvanderh

                                  LOL, i guess you're right! heh heh.

                2. I don't cook them in broth but I do add a whole onion sliced into quarters down to but not through the root end, a couple whole carrots, a couple ribs of celery and a couple peeled whole garlic cloves. I salt the water and add a 1/2 tsp or so of whole peppercorns I suppose that becomes a broth as the beans cook in it.

                  I also add some epizote and a pinch of ginger. Both are supposed to help with the gas. Not so sure whether they do or not but it's become something I just do.

                  When my beans are done and drained, I give my dogs the veggies. They love them.

                  If no one else has told you, cook your beans on a very low heat. The skins and beans will stay intact.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: rainey

                    Although a cold salt brine SOAK makes for great beans, most experts will caution you that whatever liquid you COOK beans in should not be salted or acidic. Even small beans take at least 45 minutes to cook so if you add vegetables, either be prepared to discard them at the end (as rainey does) or don't add them till the beans are almost done.

                    1. re: greygarious

                      Yes, that was the old wisdom. Truth is, I don't think salting the water compromises the beans' texture a bit and it improves the flavor significantly. IF it adds some to the cooking time, so be it. But the truth is, whatever the cooking time turns out to be probably has more to do with how old the beans are rather than how salted they are.

                      1. re: greygarious

                        That myth has been debunked. Cooking beans in salted water is a good thing.

                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          Hey Hamster, can I ask for your backup on the statement that "don't cook beans in salted water" is a myth that has been debunked? Do you have any sources for that statement?

                          1. re: rlinnington

                            Alton Brown, Wolke, cooks illustrated, Bittman... Maybe more.

                            Here's Bittman: "3. “Don’t add salt to beans before cooking or they won’t soften.”
                            Been working on this one for 20 years, and I think I can safely say that the salting only changes the texture of the beans because it changes the way they absorb water. But the difference—a little grittiness and breaking apart, which is largely determined by the type of bean anyway—is relatively subtle. Seasoning the beans is far more important, and one of the best Italian cooks I know insists that beans be salted during soaking or at least from the start of cooking. (And her beans are delicious.) So salt whenever you like."


                            1. re: rlinnington

                              Melissa Clark also talks about the myth of not salting beans as they cook in her recent column in the NYT: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage...

                              "Salting beans gives them a richer, fuller and, well, saltier flavor. Ditto the broth: the added salt enhances the aromatics, making the broth as heady as chicken soup, minus the fowl."

                        2. re: rainey

                          Rainey - I like the idea of keeping the veggies 'wholer' so they don't turn to mush! Haven't tried epizote (do you get that in the Hispanic market?) - will have to try that.

                          I don't add salt - two people on high BP meds here so I let them add it if they need it. I have found that kosher works better for what ever reason than table salt.

                          1. re: JerryMe

                            I just order it from Penzey's. I use it in chili and Mexican foods as well as beans so I get 4 ounces at a time.

                            1. re: kbazzos

                              You are referring to Heinz Body anemia. The big danger is onion powder (and to a lesser extent garlic powder), which is made from dehydrated raw onion - cooking makes a big difference. An otherwise healthy dog or cat can eat onions now and then without danger. I researched this extensively about 15 yrs ago when my renal disease cat developed HB anemia which was caused by onion powder in Gerber's baby food. It was also an ingredient in many canned cat foods.

                              1. re: kbazzos

                                I guess if I had known that years ago I might not have given them onion. But my two dogs have been eating the veggies from my beans and stocks for at least a decade with no ill effect.

                                They're big dogs -- 70ish pounds -- so maybe half an onion each isn't too much for them. But it works so I have no plans to stop.

                            2. I made a great northern bean soup yesterday; I always add at least diced onions but more than not I include celery, carrot & garlic. I sometimes add broth or a bouillon cube, and sometimes add tomato sauce or paste, and I usually add some type of meat for seasoning, be it smoked pork, bacon, etc. depending on my taste for that day. I add salt during the last hour of cooking. Dried beans is one dish I find to be simple comfort food.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Cherylptw

                                " to be simple comfort food" and generally good for you.

                              2. When cooking dry beans the opportunities for variations are endless. Whether to cook with vegetables, and what kind, and whether to include them in the final dish or to discard (I can't imagine that) or whether to cook with plain water, stock/broth, or added seasoning meats is all dependent on what you are looking for as the final result. ~~ An Easter ham bone simmered for a couple of hours makes an excellent broth/stock to cook red beans...Sauteed diced vegetables, (onion, bell pepper, a little celery, garlic, etc) can be added for additional flavor, as well as sausage, and the reserved ham from the bone. There are no rules...Make it taste good.......

                                Have Fun & Enjoy!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Uncle Bob

                                  Uncle Bob - Isn't the adding of the leftover ham bone just the most miraculous thing? It changes the whole flavor of the beans! Thanks for the reminder!

                                2. As for gassiness, I soak the beans beans over night or while at work and drain them before cooking them in fresh water or broth.

                                  The oligosaccharides that cause flatulence hydrate faster than the starch in the bean. So with a few hours they will hydrate and be drawn to the water due to their hydrophilic groups. Dispose of the water and you can enjoy beans in peace. ;)

                                  1. There are some bean police out there, but despite what they say broth or water is totally subjective. Try both and see what you like. For me, it depends on how I'll be using the beans. If it's white bean soup, I cook in broth with an onion, few cloves of smashed garlic, bay leaf, couple cloves, and a ham hock. The resulting broth when the beans are done is out-of-sight, and I usually only need to add a cup or two of plain broth to thin the soup after pureeing/mashing about half the beans. There's other places I use stock, some places I use water, and some places I use water spiked with a little stock. The joy of bean-making is in the playing.

                                    1. I usually cook them in plain water, and then save the cooking water for later use (the beans themselves make a pretty tasty broth).

                                      For veggies, you could add them later in the cooking process, as in the time it takes to cook the beans, other vegetables will go all mushy.

                                      Cooked beans freeze very well, so I usually make a double or triple batch when I cook them and save the rest for later use. This means that I will usually have pre-cooked beans ready for use when I need them quickly, rather than the next day.

                                      1. I like to follow (my hero ;-) Steve Sando's recommendations over at Rancho Gordo (you want beans? These ARE BEANS! www.ranchogordo.com) and add a bit of sauteed garlic, diced onion, a little carrot, and maybe some chili pepper to my beans. That's all. I always cook them in water.

                                        And did you know/ As long as your beans are reasonably fresh, you can put them straight in a slow cooker in the morning--no pre-soak necessary--and they'll be done by dinnertime.

                                        1. i "brined" my dried black eyed peas as they soaked and they came out perfect. i soaked overnight, then drained. i didn't even add salt to the cooking water, and they went into the "high" slow cooker for about 3 hours, with two good thick slices of bacon, cut up. no skin breakage. tasty.

                                          i'm a brining dried beans convert!

                                          (for some weird reason, they seemed to take a long time to ramp up to simmering at a nice pace.....)
                                          <edit: oops, i lied. i did add in some of tony cachere's original creole seasoning in as they cooked. http://shop.tonychachere.com/seasonin... made a fine, tasty meal!>

                                          ps, for those who haven't heard, the reynolds slow cooker liner bags are THE BOMB fantastic. it is a 100% easy, no mess cleanup when you use the crockpot. yeah, that's a winner! change out one bag, pop in another immediately to cook something else, if you want.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            Alkapal - The liner bag I had never thot of - what a great idea!

                                            1. re: JerryMe

                                              jerry, honestly, it has transformed my thinking about crockpot cooking. you just pick the bag up and the crockpot is spotless!

                                              i'm now more often cooking beans & braising meats without any care at all (no fuss cooking, it is indeed), and i don't have to clean that dang crock!

                                              beans are good for you, taste great, and are economical. that's a winning trifecta!

                                          2. Putting in a plug for my new favorite bean cooking method - the pressure cooker. I've done it pretty much every which way; soaked, simmered, boiled, slowcooked. I like the pressure cooker because of the speed, convenience, and level of tenderness. Cooked on top of the stove, my beans often ended up too soft or too hard, sort of a goldilocks situation. With the pressure cooker, I put dry beans in (rinse only first); add quartered onion, bayleaves, and a pinch of salt; bring to high steam; cook for 25 minutes (for pinto bean size); let cool down completely; voila, beans.

                                            I like to make at least a pot a week, then we eat it in various ways throughout the week when cooking time is very short. In burritos, on salads, in soups, by the bowlful topped with chopped peppers and mexican crema.

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: tcamp

                                              I use the pressure cooker to - with no clean-up. I put a rack in the bottom, an inch of water, then the water-covered beans in a pyrex bowl.

                                              When I make bean salad, I want to preserve color differences. So I separately cook same-sized beans, each in a cleaned 28-oz can (from canned tomatoes), in the pressure cooker. 3 or 4 cans fit on the rack. Usually it's black beans, small white beans, and red salvadoran beans. They look really pretty in a mixed-bean salad, or just added to a green salad.

                                              1. re: greygarious

                                                greygarious, that is a *brilliant* idea for cooking beans n the pressure cooker! how long do you cook them and at high pressure?

                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                  For 4-hr soaked beans, with a natural release, about 11 minutes. Somewhere online I found a chart and copied the numbers into a notebook. It says to cover a pound of beans with 2" water and 1-2Tbsp oil. It says 12 min for black and great northern and 10 for small red, so I split the diff. That seems to be the range for most beans. It says no soaking, 10 for black-eyed and split peas, 7 lentils. 8hr soak for chickpeas and soybeans, 20-25 for the former, 35 for the latter. For large limas, 8hr soak, 3-4 on low pressure.

                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                    I've been finding I don't have to go beyond 15 min at 15 psi with a natural release for chickpeas that have soaked for 8+ hours. In fact I've sped up the release by releasing some steam which shortened the release time to around 13 min. It was still almost too much time. Beans held shape with a soft texture but I think they would have been a little better if cooked a little less.

                                                2. re: greygarious

                                                  I never thought about cooking different types at the same time - that is a great idea!

                                              2. I use my crockpot. I soak a pound of beans overnight, then depending on the beans, drain, rinse and add fresh water. Black beans I cook in their soaking liquid - they lose too much color otherwise. Pintos I often cover in fresh water.

                                                I cook beans in water with garlic cloves cut in half, a few chunks of onion, epazote (a latin herb that supposedly cuts down on the flatulence effect but definitely adds it's own flavor to the beans) and maybe a little olive oil to cut down on foaming.

                                                Cook on high in the crockpot. It usually takes at least 3 hours for them to start getting soft.

                                                When the beans get pretty soft, I usually saute up some fresh onion and other veggies - maybe cilantro. And that to the pot. And then add some salt to taste. Let it cook for another hour or so until it seems done. Check if more salt needed.

                                                I think the Mexicans around here must put a dry chili or too in their bean pot, because their pintos (Frijoles Charros) definitely have a red color to the broth that I can only think comes from dried red chiles. I need to remember to do this next time with pintos.

                                                They also often use a HUGE amount of bacon or some other type of smoke fatty pork product. I guess I'll have to visit one of the local meat markets and ask exactly what is used.

                                                I'm still trying to reproduce the local ubiquitous frijoles charros (pinto bean soup). Many places they are really good - and seems like it should be so simple!

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: audreyhtx1

                                                  audrey, that sounds like a great method for some fine bean-eatin'!

                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                    Okay, I don't think I've missed reading any of the replies. I do add a ham bone when I have it,usually after we have a ham I slice off the meat and freeze the bone until I'm ready to use it. I was wondering if I'm the only one who seasons beans with bacon drippings?

                                                    1. re: MellieMag

                                                      no, you're not alone. ham, bacon drippings...pork galore!

                                                      1. re: MellieMag

                                                        Oh yeah! I depends on the dish. If I'm making Red Beans and Rice, then sliced andouille sausage and tasso ham go in along with the sauteed onions, celery and bell pepper.

                                                        I looked up some Spanish recipes to see what Mexicans add to their Frijoles Charros. Most recipes call for bacon, chorizo, ham or smoked pork chop, and even pork cracklings! Goodness! The reddish color must be coming from the chorizo then. If you use pork cracklings they get added early to the beans to soften. The other three meats are sauteed to render their fat but bacon still soft, then chopped onion, roma tomatoes, Serrano or Jalapeño pepper sauteed in the rendered fat. Then add chopped cilantro and all goes into the beans. They season with salt, if needed, pepper and ground cumin.

                                                  2. I use a crock pot. No soaking, 6 hours on high with water almost to the top, a little oil and a little chopped onion. Season with salt and let 'em cook another 30 minutes.

                                                    I have had beans just not get done in an acidic environment though.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: shrimp13

                                                      I'll have to try this. I've had a hard time weaning myself from soaking beans.. But I keep reading that it's not necessary.

                                                      1. re: audreyhtx1

                                                        Me too! No matter how many times I read it I still soaked them anyways to be sure. Turns out it just adds a little cooking time.

                                                        Rick Bayless says he never saw a cook in Mexico soak beans.

                                                        1. re: shrimp13

                                                          Yeah. I've read his comments. And every Mexican recipe I've ever read (and I read Spanish), they never seem to soak the beans. And you know those folks eat beans every day! Every meal I think!

                                                          1. re: audreyhtx1

                                                            I grew up in S. Texas and can second Bayless' and Audrey's observation about soaking. I cook beans often--mostly pintos or small red beans but some white varieties--and have found the most significant variable to quality beans seems to be the bean itself. Lighter pintos seem to cook better than darker ones; beans from the bulk section seem better than packaged. Go light on the epizotle and pork additions.

                                                    2. Just adding my 2 cents' worth:
                                                      I have found that salting towards the end is better than salting at the beginning of cooking.
                                                      I discovered that soaking the beans for a day, and then letting them sit at room temp. for another day (rincing twice) shortens the cooking time of the beans. It's letting them begin to sprout, so there is some enzyme activity which help increase digestibility. Takes some planning, but it is worth it. I get cooked garbanzos in 1/2 hour!

                                                      1. If you are cooking black beans for pureed "refried", wouldn't you want the beans to get mushy during cooking?

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: beau10

                                                          Well you really don't want them to get water logged but you will end up cooking that water out but will take more time and the texture will be more pasty possibly.

                                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                                            Thanks. I am soaking them overnight and will dump the soak water in the AM, then dump the beans into a slow cooker. Love the crock pot - found a crock pot recipe for homemade yogurt that is cheap and an absolute easy-breeze.

                                                            1. re: beau10

                                                              beau10, can you please share your cp yogurt method? Stephanie O'dea (365 days of crockpot cooking) also does this but am curious about yours too. thanks!

                                                              1. re: Val

                                                                That's hilarious. "Year of Slow Cooking" (Steph O'Dea) is the genius from whom I got the original recipe - but I tweaked the recipe and added to it.
                                                                Start by purchasing several different brands of PLAIN yogurt (more than just L. Bulgaricus and S. Thermophilus which are just for the formation of the yogurt itself) and get as much variety bacteria as possible.
                                                                1. I start with 3 quarts milk (%fat your choice) into crock for 2&1/2 hours on LOW. 2. At end of 2&1/2 hours unplug and leave alone for THREE hours. At close to 3-hour end, mix a combo of 1&1/2 total cups yogurts w/ 2 packs UNFLAVORED gelatin for "greek-effect" (less gelatin for "looser" yogurt) and at the THREE hours mix into crock pot milk. 4. Cover w/ quite a few towels, blankets, whatever for a bundle and leave for at least 8 hours. 5. Ladle into non-metal containers, let cool and then into fridge. You now have a never-ending supply of yoggie - just insure you retain enough as "starter" for the next batch.
                                                                I have given this recipe to friends who have given it to friends - it's ALIVE and everywhere! Add to yogurt "real" FROZEN fruit, stevia and puree for soft-serve "ice cream" - my now permanent fix and replacement of high-calorie/high-fat ice cream and all that stuff's ingredients never to be found in any food-group.
                                                                Try it. Best of luck to you for the best of results

                                                        2. i read that the water you soak beans in, instead of dumping it down the drain, to use it on plants. Now presumably they meant unsalted soaking water (as per some discussion back and forth about this above.) Read this on side of a box of Eden Organic Beans. Anyone else heard this before?