How to Cook Beans

Cooking beans is easy. All you need is dried beans and water.

You don’t need any special equipment, though a crock pot and a pressure cooker are handy to have. I never soak beans. I’m not opposed to it. I just forget to do it the night before and I don’t want to let my forgetfulness stand in the way of having beans for dinner.

It is impossible to know exactly how long it will take a pot of beans to cook. A properly cooked bean is tender but still with the skin intact. The bean should still hold it’s shape.

I generally use a crock pot to cook beans because I can get the beans started and then completely ignore them for several hours. I have a small crock pot that will easily handle a half pound of beans. I bought it at the grocery store for about $10. I also have a large crock pot that I have had for 20 years. I use that to accommodate larger batches of beans.

After you have cooked a couple of batches of beans, you will be an expert at it. You should always bear in mind that beans can smell fear. This is true of all cooking and probably most other things in life. So proceed fearlessly.

Here is my method for cooking any type of bean:

  1. Pour the beans out on a flat surface and pick through them looking for any ugly beans or debris. It is rare, but occasionally you will find a small stone or clod of dirt in the beans.
  2. Rinse the beans once or twice with fresh water.
  3. Put the beans in a crock pot. A half pound of beans needs about 4 cups of water. A pound of beans needs about 8 cups of water. You can multiply or divide that ratio to whatever quantity you need. If you are leaving the beans untended, you may want to add a little extra water just to be on the safe side.
  4. Put the crock pot on low and let the beans cook for for the better part of the day.
  5. The beans will be ready by dinner time.

You can carry out this same procedure in a large pot on your stove top. Put beans and water into a large pot. Bring the pot to a boil then reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Cover the pot. Check on the beans every 45 minutes or so just to make sure that the pot is at a low boil and to see if more water needs to be added. It’s hard to say how long the beans will need to cook. Start checking for tenderness after an hour and a half. Beans on the stove top should not be left unattended.

A pressure cooker reduces the amount of time required to cook beans. I have a Fagor pressure cooker that is entirely stand alone. I add the ingredients. Set the level of pressure and the time required to cook. And then I can walk away from it. It will beep when the time is up. If I am not around to turn it off, it will switch over to “warming” mode. It is a big piece of equipment but it does make it possible to have beans on the table in less than an hour. I love my pressure cooker.

I have never been successful at cooking beans at high altitude. They just don’t seem to get to a state of tenderness that I find acceptable. My Dad says that a pressure cooker will completely solve the altitude problem. I live in Texas at 700 feet above sea level so I can’t currently test this theory. My Dad is an engineer, so I am prepared to take his word for it.

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