There are bean posts, and there are BEAN posts, you know what I mean? By the end of this you will not only be confident in your ability to cook dried beans (and their country cousins, lentils) you will be so excited you’ll run out of your house in search of them. You will walk right up to those expensive, mushy, salty canned beans and say, “It’s over between us. I don’t need you and your stinking BPA-laden liners“. On second thought, maybe you should just say it inside your head, unless you are shopping at my grocery store which is affectionately known as “The Ghetto Meijer”. We have crazy people talking to themselves all the time. Either way, you’ll reach down to the bottom shelf, grab a bag of goodness, and start your new life as a cooker of dried beans.
Except you have to do a few things before you are ready to cook them. First, you have to pick the stones out. Now don’t get turned off, there aren’t always stones in there. Sometimes there is dirt. It’s easy – it’s the one time it’s totally OK to discriminate against things that are different. Pick through and toss anything less than a perfect bean. Broken beans? Toss ‘em. In our house, it’s A.P.’s job.
Next comes soaking. There is a quick-soak option, but this lazy girl would rather just put them in a sauce pan the night before, make sure there is lots of water (they absorb a ton), and go to bed. When you get up, your beans are nice and plumped up.
This is where you wash them. Just dump the beans and water straight into a colander, and rinse them well, the way you would with fruit. Rinse the pan out, because you are going to cook your beans in it.
Now for the cooking directions. There are directions on the package, but they are liars. In my experience – and I’ve been cooking with dried beans for seven years – it always takes longer than the package says. I just plan on a few hours, so this is a good ‘naptime’ project since you won’t want to leave the house with beans a-cookin’ away on the stove. If they are well-soaked, they average about 1 and 1/2 hours cooking time.
The first step is to put the beans back in the pot, and cover with water. You are going to bring them to a boil, so don’t put so much in that it will boil over but having said that I must confess mine always boil over. Set them on the stove and turn the heat on to high. Bring them to a boil. Now when they come to a boil, there will be kind of a foam at the top. Some people say this is protein that gets re-absorbed back into the bean, but it grosses me out and I believe it is some kind of impurity (I’m just… like that) so I scoop it off with a spoon. Once I have all of the foamy nastiness taken care of, I turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pan, and come back in about 1/2 an hour to check on things.
At that point, I check to see if the beans need more water, and I also just fish one out with a spoon to see how things are coming along. Then I come back 1/2 an hour later, and repeat until I like what I see.
Once your beans are cooked, you can use them exactly the same way you use canned beans. I am a maverick in the kitchen, so I don’t convert how many cups of dried beans equals a can, but The Reluctant Gourmet has a conversion chart you can use.
Canned Beans to Cooked Beans
14 -16 oz can = 1.5 cups cooked beans
19 oz can = 2.25 cups cooked beans
28 oz can = 3 – 3.25 cups cooked beans
Dry Bean Yields After Cooking
1 pound dry beans = 6 cups cooked beans, drained
1 pound dry beans = 2 cups dry beans
1 cup dry beans (most kinds) = 2.5 cups cooked beans
1 cup dry beans (most kinds) = 2.5 cups cooked beans
Chick peas, great northern beans, and lima beans: 1 cup dry beans = 3 cups cooked beans
Bleech. Too hard, it’s like math. So you’re off a few beans here or there, nothing to worry about.
So are you feelin’ good? Or do you want to try another method? You can also use your crock pot! I do want to warn you though, because this information is not super widespread, that you shouldn’t cook kidney beans in the crock pot. When they start to cook, they release toxins that have to be heated at a high heat – higher than crock pots get – to kill the toxins. You could eat a dry kidney bean, and be OK, or a properly cooked kidney bean, and be OK, but a half-cooked one still has the toxins in it.
This is only kidney beans, so everything else is fine for the crock pot. I know this from my Farmer’s Wife cookbook, which I trust as a resource. I am totally not a farmer’s wife, but I think I would completely rock it if I were. Anyway…
This is really, really easy because just pick through your beans, then rinse them well first, put them in the crock pot with water, and say goodnight to them. Don’t turn it on, just let them soak. When you get up, say good morning, add more water, and turn the crock pot on. I put them on high for 4 hours and that pretty much does the trick. Just peek in once in a while and make sure there is enough water.
Lentils are even easier. You don’t have to soak them, and they cook in about 40 minutes. Also, they almost never have stones in them, but it’s still good to pick through just in case. Just put them in the pan, cover with water, and bring them to a boil. Once they’ve come to a boil (no foam!) turn it down, cover the pan and cook for about 35-40 minutes.
I use lentils as a meat extender. For example, rather than use a pound of ground beef, I would use half a pound, and then 2 cups of cooked lentils in tacos, chili, various casseroles, or soups. Still have questions? Leave me a comment, I’ll do my best. I want to start a revolution, and I want you all to be in my Dried Legume Cooking Army. It’s about as militant as I get.
Food is Fuel! For more revolutionary ideas, go see what Lindsay is up to.