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Apr 8, 2010 09:56 AM

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:

                              "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!