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13 Tips for Cooking Beans

Submitted by on Friday, 23 April 2010One Comment

beans1The flavor of canned beans isn’t as fresh and rich as home-soaked and cooked, nor is there as rich a variety available. Most importantly, canned beans can be contaminated from the plastic chemical bisphenol A leaching from the can lining. However, having some canned beans in your pantry for a quick dinner can be convenient, especially during power outages and other emergencies.

Soaking Overnight
All dried beans, except lentils and peas, need to be soaked–ideally overnight–to soften before cooking. Before soaking, wash the beans thoroughly. When soaking is complete, rinse the beans thoroughly.

Quick-Soak Method
If you forget to soak beans overnight, there is an alternative. Soak as long as possible, rinse, and then place in a pot and cover with water. Bring the beans to a rapid boil for 3-5 minutes, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for an hour. Wash the beans thoroughly, replenish the water with clean water, and proceed with the recipe. If soaked for a few hours before the quick boil, beans generally need only about half an hour of actual cooking time to reach the right texture and softness.

Pressure Cooker Method
To save time, use a pressure cooker to cook dried beans. They can be thoroughly cooked in a pressure cooker in about 15 or 20 minutes.

Tips
* Increase cooking and soaking time in hard water and in high-altitude areas
* Add 1/8 teaspoon baking soda ot the pot if you have hard water
* Add seasoning in the beginning; add salt only after the beans are tender.
* Acids slow the softening of beans. Add acid-based foods such as tomatoes as late in the cooking process as possible.
* Mexican cooks cook their beans with the herb epazote to reduce flatulence. Coriander, cumin, and ginger reportedly also have that effect.
* Add olive oil to the cooking water to reduce foaming and boiling over.
* Remove beans from heat and let cool in the cooking water ot prevent them from drying out.
* When beans and grains are combined, complete proteins are formed with all of the essential amino acids.
* Slow cookers do not simmer at high enough heat to cook beans, although it would seem like such a good idea! In truth, it would take 16 hours or more!
* As a rule of thumb, use 2 to 3 cups of water for each cup of beans.

–Adapted from True Food, by Annie B. Bond, Melissa Breyer, and Wendy Gordon (National Geographic, 2010).

By Annie B. Bond, the best-selling and award-winning author of five healthy/green living books, including Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999), Home Enlightenment, Clean & Green (1990), and most recently True Food (National Geographic, 2010 and winner of Gourmand Awards Best Health and Nutrition Cookbook in the World). She has authored literally thousands of articles and was named “the foremost expert on green living” by Body & Soul magazine (2009).

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