Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: How to cook dried beans so they're tender but not falling apart
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.
With the slow cooker, it's basically a foolproof way to get perfect-tasting beans!
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!
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, 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.
A bean and rice burrito from last weekend. I'll be sharing a burrito tutorial tomorrow! :)
Related kitchen tips:
Using dried legumes (includes cooking times)
Cheaper Baked Beans (tips)
Cheaper Chili (tips)
Mexican Food Highlights (recipes + photos)
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