How To Cook Dried Beans
A Little Attention To "Bean" Detail
Beans may not be gourmet food, but they surely can be really good food. Everyone has eaten beans. But, not everyone has eaten "really good beans." You know, nice texture, they aren't mushy and the skin is tender making for a welcomed mouthful in every bite. Did you know that all of these good qualities begin at the local grocery store? That's right, how you choose your beans is as important as how you cook them; which we will find takes just a little attention to bean detail.
cracked, chipped and split beans
How to Buy the "Best Quality Beans"
Finding the freshest beans solves many of the frustrations that come with cooking beans. A little known fact is that you should cook your beans within a one year period from the time they are harvested. But, how do you know how old a bean is when it is sold in bulk? It is as simple as taking a look at them. Beans that have been around for too long will be cracked, chipped and even can be split open.
Finding local beans or at least beans grown as close as possible to where you live, is the obvious solution to finding the freshest beans. You will find that any of the 'odd' or 'musty' taste some older beans offer will be absent from the more local choice. A difference you can only detect once you have tasted that difference. Remember; just like anything you buy to eat, the longer it is on the shelf, the more flavor slips away.
Really Good Quality Beans
Finding local fresh dried beans could be a bit of a chore. Some areas may be 'bean farm' free or don't provide a great local environment to grow the legumes we seek. But, if you familiarize yourself with when they are picked (harvested), buy right from your local farmer or read packaging that offers information as to where and when your beans were processed, you can enhance your bean experience significantly.
When none of the fresh bean options seem to be optimal for you, a simple way to find the freshest beans in your day could be to buy the bulk beans. But, only buy from a grocer with a high turn over without cracked, chipped or split product. The more beans the grocer sells, the more often he has to purchase them, and this translates to finding the freshest local beans for your dinner table.
Techniques For Adding Flavor, Reducing Gas and Cooking Beans
The Importance Of Adding Fat To Bean Recipes
A bean is a carbohydrate ninja that is high in fiber and protein. The Bean is happiest when we add a little fat to the mix. These powerhouses of cholesterol extraction can taste a bit bland if left to their own flavor profiles. To choreograph the most flavor into your bean recipe use a couple tablespoons of lard or extra-virgin olive oil (I prefer olive oil because olive oil itself will help your body extract bad LDL cholesterol with the help of the fiber in your beans ). Simmering your beans in fat causes the starches to smooth-out and makes for a great mouth feel with the added bonus of bean flavor enhancement!
Adding Great Flavor To Bean Recipes
Now that we understand that beans like to have the company of fat as they cook, what are some other ways to infuse flavor into our bean dishes? A very common way to add a rich smokey base to beans is also very inexpensive. By dropping a couple of smoked ham-hocks into the water while your beans cook you can build a very flavorful broth; crispy-cooked bacon works beautifully as well, but add the bacon after the beans have cooked—bacon contains a lot of salt which can toughen the bean skins as they cook.
Getting All Of The Flavor From Your Beans
Another great flavor adding technique is to sauté some diced onion, garlic, celery and carrots (and mushrooms on occasion) in a separate pan until they are good and caramelized. Once the onion mixture is nice and dark, de-glaze the pan with a bit of water (or sodium free broth). Scrape the bottom of the pan to get all of the brown-bits off of the bottom, and bring to a boil again. Now, turn off the heat and add the sautéed vegetables and liquid to your bean pot and cook the mixture with your beans. The brown bits that are created by the sauté add a super tasty punch of flavor to the bean base. (Remember, no salt until your beans are cooked through, this includes your sautéed vegetable mixture!)
...it is quite important to cook beans completely and thoroughly.
Reducing the "GAS" Brought on by Bean Consumption:
How To Reduce The Gas Caused By Beans
Along with our carbo ninja comes a less comfortable condition, gas build-up. Beans can cause some difficulty with digestion. When beans pass through our lower intestine, bacteria breaks-down what our digestive enzymes cannot, causing gas. The temptation to over soak our beans to combat this gas problem can also remove much of the nutrients and flavor. Instead, slow cook your beans. This breaks down the beans carbohydrates into digestible sugars. I have discovered over many years of making beans, it is quite important to cook beans completely and thoroughly over a very low heat.
WHAT YOU THINK REALLY DOES MATTER!
WHAT BEAN IS YOUR FAVORITE?See results without voting
Herbs That Reduce Gas Caused By Eating Beans
Digestion concerns have been dealt with in some cultures with the use of herbs. For example, East Indians add turmeric or ginger, and Mexican cooks use epazote, an herb that is used in Mexican cuisine for cooking as well as for medicinal purposes. Epazote is poisonous in large quantities, but it is used in moderation to help relieve abdominal discomfort (gassiness) that can come from eating beans. A few other choices may be:
- Basil (the king of herbs)
- Asafetida - a pungent herb used also as an antidote for flatulence and is also prescribed for respiratory conditions like asthma, bronchitis and whooping cough.
You can dice, julienne, or chop your herbs, however leaving fresh herbs on their sprigs during cooking and removing them before service renders a much higher level of flavor.
Pre-soaking Lentle Beans Is Not Necessary
6 Techniques For Cooking Beans (Reminders)
- Cook on a gentle simmer Cook thoroughly
- Cook in a wide pot
- Each bean needs room to cook without being crushed
- Hard boiling your beans will end up causing them to over expand and split open
- Peel and add whole, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and fennel (rough chop your fennel)
Do not pre-soak lentils , they are an exception, as they cook very quickly...
The ABC's Of Cooking The Best Beans
a. Sort beans on a baking sheet. Pick out clumps of dirt, small stones, and discolored, split, or cracked beans.
b. Rinse the beans in a colander under cold running water.
c. Soak dried beans in cold water, covered by at least three inches, for a minimum of six hours or overnight. (The length of time the beans soak effects their cooking time. The longer beans soak, the less time they take to cook; but remember, if over-soaked you will lose some of the flavor and more importantly, nutrients.)
d. Discard soaking water, rinse, and drain beans again.
e. Put beans in a heavy-bottomed, oven-safe pot. A wide pot, not a deep and narrow one, is the best pot for cooking beans; you want the beans to cook evenly without getting crushed.
f. Add cold water to cover the beans by two inches. Bring to gentle boil then turn down to a low simmer. Add seasonings. (I do not recommend adding salt until the beans have cooked through, it can cause the outer skin to become tough and unpleasant on the tongue.)
g. Either simmer very gently on the stove-top, or cover and bake in a 300°F oven until the beans are tender. Sample several beans (I do a 5 bean test that has proven effective) before you make this determination; they may cook unevenly. Beans may take anywhere from 40 minutes to 2½ hours to cook, depending on the type and how old they are. Check them as they cook. If the water level has fallen below the beans, add boiling water until they are covered again.
h. Remove beans from the heat and remove the lid from the pot. This is the stage I add salt—the beans are cooked through so the salt won't cause any toughening of the bean skins— and allow beans to cool in their liquid; as they sit, the beans absorb the salt slowly. Check the salt level again after about 30 minutes. As they cool, the beans may swell a little more, and their texture may improve.
Tips for your "BEANS"
Do not presoak lentils, they cook very quickly—sometimes in as little as 20 or 30 minutes. For lentils, proceed with the basic cooking method outlined while omitting the soaking step. When the lentils have finished cooking, drain them immediately. Do not allow lentils to cool in their cooking liquid; they will continue cooking and become very mushy and that does not make for a tasty bean.
NOTE: The above method, which employs soaking before cooking, works well for dried beans that require a long cooking time, such as black-eyed peas, kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, cannellini beans, cranberry beans, and pinto beans. (Not lentils.)
How to Measuring Beans
One 15-ounce can of beans
One and one-half cups cooked beans, drained
One pound dry beans
Six cups cooked beans, drained
One pound dry beans
Two cups dry beans
One cup dry beans
Three cups cooked beans, drained
STORING AND MEASURING BEANS
- Uncooked dry-packaged beans can be stored in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry area.
- If kept for more than 12 months, dry-packaged beans will lose moisture and may require longer cooking times.
- Canned beans may be stored up to 12 months in their original sealed cans.
- Cooked beans may be refrigerated, in a covered container, for up to five days.
- Cooked beans may be frozen for up to six months.
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