Everyone knows that dried beans are more cost-effective than their helpfully canned and pre-cooked cousins, but often we side with convenience and stock up on cans, because we can’t be bothered. This is fine, and this is, to be honest, usually how I do my shopping too.
However, I have been trying to cook more dried beans lately, because it’s nagging at me more and more that while I’m paying $1.75 for a can of lower-salt black beans, I could pay less for a 16oz bag of those same beans and end up with more final yield and much better taste – and because I find things like this just THAT much fun (no, I’m not being sarcastic).
If you’re feeding a family of five or trying to conserve some of that student loan so you can take a trip to Berlin at the end of the year, dried beans are your new best friend. Seriously. They’re, on average, about 75% cheaper than their tinned peers, and though the whole process of soaking and pre-cooking can take anywhere from 4 hours to a whole day, there’s very little to actually do: it’s more like just hours and hours of doing something else while these guys get treated, much like a bored husband waiting for his wife to get out of the hairdresser’s .
One of the biggest hurdles to engaging in the wonderful world of dried beans, however, is just not quite knowing how do deal with them….but never fear! An Idiot’s Guide to Cooking Dried Beans is here!
First, get your beans. As you can see, in Spanish, black beans are “frijoles negro”, and they’re very “nutritos”.
Next, cut a corner from the bag and pour all the beans (or as many as you want to cook, but I find doing the whole bag is more efficient) into a large bowl – or a casserole dish, if you like.
Sift through the beans, looking for any cracked, broken beans, any that look a bit suspect, and any random bits of dirt and crap that might have found their way into the bag. I like to call this “giving them the eye”. Discard the dodgy ones.
Here are some examples of beans that you might want to discard. Let’s call them The Usual Suspects.
Next, put your beans into a large pan, and fill this pan with hot water. The water should be at least 2 inches above the level of the dried beans. Some beans will float to the top; fish these out and discard them also, as they are bad beans and will not cook.
Leave the beans to soak for a minimum of 2 hours. Soaking them overnight can both make it easier to cook them the next day and remove some of the fart gas that will otherwise transfer to you when you eat them. Really! After they’re done soaking, drain the beans well and rinse them.
Place the drained beans back into the pan, and cover with the same amount of water again. A pan with a tight-fitting lid is best for this, but I like to set the lid just slightly off, to leave a little gap. This is to avoid the dreaded “I went for a pee and my cooking boiled over and now it’s going to take an hour to clean the hob” situation.
Bring to the boil, then bring down to a simmer. On top of the water will be a strange kind of foam; this is perfectly normal.
Just skim the foam off (preferably with a slotted spoon, not with a wooden spoon – that was a stupid idea) and throw it away. Or, alternatively, gross out a friend or housemate with it.
When the water is simmering, cover properly and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the beans are tender. When they’re fully cooked, drain the beans one more time.
You can either use these beans straight away, or, if you’ve cooked a huge batch, you can divide them between freezer bags and tupperware and store them in the fridge or freezer. I like to divide them into 1-cup servings, and put some in tupperware to be used within the week, and some in freezer bags to be kept in the freezer.
And there you have it: the world’s easiest method for cooking dried beans. Not only will your pockets be straining with all the extra cash, you’ll also be avoiding all those strange amounts of sugar and salt that are used as preservatives, and you’ll have to do less recycling of those pesky tin cans. And they’re more delicious! Everyone’s a winner!
Hooray, the humble bean!