I’ve tried loads of ways to cook dried beans. Then, I had a wonderful chat with Phyllis D. Light about good cooking. She shared her method for the most nutritious dried beans with me. I gave it a try, and it turns out it’ also makes for the creamiest and most satisfying beans to boot. I am ever grateful for the Wisdom Phyllis has shared with all of us, and I will freely and most heartily admit that includes her way to cook a good pot of beans.
I’m writing this process for a cup or about 240 ml of dried pinto beans. The method is the same no matter what kind of how much you’re cooking. The final cooking time will vary as will the amount of water you’ll need for pinto beans or for any other type or quantitiy of beans you’re making. Adjusting ought to be easy enough with a little experimentation. I guarantee you’ll find it worthwhile to do so.
I often add a bit of fresh onion or garlic when I begin boiling my dried beans. It adds to the digestability of the finished beans and gives them a soft onion or garlic flavor I like, very much like the beans I usually get from my favorite local taco shop. I’ve also heard folk like to add a bit of acidity in the form of a little Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon juice and still others suggest adding a bit of salt to the boiling process. A bay leaf or two is another common traditional addition to the boiling process. I like a a leaf or two of bay for lima beans, white northern beans, and Canalini beans.
- 1 cup or roughly 240 ml dried pinto beans
- Lots of fresh water
- Dry and liquid measuring cups
- 2-quart (approx 2L) bowl
- 2-quart (approx 2L) pot with lid
- Collander or strainer
- Stove or similar heat source
- Using the strainer, wash the beans in fresh water really well and pick out any bits of rock, dirt, or deformed beans.
- Put the beans into the bowl and add enough fresh cool water to cover them by a couple of inches or roughly 5 cm.
- Let the beans stand at room temperature for at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours. You can cover them with a cloth or screen to prevent anything from falling in, but they don’t need covering to soak properly.
- After the beans have soaked, use a colander or strainer to strain off al the soaking liquid. You can rinse them again if you like, but this isn’t necessary.
- Put the beans into the pot and add enough water to cover them by a couple of inches or roughly 5 cm.
- Set the pot on the stove on high heat uncovered until they come to a boil.
- Let them boil for 10-15 minutes. Larger beans do well with a longer boiling time.
- As the beans boil, skim off any foam or scum that rises. If you’ve soaked them longer, you may have less foam. Some varieties seem to produce more foam than others. When you notice they’re not producing more foam, they’ve likely boiled enough. I like to just give them the full 10-15 minutes even if the foam seems to be done sooner.
- At this point, you can take them off the stove and add them to a slow cooker or if you are using a pressure cooker you can pressurize them and finish cooking them. Phyllis taught me to finish them on the stove by lowering the heat and letting them simmer until they’re tender. For a cup of pinto beans, that usually takes me an hour or two. I usually cook three times as much in the same amount of time using slightly larger bowls and pots.
Storage and Use
Once your beans are tender, you can use them in any recipe that asks for canned or frozen beans. I like to make extra and keep them in the refrigerator for use later in the week. You can also freeze them, although I cannot speak to their texture after they’ve been frozen. In my house, cooked beans usually last about 10 days in the refrigerator before they begin to spoil, although I generally use them up within the week.