Bean 101: Preparing Beans for Cooking

Five Methods of Preparing Dried Beans

The dried beans may contain very small amounts of material leftover from the harvesting process. Rinse and sort through beans, removing any unwanted material.

Note - 1 pound of dry Anasazi beans usually measures about 2¼ cups.

1. Hot Soak Method

The Hot Soak is the recommended method for soaking beans, as it reduces actual cooking time and produces consistently tender beans.

  1. Place beans in a large pot and add 10 cups of water for every 2 cups of beans.
  2. Heat to boiling and boil for an additional 5 minutes.
  3. Remove beans from heat, cover and let stand for 4 hours or overnight, up to 24 hours
  4. Drain beans and discard soak water.
  5. Rinse beans with fresh, cool water.
  6. Use in any recipe calling for cooked beans

2. Overnight Soak Method

Add 80 ounces (10 cups or 2½ quarts) of water to the beans.

Let soak overnight, then drain. I personally don’t discard the soaking liquid, but place it and the beans in a pot and add more water so that the liquid level is at least an inch above the beans. You can also substitute vegetable or chicken stock in the place of extra water, as desired.

Bring the beans to a boil and continue boiling for 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to a simmer. Leave the cover slightly ajar to allow for evaporation. This concentrates the flavor of the bean liquor. The slowest simmer produces great beans so check for just a few bubbles rising continuously as they cook.
Simmer until the beans are just tender, Add more liquid as needed.
Do not add any salt until at least halfway through the cooking process. Do not add acid ingredients like vinegar or tomatoes until the beans are slightly tender. Unlike store beans, which are between 3 and 5 years old, our fresh beans cook fairly quickly- between 50-70 minutes.

3. No Soak and Dutch Oven Cook Method

  1. Place one pound of cleaned, dry beans in a cast-iron Dutch oven and add 6 cups of water.
  2. Bring to a simmer on the top of the stove.
  3. Add seasonings (no salt), chopped onions, garlic, chiles, celery and carrots or herbs according to the recipe you are using.
  4. Cooking may take anywhere from 1-4 hours depending on the bean and its age. Older beans take much longer.
  5. Add 1-2 tsp of salt, half way through the cooking time.
  6. Other ingredients that are sweet or acidic (molasses, brown sugar, tomatoes, vinegar) should be added when the beans are almost done.

4. Slow Cooker Method

For Beans soaked at least 6 hours or overnight

Rinse and clean the beans

Add all the beans into your slow cooker. Add enough water to cover all the beans and an additional 2 inches.

Cover. Do not turn on. Let the beans soak for at least 6 hours, or overnight. If you live in a very warm area, and the slow cooker won't be in a room that is climate-controlled, put the stoneware in the fridge. You don't want bacteria to have the opportunity to grow.

In the morning, dump the water, and rinse your beans. The water will be bean-colored.
 (NOTE: if you are using red or kidney beans, you need to boil your beans rapidly on the stove for at least 10 minutes to destroy toxins that will make you sick. It's better to be safe than sorry!)

Put the beans back into your slow cooker and cover with enough fresh water to completely cover the beans with an extra 2-3 inches.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
The beans are done when they are bite-tender. Don't worry if the water hasn't all absorbed. You're going to dump it, anyway.
Drain the beans.

For un-soaked beans

  • Pick over the dry beans and discard any broken or shriveled looking ones. 
  • Put beans into the slow cooker and add enough water to cover beans by 2 inches. 
  • Turn cooker to HIGH and cook beans until they're tender and cooked through, about 5-6 hours for un-soaked beans.  (You can also cook the un-soaked beans on low, which would take about twice as long.)  Drain beans.

5. Pressure Cooker Method

The exact cooking time will depend on what kind of bean and what kind of pressure cooker you have, but you can rest assured that you can cook a pot of tender, creamy beans in an hour or less.

To do a whole pound of beans, you will need a large-sized 6- to 8-quart pressure cooker. This is because pressure cookers have strict limits on how little and how much they need to be filled in order to work properly — smaller pressure cookers can't be used to cook a whole pound of beans.

When they're cooked the usual way on the stove top, the greatest drawback with dried beans is the fact that they need to be soaked before cooking, sometimes up to 12 hours. So unless you've planned ahead, dried beans aren't a spontaneous ingredient. There is a quick soaking method where the beans and water are brought to a boil and then left to soak for an hour or so (as opposed to overnight). This helps to cut the cooking time down considerably, but we're still talking a couple of hours before you have a pot of edible beans. This is where the pressure cooker shines: without pre-soaking, a pound of dried beans can be done in anywhere from 6 to 40 minutes, depending on the variety. Pretty great!
Is there a catch? Well, a small one. Pre-soaked beans will (mostly) stay intact when they are pressure cooked, while un-soaked beans tend to split open some. While the quick-soaking method helps somewhat to alleviate the splitting, if you want whole, tender beans then your best bet is to pre-soak. You can use the quick-soak and un-soaked beans for those times when the splitting isn't such a big deal, like when you're making refried beans, hummus, or in soups.

Adding Oil  
It's a good idea to add 1 tablespoon of neutral oil to the pot. Beans are notorious for producing foam which can clog the pressure valve, and the oil will help to keep that down.

High or Low?
Most pressure cookers have a high and a low pressure setting. The high setting is usually 15 psi (or pounds per square inch) and the low is at 5 psi. You should consult your pressure cooker's manual to determine the manufacturer's psi for high and low pressure for your particular make and model. In general, beans can handle the high setting.

The Release Method
There are two ways to depressurize your pot of beans once the cooking time is done. You can just let it sit and cool down, usually called the slow or natural release. Or you can use the quick release method which means you depressurize manually, usually by pressing a valve on the cooker (consult your manual) or by running cold water over the cover for several minutes. Most pressure cooker experts agree: letting the beans depressurize naturally is the way to go if you want whole, un-split beans.