Recipes

Cooked Beans, the Quick-Soak Way

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Makes
6 to 8 servings

Time
2 hours to soak plus 30 minutes to 2 hours to cook, depending on the bean, largely unattended

My favorite method and the easiest way to cook beans because most of the time they aren’t cooking at all; they’re soaking. Incredibly, if you start a pot of dried beans from scratch without soaking and start a pot with this method, both will be ready at about the same time, with no difference in taste or texture. What changes is that you don’t have to check as much or add water as often if you soak them. If you’re cooking lentils or split peas—which take no more than 30 minutes to get tender—always follow the no-soak variation.


INGREDIENTS

1 pound dried beans (any kind but lentils, split peas, or peeled and split beans), washed and picked over
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Put the beans in a large pot with a tightly fitting lid and cover with cold water by 2 to 3 inches. Bring the pot to a boil and let it boil, uncovered, for about 2 minutes. Cover the pot and turn the heat off. Let the beans soak for about 2 hours.

2. Taste a bean. If it’s tender (it won’t be done), add a large pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper. Make sure the beans are covered with about an inch of water; add a little if necessary. If the beans are still hard, don’t add salt yet, and cover with about 2 inches of water.

3. Bring the pot to a boil, then adjust the heat so that the beans bubble gently. Partially cover and cook, stirring infrequently, checking the beans for doneness every 10 or 15 minutes, and adding a little more water if necessary. If you haven’t added salt and pepper yet, add them when the beans are just turning tender. Stop cooking when the beans are done the way you like them, taste and adjust the seasoning, and use immediately or store.

Cooked Beans, the No-Soak Way.
This is the only way to cook lentils, split peas, and other very small legumes, but it’s fine for other beans too; they’ll go from raw to mushy very slowly: Put the beans in a large pot with a tightly fitting lid and cover with cold water by 2 or 3 inches. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the beans bubble gently. Partially cover and cook, stirring infrequently, checking the beans for doneness every 10 or 15 minutes, and adding a little more water if necessary. When the beans start to get tender, add a large pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper; stop cooking when the beans are done the way you like them, taste and adjust the seasoning, and use immediately or store.

Cooked Beans, the Long-Soak Way.
No more than 12 hours of soaking, please, or your beans will become mushy and bland: Put the beans in a large pot with a tightly fitting lid and cover with cold water by several inches. Leave them to soak for 6 to 12 hours, then drain and return them to the pot. Cover with about 2 inches of water, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat so that the beans bubble gently. Partially cover and cook, stirring infrequently, checking the beans for doneness every 10 minutes or so, and adding a little more water if necessary (frequent checking is important: longsoaked beans turn from tender to mushy rather fast). When the beans start to get tender, add a large pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper; stop cooking when the beans are done the way you like them, taste and adjust the seasoning, and use immediately or store.

5 Ways to Flavor Beans as They Cook
Add any of the following ingredients to the pot, alone or in combination, when you start cooking the beans.

1. Herbs or spices: A bay leaf, a couple of cloves, some peppercorns, thyme sprigs, parsley leaves and/or stems, chili powder, or other herbs and spices

2. Aromatics: An unpeeled onion, a carrot, a celery stalk, and/or 3 or 4 cloves of garlic

3. Stock: Chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, in place of all or part of the water

4. Other beverages: A cup or so of beer, wine, coffee, tea, or juice

5. Smoked meat: Ham hock, pork chop, beef bone, or sausage, fished out after cooking, the meat chopped and stirred back into the beans

Recipe from How to Cook Everything