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Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: How to cook dried beans so they're tender but not falling apart

Since I'm hosting a giveaway for The Everything Beans Book this week, I pulled out one of my waiting-to-be-shared kitchen tips for beans! :)

I've been making beans in my crock pot in recent months, and not just because it's easier. When cooked in a slow cooker, the beans are more tender and soft, but NOT falling apart!

We like our cooked beans to be very tender, but frequently when I would cook them on the stove top they would be falling apart or starting to get mushy by the time they passed my tenderness taste test. (Try saying that one five times fast!)

One of the keys to soft beans that are still intact is to cook them gently. All too often, I'd be hurrying the beans by turning up the heat, or just be busy doing other things and not keep them at a gentle simmer.

Slow-cooked pinto beans
Soft and tender, but still holding a good shape after being stirred and drained!

With the slow cooker, it's basically a foolproof way to get perfect-tasting beans!

I was happy to see Diana Bauman from Spain In Iowa agrees! On her recipe for Homemade Mexican Beans, she includes a quote from Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday:

To Soak or Not

Mexican cooks don’t soak beans because they know that throwing out the soaking liquid isn’t a very good idea. It doesn’t do much to make them more digestible (only a steady diet of beans helps with that), and it makes the beans turn out pale in color and flavor.

I've also noticed this from the (admittedly little) exposure I've had to Mexicans. (Dare I confess I suspected a haphazard not-by-the-book cooking style rather than any other "real" reason?!)

And I have noticed that with a steady diet of beans, we really don't have any of the unpleasant "after effects". So, I've stopped religiously soaking my pinto beans. If I feel like it, great. If not, no biggie.

How to cook dried pinto beans in the slow cooker

1. Rinse/wash beans and remove any stones if necessary. I use 1 cup of dry beans per quart of slow cooker capacity. My slow cooker holds 6 quarts so I can cook 6 cups of dried beans at a time, which is just over 3 pounds of pinto beans. Maybe 7 cups, but any more than that and they won't be under water!

2. Optional: Place dry beans in slow cooker and fill with fresh, cool water. Allow beans to soak overnight or for 8 hours. Drain soaking water.

3. Place beans in slow cooker and fill with fresh, cool water. Cover with lid and heat on HIGH for 4-6 hours (soaked beans) or 6-8 hours (unsoaked beans). Older crock pots may take a bit longer, so allow plenty of time the first time you use yours! If you soaked your beans, you also have the option of cooking them on LOW for 8 hours (approximately).

4. Drain cooked beans if desired. Salt to taste. Use in recipes, or eat plain!

(For stovetop cooked pinto beans and lots of photos, see my recipe here!)

You can cook other kinds of beans in the slow cooker; just adjust the cooking times. (I'll give more info on that after I've tried some more kinds!)

Corn tortillas
Corn tortillas, ready to be filled with beans and cheese.

Unsure about cooking with dried beans? Here are a few more tips:

Start with fresh beans (no, not the bag you bought 10 years ago that you meant to use and never did...) and a good recipe that makes you excited about eating them!

Allow plenty of time to cook the beans. It's totally okay to cook the beans early in the day, put them in the fridge, and pull them out to use for dinner!

Cook beans in a large batch. This saves time and energy. Drain and freeze the extra beans in containers or bags. Two-cup portions are great for use in most recipes!

Don't forget the salt! :) I have found that it's perfectly fine to add salt at the beginning of cooking the beans. In fact, it seems to more evenly salt them and they are still soft and tender.

Bean and rice burrito
A bean and rice burrito from last weekend. I'll be sharing a burrito tutorial tomorrow! :)

Related kitchen tips:

8 Tips for Beans Without Gas

Using dried legumes (includes cooking times)

Cheaper Baked Beans (tips)

Cheaper Chili (tips)

Mexican Food Highlights (recipes + photos)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Making food GREEN without using coloring (Tara) 
2. How to make light and fliffy meringue (Anna) 
3. 5 foods you don't have to buy (Jill) 
4. How to make a hot dog bar (Cheryl B.) 
5. How to make oat flour in a blender (Alea)
6. Tips for cooking and cleaning w/kids in the kitchen (Michele)
7. Tips for baking in bulk (Adrienne)

Comments

Beans!

I adore beans, primarily because they are a meatless staple. I've stopped using dried beans, though, because they are always crunchy inside when I cook them. I don't know what I'm doing wrong. My crockpot cooks other foods just fine.

Maybe I'll give them another shot.

I wrote about ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. There's a lot of food color involved, but also some suggestionss for making foods green without coloring. :) http://www.feelslikehomeblog.com/2011/03/10-ways-to-celebrate-st-patricks-day-with-preschoolers/

Tammy's picture

Beans that are still crunchy inside

Tara, are they fresh? And do you cook them a long time? :) I always cook my beans until they are done... no matter how long that takes (often longer than "the book" or package says!). :)

I used to go by the time on the package, or see them starting to break open, and think "Oh, they must be done!" but they weren't -- at least not to our tastes. :)

Just the two things that came to mind first... :)

A Tip for Light and Fluffy Pie Meringue

Good Morning Tammy!

I wish we had all the rain that you're getting! We have fire warnings in effect here because it has been so dry!

My kitchen tip today has to do with making your meringue turn out light and fluffy. Before I discovered this my meringue was always flat! :(

http://anna-thejoyfulwife.blogspot.com/2011/03/my-secret-to-making-perfect-meringue.html

Hope all is well with your family.

Anna :)

Kitchen Tip- 5 Foods You Shouldn't Have to Buy

Hi there-
I'd like to share a tip- it's a quick list of my top 5 foods that I'll never purchase from the grocery store again!

http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2011/03/5-foods-i-will-never-purchase-again.html

Thanks!

"Dare I say...?"

Because there is a history in the US of portraying Mexicans as "lazy" (a disagreeable and untrue stereotype, as most stereotypes are), this comment sounds a bit racist. An unpleasant note in an otherwise nice and informative article about slow cooking beans.

Tammy's picture

Thank you for letting me

Thank you for letting me know! I certainly didn't intend to sound insulting or racist (the Mexicans I know personally are very industrious and put my cooking to shame!!!). :)

I edited the wording to try to more accurately reflect my thinking: I suspected "a haphazard not-by-the-book cooking style"... not laziness. :)

Thank you...

... for changing your wording. I am Mexican and follow your blog and recipes religiously. I was pleasantly reading your post but when I got to the lazy comment, it honestly felt like being hit with a brick. I'm happy your comment was not intended to be racist and thank you for changing it. I would have hated to drop your blog.
And for Mexican cooks not cooking by the book, as far as my mom, grandma and aunts go, there was never a recipe written down or a cookbook in the kitchen. You learned To cook traditional family dishes by cooking alongside the women of the house. You threw in a handful of this, a pinch if that and some of those. And it was all Real Whole Food.

"If at first you don't succeed, try-try again"

Tammy's picture

Oh, I am so sorry! Thank you

Oh, I am so sorry! Thank you for being understanding.

I have loved the traditional Mexican meals I've had, and always want to learn more about how it is prepared! My sister-in-law is half Mexican and she and her mom make the best tortillas, beans, and homemade cheese (with fresh cow's milk)! Their hospitality is amazing... delicious from-scratch cooking and generous hearts... :)

Soaking beans

Years ago, my father owned a restaurant named "Chimis" in Illinois. He decided not to soak the beans because what they experienced was that the beans went bad faster if they were soaked ahead of time. We only soak ours for about 30 minutes before cooking them and they always turn out delicious!

Soaking Beans

If you are using beans where the recommendation is to soak them before cooking, there is a quick way to do it. Put the beans in a large pot with plenty of water to cover, bring it up to the boil, boil it hard for 5 minutes, put on a tight fitting lid, turn off the heat and leave them for an hour. Do not lift the lid before the hour is up. When the hour is up, drain the beans, rinse them in running water, put them into fresh water and cook them as per your recipe. This really does work.

Smiles

KarlaG

The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make his face shine upon thee; and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. (Numbers 6:22-26)

Tammy's picture

Quick bean soak

Karla, yes! I have done that, too! Thanks for mentioning it... I forgot! :)

A Variety of Tips

hi Tammy :-)
One tip I didn't see listed (but that doesn't mean it wasn't) about lowering "gas" in bean products, etc., is by adding a small amount of ginger to your recipe. Not enough to taste the ginger, mind you. But ginger is a natural gas cutter!

The posting I am linking up to this week is titled "Hot Dog Bar" - http://thebzhousethatlovebuilt.blogspot.com/2011/03/hot-dog-bar.html

There are several different tips included there-in, I'll let you pick which one you want to feature.

Above was the good news... now for the bad. Several of my various specialists have listed beans as being one of the food groups that can often trigger migraines. :-(

Tammy's picture

Thanks, Cheryl! I did not

Thanks, Cheryl! I did not know that about ginger. I'll have to try it some time!

I'll file away the bit about beans and migraines, as well...

How to Make Oat flour in a Blender

Great tips! I love beans, but prefer that they not be mushy, or falling apart.

I am sharing a tip for making oat flour in the blender: http://www.premeditatedleftovers.com/2011/03/how-to-make-your-own-oat-flour-in.html

Alea @ Premeditated Leftovers

P.S. Just saw that you changed your captcha. Now I have to go back and revise my post on comments. ;)

Tammy's picture

Aack, yes... I'm sorry about

Aack, yes... I'm sorry about the annoying captcha right now. I got like 500 spam comments yesterday and have to manually delete them one by one :P I hope to go back to the math question soon! :)

I won't edit my post then

That is so frustrating! Every once in a while I get slammed (usually from an overseas source) but blogger has improved their spam detection and allows me to do mass deletions.

I won't edit my post on comments and will hope that the spammers leave soon! In the mean time atleast your words aren't squiggly and camoflauged. :)

Alea @ Premeditated Leftovers

Tammy's picture

Mass deletions would be

Mass deletions would be handy at times! I'm sure it's possible to do with Drupal (which is what we use), but my "tech support" (Joshua) has been too busy to work on our website "to do" list... :)

How to Make Homemade Protein Bars

Hi Tammy!

I have a great recipe for making homemade protein bars. I am so glad to have found your blog....I am always looking for new tips for myself and to share with others!
I consider "DIY" type recipes to be tips, but if you would prefer one that isn't a "recipe" per se then I have others I could send your way. Just let me know!

You know, I just realized that you are the Tammy from Kitchen Stewardship's bread series...I was mentioned in that post as well (for the thermometer test tip) - so nice to meet you!

:-)

- Adrienne @ wholenewmom.com

Tammy's picture

Adrienne, hi!! :) I will

Adrienne, hi!! :) I will bookmark your protein bars recipe -- it sounds yummy! I just got some almonds this week after being out for a while... yay! :) I am allergic to cashews so almonds are one of my go-to nuts! :)

I do prefer Kitchen Tip Tuesdays to be a tip/shortcut/method type of tip, but you could incorporate that into a recipe post (just make the tip easy to find in your post, and make sure it's a tip that could apply to more recipes than just that one)! For example, a biscuit recipe could include your personal shortcut to cutting biscuits, a tip for making the best biscuits, etc. Just bold "Tip:" before your specific tip, in the post or recipe! :)

Yes... I guess my bread recipe is in the competition! Eeeks! :)

Cooking tip

I'm soaking beans for dinner right now! :) I'm loving The Everything Beans Book!

My tip for today is for Cooking & Cleaning with Children; how I keep them with me in the kitchen & everywhere else for our daily routines:
http://frugalgranola.com/2011/03/cleaning-cooking-with-children/

Thanks!:)
Blessings,
Michele

I've cooked beans and

I've cooked beans and lentils in the crockpot for years. I agree with you, Tammy, beans cooked on the stove fall apart for me too. I don't soak my beans.. just rinse them.

I usually add an onion or two diced fine in my beans and/or some garlic powder. Of course, living in the south we add some smoked meat (smoked jowl -- I know a no-no for lots of people, but I've also used turkey bacon or smoked turkey wing or ,leg) for an added flavor but I don't always have that. I let them get cooked through before I salt and pepper them.

Another bean tip

Here's another bean tip I read somewhere (can't remember now). Soak the beans with boiling water for 1 hour and then cool and freeze them. Let them stay in the freezer for a day or two. This helps reduce the cook time and also the beans and water that are inside them expands which help with the cook time (did that make sense?). I've tried it and it does work when I cook beans on the stove. I don't do that much anymore since I can my own beans now. Hope this helps someone and thanks for a great blog! Lisa

Thanks for sharing

Thanks for sharing this recipe, I'm trying it today (without soaking!). I have a black bean recipe I love for the stovetop, but I would rather use my crockpot. One thing I have found really seems to enhance my beans is to use homemade "veggie broth" instead of the water. I save all the cooking/steaming water from our veggies in the freezer, and then use it when ever vegetable broth is called for, or in my beans. We think it is quite yummy, and I love that I'm not throwing nutrients down the drain with the water!
Rachel

Tammy's picture

Cooking beans in veggie broth (potato water?)

Thanks for this tip, Rachel! I've been doing a lot of oven-roasted veggies lately, but when I do cook them in water I should try saving the broth, now that we have a bigger freezer! :D

Do you use potato water too?? :)

The soaking water

Greetings,

Regarding what you wrote here: "Mexican cooks don’t soak beans because they know that throwing out the soaking liquid isn’t a very good idea", I was wondering if you wouldn't mind elaborating. Why is that not a very good idea? I'd be very interested to hear because I've always soaked my beans.

Thanks for your time!

Tammy's picture

Throwing out the soaking water from dried beans

Those weren't my words, but a quote from a cook book author. :) My best guess is because the soaking water is flavorful! :) If clean water were a limited resource in my kitchen, that would be another reason. :)

Thank you!

Just enjoyed a delicious burrito....ok it was my second one! I made 8 cups of beans and I plan to do some freezer cooking with them. Thank you so much for this recipe, it helps so much with spreading out our money!

soaking beans

My understanding is that you soak beans in order to reduce the phytic acid content of the beans. Phytic acid acts as a nutrient inhibitor, keeping you from absorbing many nutrients in your food, especially minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. I always soak beans in order to get the full nutritional value of the food I eat. Here's an article with more information if you're interested...

http://naturalbias.com/a-hidden-danger-with-nuts-grains-and-seeds/

And this article gives good information on the best way to prepare beans...

http://www.rebuild-from-depression.com/soaking-beans

Hope that's helpful to someone. :)

Patti

I wash then soak the beans

I wash then soak the beans and use the bean "liquor" to cook them in. Don't want to lose all those nutrients and flavor!

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