Cooking School: Dried Beans
When you’re trying to eat healthier for less money, no food will give you more bang for your buck than dried beans. Here’s your step-by-step cooking guide.
Eat on the cheap using this three-step method
Step 1: Prep & Soak
At the store, look for beans that are uniform in size and have a smooth exterior. Choose beans that are labeled as “fresh” dried beans if you can find them. Store them in an airtight glass or plastic container in a cool, dry location until ready to use.
To prepare, pour the beans into a large colander. Pick through the beans to remove any pebbles or debris, then rinse them.
TO SOAK OR NOT TO SOAK?
It isn’t necessary to presoak dried beans. However, soaking will reduce cooking time and may help prevent the beans from getting “blown out” or split.
To soak, choose a method ( below) based on how much time you have.
Transfer the rinsed beans to a large bowl or pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Soak at room temperature, covered, for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Transfer the rinsed beans to a large pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 1 hour. Drain the beans and rinse with cold water.
Step 2: Cook
You can cook beans on the stovetop, in the slow cooker, or in a pressure cooker.
Cooking times vary depending on the age and type of bean. As a rule of thumb, taste-test 3 to 5 beans before determining whether they are done or not.
Beans will cook in nothing but water, but you can also include a few aromatics and a little salt to add subtle flavor. We like to toss in a bay leaf, a few garlic cloves, a chopped onion, and 1∕2 to 1 tsp. salt.
ON THE STOVETOP
1. Transfer the soaked, drained beans to a large pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water (use about 2 quarts of water for 1 pound of beans). Add aromatics and salt, if using.
2. Bring to a boil, skimming off any debris that rises to the surface. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring every 30 minutes, until tender, 20 to 45 minutes for lentils or 1 to 2 hours for beans.
IN THE SLOW COOKER
1. Transfer the soaked, drained beans to a slow cooker and cover with 5 cups of boiling water. Add aromatics, if using. 2. Set the slow cooker to High, cover, and cook for 1 to 31∕2 hours. Add salt, if using, and cook 15 minutes more. Note: Don’t use a slow cooker for dried kidney beans. They require high-temperature cooking.
IN THE PRESSURE COOKER
1. Transfer the soaked, drained beans to a pressure cooker and add 1 Tbsp. oil (to prevent foaming). Cover with 2 inches of water (use about 3 cups water for each 1 cup of beans); add aromatics and salt, if using, then secure and lock the lid.
2. Cook on high pressure for 15 to 25 minutes.
3. Let the pressure release naturally, then unlock the lid and check for tenderness. If the beans are not quite cooked through, replace the lid, bring to pressure, and cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
Step 3: Use or Store
You can use cooked dried beans in any recipe that calls for canned beans. In general, use 1½ cups cooked dried beans in place of one 15-ounce can of beans.
You can store cooked beans in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To freeze, transfer cooked beans to a freezer-safe container or zip-top storage bag and fill two-thirds full, then seal and freeze ( see Tip). Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating or cooking. Tip: To save space with zip-top bags, lay the filled bags flat on a sheet pan, transfer to the freezer, and freeze until firm. Remove the pan and stack or file the flattened bags in the freezer.
ADD AROMATICS FOR FLAVOR