The Best Way to Cook Dried Beans (and All the Myths You Should Ignore)

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while you might assume all beans are identical, they aren’t. older beans take longer to cook. personally, i prefer to presoak using less water initially - allowing the beans to absorb liquid overnight allows one to gauge more accurately how much water to add, if necessary, for cooking and thus have more control over the consistency of the pot liquor.

i’ve routinely used beans as a protein source for years feeding the homeless, and i’ve had a lot of latino folks tell me my beans taste like the ones made by their mothers/grandmothers. personally, i find it hard to mess up pinto beans. i like using an electric pressure cooker that i can just set and forget - and because there’s less evaporation, monitoring the initial amount of liquid is important.

as much as i love pintos, black beans have become my go-to for beans and rice. garlic, cumin, onion and couple of chili peppers - and i never use the same amount - just by feel. secret ingredients may include a shredded head of cabbage (which completely disappears into the beans after cooking, but adds a sweetness), if pork skin attached to a little fat/meat is available, a piece big enough to cover the beans. maybe bouillon or fish sauce - and now that i’m serving boxed servings, a squirt of olive oil on top of each individual serving.

i’ve become a fan of salt/fat/acid/heat. while salting before is generally recommended by nosrat, you can salt certain things too much or too early. the important thing is to understand what you’re doing and know the qualities of the particular salt that you’re using, not to mention the qualities of the other ingredients. if i use bouillon or say, fish sauce or something else that’s a source of salt, you should adapt accordingly.


My mom nor grandma never soaked the beans. But I agree with you. I do mostly because of that timing issue. Also, I often make beans to then add to other dishes… so for me the soaking gets a nice jump start for the skin and inside the bean so that it cooks more evenly.

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PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: something the article does not address - potential digestion issues. on my last batch, i did not replace the soaking water of my black beans, and yesterday… how can i put this… i experienced a prolific level of pungent & audible flatulence that made me grateful for the lockdown.

i shall not neglect to change the soaking water ever again.


You know bean-related flatulence was what got Harold McGee interested in food science?

The main reasons for presoaking beans are to shorten the cooking time substantially, and to leach out the indigestible carbohydrates that make beans gassy. The disadvantage of presoaking is that you also leach out many other soluble materials, including vitamins and minerals.

You retain more nutrients by cooking the beans in the soak water, but you also retain the gassy carbohydrates. I recommend soaking beans, then cooking them in the same water at a bare simmer for at least a couple of hours, even if they’re soft before then. Extended cooking breaks down the gassy carbohydrates.

LOL!!! YES! I always change the water (And add epazote) :wink:

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You beat me to it, @robert - came here to post the same link.

I love that she writes of cooking beans as a ritual: that’s an attitude I strive to embrace, especially during these challenging times when it feels like I’m cooking beans (or lentils) every week.

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to each their own; i could be very hands on and grill a steak to medium rare, watching, feeling, smelling, etc. the entire way - or i could use sous vide techniques to bring the meat up to the appropriate temperature and then simply sear the meat. if a third party can’t taste the difference between the two steaks, the question becomes: is it somehow impure to substitute technology for experience/skill?

if i’m making refried beans, it’s not really possible to overcook them; you don’t care if the beans split - and you’re essentially mashing them when you ‘refry’ them. so why not use an automated process to cook them?

if one places additional value derived from an entirely hands-on process, fine, but if a third party can’t taste any difference between dishes that are otherwise identical except for the amount of interactive monitoring of the process, should it matter? i think i referred to using my electric pressure cooker as ‘set and forget’. i also ‘cheat’ by adding layers of fatty pork skin and sometimes seared/browned pork butt/shoulder/leg which i remove afterwards, and continue to cook in a slow cooker with a salsa verde for another four hours for pork chile verde, which i also essentially ‘set and forget’. i can live with that since i’m cooking for a group.