Tips for Cooking Dried Beans
by Charlotte Siems
Any good Southern cook knows how to cook beans. I grew up on pinto beans, usually served with homemade cornbread. We occasionally ate lima beans or navy beans, but the cooking principles are the same.
Beans are an inexpensive meal, and the beans can be re-purposed. Second-day pinto beans can morph into chili or refried beans, or they can be added to soups and casseroles. Navy beans make great white chili. In fact, most beans taste better the second time they are served.
Here are a few easy tips for tender, tasty homemade beans:
- Be sure to sort well. Removing rocks and dirt clods is always a good thing.
- Rinse beans well and place in pot. Fill cooking pot at least 2/3 full of water, making sure to cover beans and then some.
- Bring water and beans to a boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let sit for one hour. (You can usually skip this step with navy beans).
- Remove cover and bring beans to a boil. Add some sort of fat to tenderize the beans: a chunk of leftover ham, a ham bone, bacon, even a dollop of coconut oil, butter, lard or, in a pinch, shortening.
- Stir fairly frequently while cooking the beans. This releases the starch and helps thicken the liquid so you don’t end up with beans in a clear liquid (unless, of course, you prefer them that way).
- Be sure your beans aren’t too old. Old beans stay hard for longer than I care to cook them. We usually end up eating them in a firmer state with unhappy comments from the audience.
- Take care not to let the beans scorch while cooking! They smell terrible and it’s impossible to remove the scorched taste.
- Same goes for reheating: stir frequently and scrape the bottom of the pan, adding liquid as needed to prevent beans from boiling dry.
- I’ve been told that pressure-cooking beans takes just a few minutes and produces tender beans, but I’ve yet to try it. Go for it and let me know.
One of my daughters cuts an onion in half and throws it in the pot of boiling beans for extra flavor.
We usually serve plain beans with rice and either cornbread or biscuits. Beans plus a whole grain equals a complete protein.
Enjoy a good old-fashioned pot of beans as a home-cooked meal. Your food budget and your taste buds will both say “ahhh!”