Cooking time can vary from bean to bean and can be manipulated by the age of the bean, quality of the bean, and size of the bean. The one thing that all beans have in common however, is that time is their best friend. Don’t rush cooking beans. If you love beans and love fresh beans (not those can imposters) as much as we do at 21st Century Bean, then your patience will be rewarded.
Don’t try to rush things by increasing the temperature under the pot; that just roughs up the outside of the beans and makes the beans become mushy and unpleasant. Likewise, don’t think you’ve done something wrong if your beans are still crunchy after a few hours of cooking. I’ve found that some beans can be tricky and go from a crunchy finish to creamy in a matter of minutes. Simmering is your friend, and if you’re ever in doubt, just keep it at a simmer until the beans are ready to go.
Be patient. Pick a morning or afternoon where you are at home doing chores or relaxing watching a movie. Allow the beans a full spa makeover. One pound of dried beans makes about five cups of cooked beans, which is plenty for quick soups, burritos, salads, and other delicious meals for the week ahead. Those beans also are freezer friendly, ensuring delicious beans on hand at all times.
SOAKING: Despite other posts and complaints that soaking beans is a terrible way to prep beans, I firmly believe that soaking allows for the best to come out of the beans. Soaking somewhat helps trim down the cooking time. More importantly, however, pre-soaking helps the beans cook more evenly and become completely tender all the way through. It also helps clean the beans and remove the scum that has built up on the dried beans. A good soak will be between 12-24 hours, overnight is best, but no more than 24 to be safe and not cause molding.
Hard Water will slow down the cooking process or bring it to a complete halt, as the beans will not become tender. If you are having trouble getting dry beans to become tender, try using distilled water or adding 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of beans. You also won’t want to add any acidic ingredients such as tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar, or wine until the beans are tender.
What is the scum you may ask? It is the anti-nutrients; not what you want in your diet. And those anti-nutrients such as phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors are what cause unbearable gas, heartburn, acid reflux and whatever other digestive ills beset you when you eat something that isn’t easily digestible. Soaking helps prevent this. Traditional cultures were the first to take great care to prepare their legumes by soaking them before cooking, enhancing their nutritional benefits and overall quality.
SIMMERING: At the start of the cooking process, bringing the water to a boil brings everthing up to temperature, but then a simmer helps ensure the beans are being properly cooked. Simmering helps the beans cook thoroughly and prevent a mushy texture to the finish product. Just keep patient through the process and your beans will be the talk of the town.
SEASONING: Legumes are not like rice or other starches that you boil. Adding salt or other seasoning to the start of the process can prevent the beans starches from breaking down causing a firm finished product. When the beans are al-dente, as they say, then add some salt to the procedure. Trust me that will help the beans get the tenderness and taste that you enjoy.