If you’ve avoided cooking beans at home because you’ve heard they are tricky, or can leave you feeling bloated and full of gas, then maybe it’s time for a rethink. Cooking beans is no more trouble than filling a pot of water and letting it simmer happily on the back burner all afternoon. In fact, that’s basically all it is.
Follow these few helpful hints and cook some tasty, creamy, totally tender beans at home.
Good Beans Take Time
Don’t rush, the first thing you need to realise about beans is that they take time. Once they’re on the stove and simmering, it can take anywhere from an hour to three hours (and occasionally longer) for them to become tender. The time it takes to cook depends on the age of the beans, the type and size, will affect the cooking time.
Don’t try to rush things by increasing the temperature under the pot; that just roughs up the outside of the beans, making them mushy long before they are properly cooked. It is not unusual if your beans are still crunchy after a few hours of cooking; just keep testing them as they can go from crunchy to creamy in the space of fifteen minutes. If in doubt, keep simmering and be patient.
Beans freeze! Two cups of dried beans will make about five cups of cooked beans, which is plenty for quick soups, burritos and salads. They also freeze beautifully, ensuring delicious beans whenever you need them.
Great Tips for Great Beans
- Soak the beans:Try to soak the beans if you have the time. It helps cut down the cooking time a bit, but even more importantly, pre-soaking helps the beans cook more evenly and become completely tender all the way through.
- Make sure you rinse off the water: If you did get the time to soak your beans, rinse off all the water thoroughly.
- Keep the beans at a simmer:Bring the beans to a boil at the very beginning of cooking to bring everything up to temperature, but then you want to keep the beans at a very gentle simmer for the rest of cooking. You should barely see movement in the water. Along with pre-soaking, simmering the beans gently helps them cook evenly until tender, retain their shape without going smooshy, and keep their skins intact.
- Keep changing the water to remove the sludge: When cooking beans, you may notice a foamy sludge starts to form on the top of the water. This is something that contributes to bloating and gas in the belly so you are best to get rid of the water and rise off the beans before boiling up some water and starting again. With some beans (depending on the age and type) this can happen a few times so don’t be put off by this process – your belly will thank you.
- Add salt when beans are nearly tender:Adding the salt at the beginning of cooking can prevent the starches in the beans from breaking down. The best time to add the salt is when the beans are almost finished cooking. When they are tender enough to eat but still too firm to really be enjoyable (aka, al dente), add the salt.