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pressure cooker beans vs. stovetop cooked beans

mutterer Apr 6, 2012 10:22 PM

Hi: I am on the verge of buying my first pressure cooker. One thing I love to cook is black beans and I thought the pressure cooker would be a great tool for that. I noticed that in my favorite black bean recipe (Rick Bayless's recipe for classic Mexican pot beans from "Rick Bayless's Mexican Ktichen") he says that beans cooked in the pressure cooker won't develop as much flavor and will have a less desirable texture. Does anyone find that to be true? I usually cook the beans on a stovetop in a Le Creuset dutch oven. I love they way they come out but they take almost 2 hours sometimes, and the pot needs babysitting to keep the water level right and the simmer steady, so it is not a recipe I can make as often as I wish. Thanks!

  1. w
    willownt Dec 31, 2012 07:02 AM

    I have no problem with pressure cooker beans, and I don't cook them in a regular pan on the stovetop because I fear burning them.

    I really like this technique. I don't usually even bother to soak.
    I also cook with salt. I add tomatoes after the beans are soft.

    1. t
      ttochow Dec 30, 2012 09:50 PM

      Late to the party. I am a Bayless fan. He is always right. Except this time. I was a late convert to pressure cooking, until Modernist Cuisine explained why pressure cooking can be better.

      You know how cooking beans on a stovetop smells so wonderful? You can tell what stage they are at by which smells you smell? Well, you could be tasting those smells instead when you are eating your beans. All those volatile compounds could be in your beans and broth.

      I am not a fan of black beans. Love pretty much every other non-kidney type. But the first beans I made in my PC were black beans, and they were easily the best beans I had ever made up to that point. My spouse did even recognize them as black beans even though she loves them. Unbelievable richness. Cooking times are not a concern for me - I used to cook runner beans for over 8 hours at low heat - but the flavor is unmatched.

      As far as I can tell, the texture is the same, so I don't know what that's about. Maybe for me it is even easier to get the right texture as I start to check when I know they are underdone and then check at intervals thereafter. I tend to pay more attention when the interval is 3 minutes instead of an hour!

      2 Replies
      1. re: ttochow
        Soul Vole Dec 30, 2012 10:40 PM

        I don't know the full context of Bayless' comments nor those of MC, but I'm pretty sure that you will never achieve the depth of roasty bean flavor that I've come to know and love in Mexico -- not with a pressure cooker, nor similarly (but more slowly) with a slow cooker. Not on their own anyway.

        I think it's analogous to a sous vide steak. You can get perfect medium-rare with the circulator but to achieve full steaky flavor you must put the spurs to it afterward for the browning (Maillard reaction) flavors. And so I think it is with beans. Pressure cookers and slow cookers just can't supply the temperature needed to push the flavor over the top.

        As with meat, you actually need to overcook some of it.

        1. re: Soul Vole
          ttochow Dec 30, 2012 11:19 PM

          I respect your position. I thought the very same thing until the first time I made beans in my PC. And I 100% agree about slow cookers - I'd rather eat canned. Sorry if I offend.

          I just want to mention a couple of things. First, a pressure cooker cooks the beans at a higher temperature than on a stove. As I understand it, regular stovetop is limited to 212* F at sea level, while PC is, what, 268 or something? That's why it's faster - 48 minutes vs 4 hours or so at 275 in the oven. A higher temp probably contribute more browning flavors. I should experiment by adding baking soda.

          Second, I didn't really make it clear, but I cannot smell the beans while cooking them in a PC. A little, but not very much at all. That means that ll the volatile compounds are staying inside the PC. When I read this in MC, that's when I decided to get a PC. That, IMHO, is the deciding difference.

          To be fair, here is a bit of comfort in smelling beans being cooked. I love the transition of smells from aromatics to fats to the beans themselves. It's a bit antiseptic not being able to smell much while cooking. But the taste of PC beans is unbelievable...

      2. a
        audreyhtx1 Jul 20, 2012 03:33 PM

        I use a slow cooker to avoid the hassle of keeping the water level right. My experience is 6 to 7 cups of water to 1 pound black or pinto beans is about right for my 3 1/2 quart slow cooker.

        I don't soak the beans and the last batch of pintos were almost overdone when I returned after 4.5 hours. But no babysitting!

        Anyway, since I like how my slow cooker does the beans I decided not to get a pressure cooker.

        1. pagesinthesun Apr 21, 2012 09:14 AM

          I buy my beans from ranchogordo.com It doesn't matter if I pressure cook or stovetop. The beans turn out perfect because they are incredibly fresh!

          1. jen kalb Apr 11, 2012 08:10 AM

            Thanks for the tips so far. I for one would appreciate more tips about timing and water quantity for soaked and unsoaked beans. I feel leery of overcooking - burning on - beans in my cooker. Because I can no see/taste the contents, I am somewhat impeded from using the cooker for this.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jen kalb
              sueatmo Apr 14, 2012 07:58 AM

              VeggieQueen gives good ratios for beans to water in a post upthread. If you don't have Lorna Sass's cookbook with its table, I'd cook the beans for 20 minutes, do a quick release, and taste them. You can bring the beans up to pressure again very quickly, if they need more cooking time. Garbanzos are the longest cooking beans I know of. Blackeyed peas cook quickly. 20 minutes seems like a reasonable time to check for most other beans. I cooked beans like this for years, before having the cookbook I have mentioned so often. I used an old fashioned cooker with the rocker.

              One thing I might mention is that you should not overfill your cooker. My cooker says not to fill more than 2/3 full. Also, I recommend using medium heat. Hope this helps.

              edited to add:
              http://tinyurl.com/dyy5y5w Hip pressure cooking Quick soaking beans - excellent indepth blog about using your pressure cooker.

              1. re: sueatmo
                Helen F Oct 11, 2012 03:25 PM

                The Hip Pressure Cooking's new URL, as of today: http://www.hip-cooking.com/

            2. t
              The Veggie Queen Apr 10, 2012 10:03 AM

              I cook beans many times each week in the pressure cooker to save time and to have great tasting beans. I like to presoak them before cooking but they can be done from dry.
              Unsoaked black beans will take about 25 minutes at pressure. And contrary to what Rick Bayless (who I know and respect) says, the beans will be incredibly flavorful, especially if you add some seasonings, and the texture will be wonderful.
              One of the keys is to use the "right" amount of liquid which is usually a 2 to 1 ratio of water to beans if not soaked. I usually use 1/2 to 3/4 cup of liquid per 1 cup of soaked (drained) beans at pressure for the recommended amount of time.
              I teach pressure cooking and have written a book on it. I use my pressure cooker almost every day so I hope that I know something about it.
              And sueatmo is correct: you can use your pressure cooker for many other things too from your breakfast steel cut oats (in just 3 to 4 minutes at pressure) to risotto, soups, stew and chili. It's the best kitchen pot I own.

              4 Replies
              1. re: The Veggie Queen
                sueatmo Apr 10, 2012 01:57 PM

                Agreed. And I do like it for beef stew.

                However, I have never heard about the correct ratio of water to beans. That is new to me. Thanks for sharing.

                Presoaking produces a better batch of beans for me. I think the beans absorb the flavors in the pot right before they soften. Is that a correct observation you think?

                1. re: The Veggie Queen
                  bravoshark44 Apr 13, 2012 03:16 AM

                  Since you know pressure cookers so well, one question for you. I've been trying to learn all the new styles of cooking using hardware from second hand stores (Good Will and such). I have bought three different styles of pressure cooker.
                  one is a 'canner', that you have to screw down the lid, and it has a gauge to get to the right pressure. The other two are smaller and have the rocker tops for excess steam, and one of these have an additional hole next to that! I was wondering if these others with out the gauge are different types of equipment?

                  1. re: bravoshark44
                    jen kalb Apr 13, 2012 09:30 PM

                    the rocker tops on the pressure cookers like the presto (a common american brand) are the equivalent of a gauge - when they get to the point that they are rocking steadily, but not crazily (adjust for this characteristic) they are at the desired cooking pressure. The presto also has a little additional air vent that rises up when pressure is reached. If you have a empty hole and not a little rubber bump thing, you may be missing a part. http://www.pressurecooker-outlet.com/...

                    Of course if its not a presto there may be a different explanation for the little hole, but hopefully this will be a little helpful. If you can check the brand name of the cooker, info will be available.

                  2. re: The Veggie Queen
                    sherrib Apr 14, 2012 07:56 AM

                    Thank you for the advice! I've been cooking different types of beans in my PC (different brands from different supermarkets) and keep getting different results. I never understand. I always soak them. If I follow the directions that came with my PC, I ALWAYS get beans that are WAYYYY overcooked. I'm going to try fiddling with the water level and see if that helps.

                  3. s
                    sueatmo Apr 8, 2012 06:03 PM

                    Oh, balderdash. I love pressure cooked beans. It is true that they may not have time to develop some flavor if they are cooked too fast. Maybe. Sometimes. You might prefer to cook blackeyed peas in a regular pan. Certainly lentils should be cooked that way. Otherwise, having a PC to cook beans means that you will have many more occasions to eat beans. I am planning bean soup for lunch tomorrow. I've got the pintos soaking now. I'll cook them in the late morning, puree, and we'll have bean soup for lunch. Really, you can't beat a PC. I hope you enjoy yours.

                    And, remember, you can cook other things like whole grains and brown rice in a PC much faster than simply in a pan on the stove. Brown rice cooked in the PC is superb.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: sueatmo
                      mutterer Apr 9, 2012 08:31 PM

                      Thanks for all the responses. Pressure cooker arrives in the mail tomorrow. I cannot wait!

                      1. re: mutterer
                        sueatmo Apr 10, 2012 08:16 AM

                        Get a really good PC cookbook too. I recommend Pressure Perfect by Lorna Sass. This book has a first chapter about getting to know your cooker, and tables of cooking times for beans and whole grains. There are a number of recipes too.

                        I hope you enjoy your new cooker. Keep us posted on your progress and triumphs.

                        1. re: mutterer
                          missmasala Apr 13, 2012 08:30 AM

                          Canned beans are pressure cooked, so if you like the flavor of canned beans, you'll like pressure cooker beans just fine. (tho they are better than canned and don't have to be mushy)

                          I think it's true that stovetop beans might have a slightly better flavor, but for me this is offset by the fact that i eat beans way more often because of my pressure cooker and not having to plan so far in advance.

                        2. re: sueatmo
                          Miss Priss Apr 11, 2012 07:55 AM

                          Sueatmo, I agree with everything you said (including your recommendation of Pressure Perfect, in your post below)--except about the lentils. I often use my PC for lentils, especially the firmer varieties such as De Puy and Pardina, and even more especially when cooking them together with brown rice for a quick mujadarra-type dish. Their texture and taste are always great.

                          1. re: Miss Priss
                            sueatmo Apr 14, 2012 07:50 AM

                            This is why I love this forum! Conventional wisdom upended all the time!

                            I soak my lentils before cooking, and I have good luck that way. I can't get lentils done in the 20 minutes all recipes seem to say unless I soak for a few hours.

                            I imagine that lentils are done in the PC after what, 5 minutes?

                            1. re: sueatmo
                              Miss Priss Apr 14, 2012 02:17 PM

                              Unsoaked red lentils only need about 5 minutes at high pressure. Other varieties take longer, but in comparison to regular stovetop cooking (which for me usually requires 30-45 minutes--never as little as 20!), it's still significantly faster. With no pre-soaking, I find that the plain brown ones take 8-10 minutes at high pressure while some of the smaller, denser types can take up to 15. (That being said, there's a chicken and lentil dish in Lorna Sass's first book that calls for 9 minutes at high pressure plus 2 minutes of simmering, and I've used De Puy lentils with no problem.) When cooking lentils together with brown rice, I use whatever timing is good for the rice. I normally quick-release the pressure under cold running water, but if you wanted to let it drop naturally, you could reduce the cooking time by a couple of minutes.

                              This discussion motivated me to dig up my hand-me-down copy of a 1959 Lebanese cookbook ("Food From the Arab World" by Khayat and Keatinge) which includes many pressure-cooked dishes. Surprisingly, the lentil recipes all call for overnight soaking followed by at least 15 minutes at high pressure. Even considering that they were most likely written for European cookers where "high" pressure would have been around 11 lbs, that amount of time seems excessive for soaked lentils. Lebanon is fairly mountainous, so maybe the recipes came from high-elevation regions where cooking would take longer; or maybe those mid-century Lebanese just liked mushy lentils.

                              1. re: Miss Priss
                                sueatmo Apr 15, 2012 08:57 AM

                                It was an Indian cook who told me to soak my lentils all day while I was at work. Doing so got them done much faster. But many recipes call for a simple 20 minute cook.

                                For a long while I could only find brown lentils. I have never cooked red or yellow lentils. Don't they cook up mushy?

                                My favorite is the black lentil.

                                1. re: sueatmo
                                  Miss Priss Apr 15, 2012 05:35 PM

                                  Yes, red lentils cook quicky, get very soft, and don't hold their shape. I don't see much point in pre-soaking or pressure-cooking them. Haven't made yellow lentils at home (yet), but I've done the black ones and liked them a lot.

                                  1. re: Miss Priss
                                    sueatmo Apr 15, 2012 08:18 PM

                                    Cooked and added to greens with a little added tomato, they are beautiful on the plate and tasty on the tongue.

                                    1. re: sueatmo
                                      Miss Priss Apr 16, 2012 01:32 PM

                                      Thanks for the suggestion; sounds lovely. I'll try it soon!

                        3. j
                          jvanderh Apr 8, 2012 05:50 AM

                          I think pressure cooker beans are great too.

                          1. r
                            rasputina Apr 7, 2012 06:18 PM

                            I've had a pressure cooker for almost 20 years and I only use it for cooking beans. As long as you don't over cook them, they are great. I do not agree at all that pressure cooking reduces flavor.

                            1. greygarious Apr 7, 2012 12:27 PM

                              Bayless is full of it. Pressure cooker beans are excellent.

                              1. free sample addict aka Tracy L Apr 7, 2012 11:49 AM

                                FWIW I am new to pressure cooker cooking. I do my initial cooking of the beans and once cooked I empty the water and proceed with my recipe not under pressure. I never liked cooking the beans in a sauce from the start. I find the bean "juice" effects the taste of the end product. Also, I prefer the texture of the pressure cooked over stove top.

                                1. Uncle Bob Apr 7, 2012 09:48 AM

                                  Back when Moby Dick was still a Minnow, and Pressure Cookers were in Vogue...I had two....used them both a lot...was never really pleased with the end results...Gradually went back to.. in a pot on the stove.. Have been happy ever afterwards....Today I would have to go get an 8' ladder to find them somewhere in the high reaches of the kitchen. ~~ So I guess I would have to agree with Bayless.

                                  Have Fun!

                                  1. tcamp Apr 7, 2012 09:03 AM

                                    I do not find that to be true. I do my beans in the pressure cooker almost all the time. I do not presoak, I use salt and often other flavorings (e.g. bay leaves) in the pressure cooker. I cook at desired pressure for desired time, then let the pot cool down naturally. I like the resulting texture and i like that the beans do not break up due to roiling about in a pot for several hours. Also, importantly, I don't often have the time to hang out in the kitchen for 2 hours, particular on work days. I make a pot of beans about weekly, usually pintos or blacks.

                                    That all said, I have garbanzo beans cooking on the stove top at the moment. I didn't use the PC because I have too much for a single load and happen to be doing some writing in the kitchen anyway. Garbanzos cook pretty fast on the stove top anyway.

                                    10 Replies
                                    1. re: tcamp
                                      sherrib Apr 14, 2012 07:58 AM

                                      I'm envious of your consistent results. I have found that if I don't presoak, then I"ll get a pot of beans where some are overcooked and some are undercooked.

                                      1. re: sherrib
                                        sueatmo Apr 14, 2012 08:36 AM

                                        This is also my experience.

                                        1. re: sherrib
                                          tcamp Apr 16, 2012 07:47 AM

                                          Interesting. Could it be not enough water? I use about 6 cups for a 1 lb. package of beans. I generally cook smaller beans, as opposed to kidneys or limas. Maybe that has an effect?

                                          Also, my pressure cooker is an ancient Mirromatic so maybe it does a harsher job than newer models.

                                          1. re: tcamp
                                            sherrib Apr 16, 2012 01:35 PM

                                            Well, after this thread, I went back and re-read the manual for my pressure cooker (Kuhn Rikon.) It also states that beans should be pre-soaked so I always pre-soak them. They have a quick soaking method if one doesn't have the time to soak overnight. Also, they advise to add salt to the soaking liquid. I haven't done this yet. Will have to give it a try.
                                            My recent problems have been that my beans come out way too mushy/overcooked. I think I've been using TOO much water and have been letting the pressure get a little out of hand before stabilizing. And, obviously, I may need to turn the heat off sooner.

                                            1. re: sherrib
                                              sueatmo Apr 16, 2012 07:06 PM

                                              Once you get the hang of this, you'll cook beans all the time. Interesting to note that Kuhn Rikon recommends pre soaking beans.

                                              Here is a quote from Lorna Sass: " Always allow time for natural pressure release. Quick-release causes the beans to split, lose their shape and become mushy."

                                              1. re: sueatmo
                                                sherrib Apr 17, 2012 03:42 AM

                                                Kuhn Rikon also suggests the natural release method for the same reason. I follow their time chart, however, and end up with beans that are mushy and overcooked. This especially happens with your typical supermarket variety bean. I had better results with the organic bulk bin variety from Whole Foods.

                                                1. re: sherrib
                                                  tcamp Apr 21, 2012 10:05 AM

                                                  Just curious, what time do they recommend for pinto beans? I cook those for 25 minutes, no presoaking, and they are usually perfect. A couple of times I needed to reseal and heat again for 10 minutes to get them softer. I'd rather err on the side of not enough cooking, for obvious reasons.

                                                  Of course, my PC is an old MirroMatic so I don't know if timing is comparable.

                                                  1. re: tcamp
                                                    sherrib Apr 21, 2012 05:38 PM


                                                    I'm not sure if the pressure cookers are comparable as far as cooking times. The chart says 10-12 minutes for pinto beans. They recommend the natural release method for beans so the cooking time doesn't include the amount of time it takes the cooker to release all the pressure.

                                                    1. re: sherrib
                                                      sueatmo Apr 21, 2012 05:53 PM

                                                      Are you using high pressure? Or if your cooker is a "simple" cooker (like mine) are you using medium heat?

                                                      1. re: sueatmo
                                                        sherrib Apr 22, 2012 04:23 PM


                                                        Yes, I'm using high pressure. My cooker has two rings of pressure. The timing for cooking the beans starts when the pressure reaches the second ring (the higher pressure.) Then, the heat has to be adjusted to maintain the pressure. I usually use the lowest burner setting.

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