HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


urgent- beans from scratch

In process of making beans from dry-scratch for the first time.

Stupidly, I eyeballed the water required, wrongly assuming that the cooking process was like pasta (drain once finished) rather than rice (all liquid absorbed).

Beans (white navy) are done and there's liquid still in pot. Beans are to be used in a cassoulet tomorrow and are right now sitting in the snow outside cooling. Urgent question: should I drain the beans or no?

Thanks all!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'd leave the beans in the seasoned cooking liquid until ready to use them. When time to assemble cassoulet comes, scoop the beans out with a slotted spoon, reserving the cooking liquid, some of which will likely be needed.

    1. Relax, no harm done. You are supposed to cook beans in a large quantity of water like pasta, and drain if necessary for a dry bean dish.The broth surrounding the beans is nutrient rich and flavorful. You can drain the beans and reserve the broth for another use, or add the broth to your cassoulet along with the beans.

      1. I'd drain them, reserving the cooking liquid since you most likely will need it to complete your cassoulet (I know my recipe calls for it). I think leaving the beans in the liquid will have you looking at mush tomorrow.

        1. I'd leave them in the liquid, then use the beans tomorrow along with any liquid if needed. Once you've cooled them, they aren't going to do any further cooking in that liquid so no need to remove it immediately.

          For future reference, the cooking process *is* like pasta (drain once finished).

          2 Replies
          1. re: tcamp

            "Once you've cooled them, they aren't going to do any further cooking..."

            Exactly. When I make a batch of beans, I end up eating them over the course of several days and see no great change in texture.

            1. re: hohokam

              Except that *these* beans are going to be cooked again.

              +1 for taking them out

          2. K, we have differing points here. Let's get some clarity!

            Beans left in cooking liquid: mush or not?

            3 Replies
            1. re: biggreenmatt

              I make beans weekly in my pressure cooker, then refrigerate in the remaining liquid and we use them up throughout the week for burritos, salads, soups, etc. I've never had them turn to mush.

              But realistically, you're talking overnight. Either way will probably work fine. Maybe split them into two containers and do a little experiment?

              1. re: tcamp

                What you're all forgetting is that the beans are going to get a really good second cooking when they're baked in the cassoulet (which has broth added to it as well).

                In addition, over the years I've found that white beans tend to go softer faster than other beans.

                I've been making cassoulet for decades, & would never leave them in the cooking liquid overnight if I knew I would be baking them for at least an hour the following day.

                But you know what? Do what you want, since that's what usually happens around here anyway.

                Hope your cassoulet turns out well regardless. I'm making my usual traditional one for New Year's Day too.

                1. re: Bacardi1

                  "But you know what? Do what you want, since that's what usually happens around here anyway."

                  I know, right? It's like Ancient Rome meets Sodom and Gomorrah in here.

            2. I've never heard of cooking beans until the water is absorbed ever. I always cook them in much more water than required and then drain.

              1. K, thanks for the input, all. Ended up taking them out and reserving the liquid.

                Reason for removal as follows:

                First, I don't know of any starch, processed or otherwise, that doesn't turn to mush when it oversaturates with liquid.

                Second, in the worst case scenario, I can continue cooking it tomorrow- I can't go back in time and fix it if it overcooks.

                Third, as was correctly pointed out, it'll continue to cook tomorrow with more liquid added then. How much liquid can one food take?

                Input's really appreciated, all. And on a side note- this cassoulet's a pain in the ass. Nothing complicated, but holy crap, are there lots of steps, even assuming you don't make your own confit and bloody sausage. I don't care how rustic a recipe this damn thing is- no rustic French peasant living in the south-west of bloody France has or had enough time to make something that takes 4-6 hours (never minding the sausage and confit) of active work in the kitchen. Bah. Never again.

                2 Replies
                1. re: biggreenmatt

                  Just for comparisons sake, here's the version I've been making every New Year's Day for decades now. While it does have several steps, everything except for the chicken is pre-cooked, so it comes together very quickly.


                  This rustic, hearty, French country dish has many variations, the majority of which contain several different meats. While mine is an “all poultry” version, the one constant in cassoulet is usually confited or leftover roast goose or duck. Anyway, here’s my personal recipe, which has been a New Year’s Day tradition for many years now. Don’t be put off by the long ingredients’ list & the fact that it has several separate steps – it really comes together very easily. Just be sure to read through the entire recipe first, as each step has its own ingredient list.

                  Leftovers are just as delicious as the first run, and it also freezes well. In addition, it can easily be made a day or two ahead of time, refrigerated covered, and then baked until heated through (although you may want to let it warm up a little at room temp first if you’re using a somewhat fragile decorative baking vessel).

                  Special Equipment:

                  Large pot or Dutch Oven
                  Large mixing bowl or another pot (to hold reserved bean broth)
                  Large deep skillet
                  Large deep casserole (I use a large Spanish Cazuelas (12-1/2” across; 4” deep), which is a round, handled, terracotta/earthenware casserole glazed on the interior only. This is an impressive dish, & deserves a nice, decorative baking/serving piece.)


                  For Beans:
                  One pound dry Cannellini (white Kidney) or Great Northern Beans
                  4-6 slices turkey bacon, cut into 1”-2” pieces
                  One yellow onion, peeled & roughly chopped
                  3 cloves of garlic, peeled & crushed
                  Several sprigs of fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
                  Several sprigs of fresh thyme
                  2 bay leaves – fresh or dried
                  1 chicken bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup of boiling water (I like Herb-Ox “Spicy Chicken” bouillon cubes)
                  Water to cover the beans by about 2”

                  For Meats:
                  Leftover roast duck or goose, off the bone & cut into bite-size pieces, any amount
                  1 package (approx. 1#) turkey kielbasa &/or pre-cooked turkey or chicken Andouille sausage (I frequently use both)
                  1 package (between 1 & 1-1/2 pounds) boneless skinless chicken tenders or chicken breast halves
                  1 yellow onion, peeled & chopped
                  2 cloves of garlic, peeled & chopped
                  1 stalk of celery (leaves included), chopped
                  1 cup dry white wine (Pinot Grigio or Chablis work well)
                  1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, undrained
                  1 bay leaf
                  Sea or Kosher Salt & freshly ground black pepper
                  Extra-virgin olive oil

                  For assembling:
                  Approx. 2 cups dry breadcrumbs, seasoned or unseasoned, commercial or homemade (if homemade, toast them lightly)
                  Rendered solid duck or goose fat, or butter
                  Reserved bean broth (cooking liquid)


                  Pour beans into a colander, rinse, pick through & discard any damaged beans & small stones or other foreign matter (yes, they can be in there due to the way the beans are harvested). Add to a large pot & add cold water to cover by a couple of inches & soak, covered, overnight.

                  Drain beans, rinse with cold water, & return to pot. Pour in the dissolved chicken bouillon along with 3-4 whole parsley sprigs, 3-4 whole thyme sprigs, onion, garlic, bay leaves, turkey kielbasa (left whole), & enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, & continue cooking until beans are “just” tender, but not mushy – 1 to 1-1/2 hours, but start taste-testing after 45 minutes. You want the beans “just” firm-tender – not too firm; not too soft. Remove the turkey kielbasa after the first 30 minutes & set aside. Drain beans when done, reserving broth. Remove & discard bay leaves.

                  Slice kielbasa (& Andouille sausage if using) & set aside. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces. Heat a couple of dollops of extra-virgin olive oil in a large deep skillet & sauté onion & celery until just tender, but not browned. Add garlic & chicken & sauté for a few minutes longer. Add undrained tomatoes, & with kitchen scissors or a knife, roughly cut into pieces in the pan. Add white wine, a pinch or two of salt, & freshly ground pepper to taste. Simmer for around 20 minutes, or until liquid reduces by about half or so. Remove & discard bay leaf.

                  Assembly & Final Cooking:

                  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

                  Start with a layer of beans in the bottom of your casserole, followed by a layer of meats (your goose or duck pieces, sausage slices, & chicken mixture. Repeat layers, trying to finish with at least a thin layer of beans on top. Ladle reserved bean cooking broth into casserole, almost but not quite up to the top. (If for some reason you don’t have enough reserved bean cooking liquid, you can add chicken broth to make it up, but I’ve always had more than enough.)

                  Evenly sprinkle breadcrumbs over top of casserole & dot liberally with goose/duck fat or butter. Bake for 1 hour, or until lightly browned on top, bubbly, & heated through. Serve with good crusty French baguettes & a large green salad. Nothing else is necessary. Enjoy. 

                  1. re: Bacardi1

                    Oh - I just realized I didn't mention when to add the turkey bacon. It goes into the beans when you're cooking them!

                2. If you want firm beans, drain and chill. You might want to save the bean cooking liquid. If you want soft beans, chill with liquid.

                  Probably, you want to do the first. I've had good luck doing this for chili.

                  1. I usually store in the cooking liquid. If you've drained off the liquid, freeze it and use in place of stock the next time you make minestrone or other bean soup.