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Baked Beans...from scratch or not?

I'm having a BBQ party for 60 and I'm wondering if I should make baked beans from scratch or buy. I'm not at all a fan of baked beans and though I'm a good cook, I've never made them. I don't know if it's worth it. Perhaps it is, and that's why I don't care for them....I've never had good ones. REcipies?

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  1. For a party that size, I suggest getting a basic can beans and just 'doctor' them up.... Some bbq sauce, a-1, garlic powered, chili powder, whatevs...mix it up;, put'em on the stove..it's just easier... chaffing pan, Sterno...

    1. Whether it's worth it depends, I guess, on how you feel about the outcome! I'm a real bean lover, and to me baked beans are the ultimate - homemade, for sure, never canned for us. Cheap, easy, mostly unattended cooking, and the only thing you need for a crowd-sized batch is oven space. I use Jasper White's recipe - can't seem to find a link for it right now, but I think I saw it a few years ago in a thread here on CH about baked beans.

      2 Replies
        1. re: Cynsa

          I second Jasper's recipe. It's easy to put together, and doesn't need much tending. It's really flavorful and everyone who's had them has thought they were very good.

      1. I really enjoy the recipe on the Pioneer Woman's site for The Best Baked Beans Ever. She uses canned beans, then doctors them with BBQ sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, onions, peppers and bacon. My husband and I have never been huge baked bean fans, but the recipe converted us both (and the others at the BBQ we took it to).

        http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/20...

        1 Reply
        1. re: Michele72

          This is what my husband does - he uses a mixture of canned navy beans and pork 'n' beans, then doctors them with beer, bbq sauce, bacon, onions, vinegar and sugar. I dislike sweet beans so I don't eat them, but people at potlucks and such go CRAZY for his beans. I think the copious quantities of bacon help, but he also makes his quite saucy with the beer, which I think people really like. I often see pans of baked beans that look very dry, which I think people find less appetizing.

        2. I made (or tried to make) homemade baked beans for a party this summer. I had a recipe for 8 servings, and tripled it. Precooked the beans in a crock pot for an hour per directions, then drained and added the rest of the ingredients. Supposed to be done in 6-8 hours, but weren't done even after 12 hours. Eventually they were done (still toothy, though) the next morning.

          I think the problem was in tripling the recipe and still using one crockpot. Too much volume. I suspect that's where you might run into problems, unless you have access to some industrial cooking devices. I decided to do the crock pot instead of oven because it was over 90 degrees and I didn't want to have the oven on for several hours before the house filled up with people.

          Buying basic canned cooked beans and customizing them might be your way to go. Even if it's not the most satisfying, it might yield the best result.

          1. My favorite brand of baked beans is B & M. The flavor is better than other brands I've tasted. You could add ground chile (the correct spelling for a single cultivar of chile) powder like cayenne if you need to add heat to the beans.

            1. If you aren't a fan, then I probably wouldn't bother but at my house it's from scratch. And I'm not talking about adding stuff to store bought.

              1. B&M is my favorite brand too. I add some dry Coleman's mustard and a little extra molasses.

                I've made baked beans from scratch, but it took a long time (longer than the recipe said), but they were wonderful. Very New England. (At least the part of England inhabited by my family....

                link to the recipe:

                http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/mem...

                although I got it out of cookbook, the name of which I can't remember right now...

                edited to fix some typos

                3 Replies
                1. re: kcshigekawa

                  That is an extremely sugary recipe!

                  1. re: magiesmom

                    Ya know, now that I think about it, I added extra mustard to balance the sweetness.

                    The sweetness didn't really bother me, though, as I grew up on B&M and they're pretty sweet too.

                    1. re: magiesmom

                      There are two kinds of baked beans, sweet and not. I have heard of old New England families that made two pots every time, because some (maybe only one person) considered the other kind not fit to eat. PS I have never had not sweet. Maybe I should try it sometime.

                  2. I like my own homemade best but 60 people is a big crowd.

                    I'd probably doctor up some canned beans,

                    1. I love beans in general, and cook them weekly, from dried, for making casseroles, soups, and salads. I have twice attempted baked beans from scratch (tomatoey style - I live in New England but don't care for the local bean tradition); different recipes, both disappointing. The skins never really softened (I know about acid, brining, etc., and don't have trouble cooking beans plain.). I went back to doctoring up canned baked beans. For many years it was Campbell's, with that hypocritical little cube of salt pork, but I tried Bush brand when it appeared, and have never gone back. Bush barely needs tweaking; Campbell's needs a major overhaul.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: greygarious

                        I live in New England too, and have been way underwhelmed by the baked bean thing, except when we make Jasper's at home.

                        A little bit of a different take, and our very favorite these days: from Elizabeth David's Italian Cooking, red kidney beans baked with bacon, chopped garlic, parsley, a pinch of ground cloves, a little cinnamon, and lots of black pepper. In a bean pot in a slow oven for about 6 hours. Salad of bitter greens, slabs of crusty bread. Mmmmmm.

                        1. re: greygarious

                          LOL - " Campbell's, with that hypocritical little cube of salt pork" Thanks for starting my day with a great laugh and mental image!

                          1. re: greygarious

                            'hypocritical little cube' hah! Grew up in a Campbell's family and my Mom always doctored them---ketchup, French's mustard, brown sugar, bake til crusty (did she ever top with bacon?---that would have helped). Pretty good, really, though they would surely be too sweet for me now. Later tried B&M, which really is better. I'll look for Bush.

                          2. If we're going to eat canned beans I'll buy Bush's but we're smack dab in the middle of baked bean country so I usually make my own. I cut back on the sugar in the recipe I once posted on chowhound but had to add it back in. My family prefers a sweeter bean and I wasn't winning the local baked bean contest at the Grange.

                            If beans aren't getting done, maybe it's because they aren't soaked. Forget quick cooking to soften them. You need to put them in a bowl with a lot of water to soak overnight. Then there is no problem of having them done in time. I prefer a 300 degree oven.
                            I brown the salt pork first and add chopped onion. etc Don't have the recipe in front of me and since everyone is voting for doctored up canned beans, that might be the easiest thing for you to do. I think I've seen them called Ranch beans when you add a lot of bacon, ketchup etc. A local American Legion serves them at their monthly breakfast buffet.
                            I also use bean pots and suspect modern crock pots would be too hot, even on low. The church and Grange ladies use an electric roasting pan to make large batches and they are always good.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: dfrostnh

                              Dfrost, I'm curious, why do you brown the saltpork first? Not that it's wrong but I'm wondering if I missed a step in my baked beans days. :-)

                              1. re: pinehurst

                                I'm not sure why I started browning it first. It might have been something I learned from my MIL or from reading Grange cookbooks. I think it improves the flavor since I cut up the salt pork into smaller pieces and end up eating some of it with my beans.

                                1. re: dfrostnh

                                  Jasper White's recipe calls for removing the rind from the salt pork, dicing the meat/fat into small cubes and browning them before softening the onions and garlic in the rendered fat. The uncooked rind is added to the pot along with everything else. I do think it makes a difference in the final flavor.

                            2. Good 'baked beans' are expensive to buy... go for plain white canned beans and make your own sauce - a mixture of ketchup, spicy mustard, and bbq sauce works well with your preferred spices. Don't forget real onion and bacon. Slow-cook them in the oven and they're fantastic. If you don't want to take the time just buy the Bush's grillers and you don't have to do anything to them at all except heat them.

                              1. I highly recommend Flour Too's recipe. Easy and good!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Becca Porter

                                  That recipe looks good, too. Interesting, since most Boston baked beans don't pre-cook the beans. I'll have to give it a try.

                                2. People love homeade beans, mostly because no one makes them anymore, but for 60 i would go with Pioneer Woman recipe, people will rave.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: hyde

                                    Plenty of people make baked beans. They are simple, cheap and delicious.

                                    But I would go with Pioneer Woman for a crowd if you don't even like them. Get big cans at Costco or they will run some bucks.

                                  2. I like emeril's "Hilda's beans."
                                    He uses dry beans, I used canned cannelini.

                                    1. I would make them from scratch. I've had doctored ones I liked, but I feel strongly that beans do not come from a can at my house. I believe the recipe I've used is modified Joy of Cooking.

                                      1. I thought I posted this but my go-to recipe is Alton Brown's, called "the once and future bean"

                                        Delicious, easy, foolproof

                                        It's at FN's site

                                        1. I don't know if it is worth it to do baked beans for 60. I think you would need at least 2 lbs of beans and that might be hard to do unless you had a big pan or pressure cooker and a couple of large baking pans.

                                          The last baked beans I did, I adapted a "light" version which turned out really, really well. The beans were not swimming in tomato sauce, but flavored with a can of tomatoes, barbecue sauce and molasses. I used Great Northerns and I soaked them overnight. I cooked them in the PC for 15 min. (After bringing them up to pressure.) The beans were superlative--best I've ever cooked from scratch.

                                          I just checked serving sizes. I estimate you would need 2 1/2 lbs of dried beans to serve 60. This would be about 3 batches of beans cooked in a normal sized pressure cooker.
                                          You want to cook no more than 1 lb of beans at a time, unless you have a larger cooker, IMO.

                                          http://www.usdrybeans.com/nutrition/n...

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                            I can eat a pound of dry beans on my own over a week or so.

                                            I would have thought you'd need a lot more than that...

                                            1. re: C. Hamster

                                              If you are cooking for a crowd, you assume people will eat smaller portions because they are also eating other dishes. And 1/4 C of dried beans is apparently considered a single serving.

                                              However, I relate totally to your love of cooked dried beans. I eat them even though they are probably too high in carbs for me. I love to cook them and I love to eat them.

                                              1. re: sueatmo

                                                For 20 I did 3 pounds of dried beans. That was a fail in a crock pot.

                                                I agree that for a single recipe, for a serving 4-6 people, from scratch is the way to go. But when serving more than 20, the volume gets tough to deal with. I'm guessing that many of the responses here aren't considering that your crowd is 60.

                                                1. re: sueatmo

                                                  I agree. Not everyone is going to take a serving but I'm surprised 2 1/2 lbs is enough for 60 people. I usually do 2 lbs for 30 people ... but I do have leftovers. I have two baked bean pots only large enough for one pound each.

                                                  It really depends on how much time the OP has to devote to cooking for the crowd. I like to serve things that might be a treat to people who don't cook from scratch any more. My mother used to make a large batch using a turkey roasting pan when the budget was tight. When we have baked beans in the house, I'll have them for both lunch and dinner. It's easy to freeze the leftovers if there's too much.

                                                  1. re: dfrostnh

                                                    I was going by the serving size on the linked article. I have no personal knowledge of how much you would need to serve 60 people.

                                                    I presume you would need quite a bit of dried beans.

                                                    I don't think most home kitchens are equipped to do this easily.

                                                    1. re: sueatmo

                                                      Sorry to get on a soapbox about baked beans but it's interesting to read the different opinions. Here's a source for determining how many but a suggested serving size is 1/2 to 1 cup (I would eat 1 cup) but if the beans are a side dish maybe 10 pounds for 100 people so 6 pounds would be necessary for 60 people. From my experience serving approx. 30 people some of whom were not baked bean eaters (at least one is on a paleo diet) I would have thought 4 lbs would be enough.

                                                      The definition of "most home kitchens" must also be varied. We have a good sized kitchen is a former farm house but many people might have small apartment kitchens and don't have room for the seldom used large roasting pans etc. But I will also add another variable - the time and desire to cook. I'm lucky. When we have a lot of company, my husband will house clean while I cook and he also helps prep.

                                                      Now I'm hungry for some baked beans!

                                              2. re: sueatmo

                                                +1 on the pressure cooker, one of the most useful (and used) implements in my kitchen.

                                                Why the hell anyone would soak dry beans overnight and then cook for hours when you can go from dry to done in an hour is beyond me.

                                                1. re: biggreenmatt

                                                  I soaked some interesting beans last night, Tongues of Fire. I then cooked them for 15 minutes in the cooker. I am going to be giving my dried beans a lengthy soak from now on, whenever I can. I like the way they cook up.

                                                  I don't know if every bean would cook in 15 min. But Great Northerns did the same.

                                                  At any rate we had bean soup for lunch and it was good.

                                                  1. re: biggreenmatt

                                                    I'm following family tradition on my husband's side to soak beans overnight then cook in a slow oven for hours. In fact, just like my mother-in-law, I can let the beans bake in the oven of our antique woodburning stove. We use wood heat as our primary heat source despite having a modern oil furnace (and radiant heating in the kitchen floor). And, I'm pretty scared of pressure cookers. Never got used to using one and might have put the one I did have in a yard sale.

                                                2. I made baked beans once, from someone's grandmother's recipe. After cooking for 6 hours and using all that propane, they tasted just like B&M to me. Not saying that's bad!

                                                  Lately I get the B&M Maple Flavor and pour in a good amount of Capt Morgan rum. Then let it cook a half hour or so, to let it reduce a bit. Good enough for us, anyway!

                                                  1. I don't love baked beans so for that many people I would dress up some store bought. I used this recipe (multiplied,) for Famous Dave's Wilbur beans for a barbeque with around 50 or so people and thought I had made too much but at the end of the night there wasn't a bean left.

                                                    http://www.food.com/recipe/famous-dav...