Friday, June 11

Minimalist Cooking: How to cook beans

My husband is between jobs right now, so my cooking situation is rather ... interesting, to say the least. I try to cook meals with almost no ingredients. I think of this as minimalist cooking.

I have a pantry full of beans, given to me by a generous neighbor. When she first gave them to me, I had no idea how to cook beans. I vaguely knew that you soaked them, then boiled them for a while, then added seasonings and things, and you had beans. Right?

Turns out it's not that easy. I ruined many pots of beans, and we had several meals of boring, bland, crunchy beans. I learned to make toast or rice as a side to my beans, since they usually turned out better than the beans did.

I scoured the internet for tips on making beans, recipes, pictures, anything. And I finally found a fool-proof method of making beans.

The slow-cooker.

Dump in your dry beans and enough water to cover them, then set it on high and cook the heck out of them for about eight hours. Keep checking them as they cook, because some kinds of beans cook faster than others. Pink and pintos are very nice, and get done in four to six hours. Red and black beans have to go for eight or ten.

There's a commonly-held misconception that adding salt to dry beans will make them take longer to cook. This is not true. I read an article (somewhere) about how salt does nothing to toughen the fibers of beans, and actually if you put salt in them while they're soaking/cooking, they absorb it and have better flavor. I've been putting salt in mine ever since, and some kinds of beans cook slower and some cook faster. It depends on the bean, not the salt content.

Also, cooking them with some chopped onions and garlic gives them a wonderful flavor base. Cooking them with other seasonings afterward doesn't always instill bland beans with flavor, so you want to put in the flavor early on.

So, to cook beans:

1 slow cooker
2 cups dry beans
4 cups water (adding more as needed)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 small chopped onion
1-3 cloves chopped garlic

Put the cooker on High and check it periodically to make sure the beans don't run out of water.


Farm Girl said...

I am so glad you wrote out your recipe now I might be able to make beans, that aren't bland, and crunchy. It sounds wonderful. I can't wait to make a crockpot of beans!

Meg said...

I made some the other day using chicken broth (from bouillon) rather than just water. Turned out most excellent.

Crock pot is the way to go!


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