What You'll Need
- Cooking Liquid
- Fat or Oil
- Flavouring ingredients
- Large saucepan or stock pot
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Dried beans can be cooked in a saucepan or pot on top of the stove, in a pressure cooker, in your oven, or in your microwave. The basic principles of cooking dried beans remain the same no matter which method you use.
Dried beans are cooked after being soaked and require water or other liquid to soften the beans as they cook (there must be enough liquid to keep the beans covered so they will cook uniformly, and any beans not covered during cooking will dry out and be inedible), plus oil or other fat and salt.
The oil or other fat is used to lessen the possibility of the cooking water boiling over, and, along with the salt, add flavour to the beans. There is some controversy as to when is the best time to add the salt to the beans. Some cooks add the salt only after the beans have been softened in cooking, others prefer to add the salt to the cooking water with the beans. My experience is that adding salt at the beginning of cooking results in more flavourful beans and does not significantly influence the cooking time or tenderness of the beans. For average taste, 1 teaspoon of salt in the cooking water for each cup of beans is about right, however, you may want to hold off or cut down on the amount of salt used if salty meat is going to be added.
Any acidic ingredients called for in your recipe, must be added at the specified time.
Most recipes will tell you to cook beans until tender. To check for tenderness, pinch or bite a few beans at a minimum suggested time, then every 10 to 15 minutes until the beans are tender. Overcooked beans fall apart, releasing bean starch which thickens the cooking liquid. This however, may be desirable for some recipes.
- Rinse and sort the beans by spreading them out in a single layer on a baking sheet and pick out any stones and shriveled or discoloured. Dump the beans into a large bowl of water and swish around. Discard any beans that float to the top. Transfer to a sieve and rinse.
- Cover rinsed and sorted dried beans with 4 times the volume of cold water (about 4 cups water for each cup of beans). Cover and set aside for 6 to 8 hours or overnight, until the beans have doubled in size. When one is cut open, it should be moist all the way through. Drain the beans and discard the soaking water. Note that lima beans and pinto beans generally do not need soaking.
Cooking beans on top of the stove is a slow process that allows the flavours of the beans and seasoning to intermingle, creating the hearty flavour you expect from bean dishes. The disadvantage of this method is that it requires you to be present, although not continuously involved, while the beans are cooking. The best cookware for beans is a heavy metal pot or saucepan. Stainless steel, cast aluminium, or cast iron are all excellent.
- Place the drained beans into a large pot or Dutch oven and cover with the fresh water or to about 2