Update: Please note that dried beans cooked in the slow cooker have a potential toxicity, as explained here. To be safe, you need to boil beans for 10 minutes. Thanks to a commenter for pointing this out, as I wasn’t aware of this potential risk!
I have been wanting to cook more of my own beans lately. Mark Bittman’s book Food Matters inspired me, with his descriptions of how nutritious and tasty beans can be when you cook them yourself. Dried beans are supposed to have a better flavor and texture than canned beans, and you can control the salt content. They’re much more economical, too. In his book, Bittman describes how to freeze cooked beans, and with the little freezer out in the garage, I have no excuses.
Well, I have one. It just seemed so time-consuming to cook dried beans, between soaking them and then boiling them for several hours. I never seemed to get around to it.
So I started researching how to use my slow cooker to cook the beans. With the slow cooker, I figured I could either let them cook overnight or during the day even if I had to leave the house. It turns out that it is not at all difficult to cook dried beans in the slow cooker. In fact, it’s not that much different than cooking them on the stovetop, except you don’t have to monitor them as much.
Here’s the method:
- Rinse the beans and pick over them for stones.
- Soak the beans in a good amount of cold water in the refrigerator for several hours. I let them soak all day, with the intention of cooking them overnight.
- Drain the beans and rinse again. The water was fairly dirty, so I do think the soaking step is necessary.
- Put the beans in the slow cooker with plenty of fresh, cold water to cover by at least an inch.
- Cook on low for 8 hours. I let mine cook while I slept. I didn’t add any seasoning because I figured I would season them when I used them in the final dish. The beans turned out tender but not mushy, and even without seasoning, they were very tasty, so I think it is true that dried beans taste better than canned.
Some notes: 1 cup of dried beans results in approximately 2-3 cups of cooked beans, depending on the type of bean.
I used cannellini beans, which are my favorite type of bean and very versatile. They are often used in Italian cooking, and they go well in soups, salads, dips, pasta dishes and with sausage, so I figured I would get a lot of mileage out of a batch. Different kinds of beans may require different cooking times, and you also have to take into consideration the dish that the beans are destined for. For instance, you may want to stop the cooking after about 5-6 hours if the beans are then going into a long-cooking soup or chili, where they will get the chance to cook more. Tougher beans may need up to 12 hours to cook. I found that 8 hours resulted in a very tender bean, so I may shorten the cooking time to 7 hours for a firmer result. Ideally, I should start tasting the beans every half-hour or so after 5-6 hours and keep notes on the best cooking times for different kinds of beans. Of course, this strategy doesn’t work when cooking the beans overnight, but 8 hours seems like a safe cooking time in most cases.
Store the beans in their own liquid in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. I found that the cooked beans actually kept longer than leftover canned beans in the fridge. To freeze, divide into portions, such as 1 or 2 cups. Freeze in freezer bags with their cooking liquid, pressing out as much air as possible.
Related articles by Zemanta
- Recipe Basics: How to Cook Beans in the Slow Cooker (thekitchn.com)
- Review: Food Matters (simplycooking.wordpress.com)