Dear Home-Ec 101,
Everyone acts like dried beans are the end all. How do I get the beans in the bag to work like the beans in the can? I’ve soaked them overnight and they still aren’t like what I get out of a can. Am I legume challenged?
Dried beans can be a challenge, you have to interpret each recipe and decide if it was originally written for dry or canned beans. If there is a very short cooktime involved it is safe to assume the author of the recipe is picturing canned beans. In this case your beans should already be cooked and rinsed.
After the beans have soaked, either overnight or a quick soak, drain the water and rinse the beans. When cooking beans you want them to have flavor, but not so much that it will overpower the spices of the recipe in which they will be used.
To cook one pound of beans (2 cups of dry beans, measured before they are soaked) place the beans in a heavy pot, this helps prevent scorching. To the pot add two slices of uncooked bacon*, two whole garlic cloves, and 8 – 10 cups of water. Vegetarians can use butter of vegetable oil, but some fat is needed for best results.
Bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat down to low. When the beans first start to boil a foam will develop, it’s just a water soluble protein, don’t worry about skimming the pot, the beans will reabsorb it during the cooking process. You want to keep the beans at a gentle simmer until done. Don’t hover, just give them a brief stir when you happen to walk by every now and then.
Two important tips:
Do not use hard water to cook beans.
The minerals in the water will significantly increase the cook time. In this case it’s best to use bottled water.
Add 1 tsp salt per cup of dried beans.
There are two schools of thought, some say that adding the salt early in the cooking process makes the beans tougher, while those on the other side swear they are more flavorful and not tough. Oddly, the two camps agree that the ratio is 1 tsp per cup.
Here’s a quick guide for estimating simmering time by type of bean:
|Black Beans, Garbanzo Beans,
Great Northerns, Navy or Small Whites,
Pink Beans, Pinto Beans,
Red Beans, Red Kidney Beans
|1 to 1.5 hours|
|Lima Beans, Large||45 – 60 minutes|
|Butter Beans or Baby Lima Beans||1 Hour|
Peas and lentils usually do not require soaking.
|Black-Eyed Peas||1 to 1.5 Hours|
|Lentils, Split Green Peas||30 – 45 minutes|
If the cook time of a recipe meets or exceeds the time listed in the table, it is safe to assume the author had soaked, not cooked beans in mind.
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