6 easy steps to cooking dried beans

Cooking dried beans is cheaper than cracking a can and yields tender, tasty results. Plus, it’s way easier than you think.

Photo: iStockphoto
Photo: iStockphoto

If you can boil water, you can cook dried beans. They have a bad rap for being finicky, but they’re actually quite simple. Why is it worth it? A big batch will save you money and time, makes a bunch of dishes and they come out creamy and delicious. Here’s how to get there.

1. Take your time
Do it on the weekend and you’ll be set up with easy meals—salads, tacos, soups and wholesome finger food for your new eater—for the week ahead.

2. Start fresh
The age of beans affects cook time and consistency—get a new bag.

3. Soak & salt
Soaking beans in salted water overnight (or even for as little as four hours) helps them cook more evenly and makes them extra tasty (think of it as a brine). 

4. Stay low
Drain and rinse your soaked beans and place them in a heavy pot on the stove or in your slow cooker. Cover them with at least two inches of salted water—it won’t prevent them from softening and will save you from bland beans (add a few cloves of garlic and chopped onion for more flavour). On the stove, bring to a boil to heat everything up and then turn down to the slightest simmer—the water should barely move. For a slow cooker, set it to low and walk away.

5. Be patient
Depending on age and type, dried beans can take up to three hours on the stove and up to six hours in your slow cooker. Start tasting them after an hour on the stove (after four in your slow cooker). If they’re not tender, give them more time and keep tasting. They should be tender throughout with skins intact (not split). When in doubt, keep cooking and checking.

6. Stash them
Store beans in their cooking liquid in the fridge for up to a week or drain and freeze them for three months. And don’t toss the broth—it’s perfect as a base for soups, stews and sauces.

Tip:
One pound of dried beans makes roughly five cups cooked (equal to three cans). They’ll keep in the fridge for up to a week and they also freeze beautifully.

A version of this article appeared in our March 2016 issue with the headline “Bean there,” p. 78.

Read more:
10 homemade recipes that are better than store-bought
5 easy budget-friendly meals
Slow Cooked Baked Beans

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