Food / Water

10 Tips Everyone Should Know About How to Cook Dry Beans

I was cooking some dry beans (black and pinto) when I realized there may be some things you didn’t know about doing so. As such, the following is just some quick info about how to cook dry beans that I’ve found over the years:

How to Cook Dry Beans

  1. Dry beans expand when soaked to about 2-2.5 times their size. Be sure to cover them with PLENTY of water (especially if soaking overnight) so that they expand evenly and that no beans are “left high and dry.”
  2. Sort beans prior to cooking to remove “bad” beans and small stones. I have failed to do this in the past and wound up trying to eat stones… they’re not very tasty. 🙁
  3. Remove “floater” beans–the beans that float in water when soaked–as they tend not to cook so well. That might not be entirely factual but it’s my suspicion and, besides, there MUST be something wrong with them if they’re not conforming to majority rule… maybe they’re “prepper” beans. 😉
  4. Most beans fully hydrate within 4-8 hours but can easily soak overnight for best results. You *could* even soak most beans for a few hours and then cook them longer if you’re short on time but I find it’s best to soak for at least a handful of hours.
  5. Soak beans overnight to reduce gas. I recently looked this up but it seems that soaking them activates the germination process which releases enzymes to breakdown complex sugars that are generally the cause of flatulence. Who knew!?
  6. Add a pinch of baking soda when cooking if you have hard water to make them softer.
  7. Do NOT cook beans in the water they were soaking in; rinse beans thoroughly until the water runs nice and clear before cooking. This not only helps to remove any leftover dirt or residue stuck to the beans but, more importantly, washes away the stuff that cause the aforementioned gastrointestinal issues.
  8. Do NOT add salt to the beans until they’re cooked. If you add salt while they’re cooking they won’t absorb the water they’re being cooked in which tends to result in harder beans. There’s actually chemistry-related reasons for this and has to do with an imbalance of sodium (the salt) on the “wrong’ side of the bean. In other words, just don’t salt them until they’re fully cooked.
  9. Cook beans covered (and on simmer) with about an inch or more of water to get them to cook without drying out or burning the bottom of the pot. I used to cook beans uncovered but they tended to dry out and even burn! Keeping a lid on it “recycles” the water and even makes them cook a bit faster, in my opinion. While You’re at it, consider removing the foam that results while beans are being cooked to improve taste and reduce cleanup if it boils over. I’ve had this happen too many times!
  10. Season beans ONLY after they’re been fully cooked. I think the reason is similar to NOT adding salt but I’m not entirely sure why you’re supposed to wait to add other seasonings besides salt, to be honest.

That’s my thoughts on what everyone should know about how to cook dry beans. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.

How to Cook Dry Beans
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By Damian Brindle

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18 replies on “10 Tips Everyone Should Know About How to Cook Dry Beans”

Dried beans cooked in a cast iron Dutch oven are the “crack” of the bean world. I have tried beans in a crock pot but they just didn’t have the same flavor. A regular Dutch oven works too. I season mine with chili powder, onion, smoked ham hock, cracked pepper, sometimes a little red pepper, fresh garlic to taste and later some cilantro to taste. I like my beans firm so I add my salt about 30 minutes to an hour before the beans are done.
What is a thermal cooker??

It seems like beans go “bad” after a year at regular temps here in S. TX, I distinctly remember buying these navy beans but they have been cooking all day in the crockpot, and now on the stove (with some baking powder to soften them) and are still hard as a rock…. hum, I do like the clues, but I think you would have to live in Canada to keep beans for 20 years.

After only one year? Makes me wonder… several years, yes, I can see that dried beans can go bad. Personally, we’ve used beans after a handful of years without problem and 20 years is likely possible under the right conditions.

Please don’t laugh about my questions concerning beans. I’ve only had beans a few times so I’m not all that familiar with the cooking and seasoning. Is it alright to use a slow cooker to cook beans after all the soaking and rinsing? If so, about how long would it take to properly cook beans? Also, one reason I haven’t had beans very often is I simply don’t care for that bean taste. They would, however, be good in a SHTF situation. So how could I season the beans to mask some of that “beany” taste. All ideas would be welcome and thank you ahead of time.

No problem about the questions. I only cook dry beans in a pot so I can’t say from personal experience about using a slow cooker. I know there are people who do (you could search Google for advice) but I would always soak beans before cooking them, overnight if possible. You might be tempted to both soak and then cook beans in a slow cooker but I would advise against doing so for the reason noted above regarding NOT cooking beans in the water you soaked them with. As for cooking times? I’d imagine it’s like most slow cooker meals… all day long. 🙂 As for seasoning? If you really don’t like beans THAT much then I wouldn’t recommend relying on them for SHTF as you likely won’t want to eat them even then.

Good article. I soak beans overnight and drain/refill, then bring them to a boil and boil them 15 minutes, then place them in our thermal cooker, which surrounds the pot acting like a thermos jug. If they are not done after 8-10 hours, I reheat the beans and place them in the thermal cooker overnight. The second phase is only needed for very old, dry beans. I also add baking soda, and a teaspoon of wormwood leaves, which is said to reduce flatulence.

Now that’s an even better plan! I quite enjoy thermal cooking… awfully surprised I’ve never tried beans. Maybe just because I figured they would take too long. Going to have to try this one day and see how it works out as it sure beats heating up the house when I don’t have to!

Any FACTUAL information available about how long dry beans keep? I’m referring to the “best by” dates on packaging. I have read that older beans are hard and no amount of soaking will soften them.

Can’t say I’ve ever tried to soak and cook REALLY old beans; beans that are, say, 20 years old. Of course, I’d imagine this largely depends on the type of bean and storage conditions. If you search the trusty Net I’d imagine you can find some info on cooking older dry beans but anecdotal evidence that I’ve read suggests 5-10 years is about the max. I know I once posted an article (probably deleted it by now) where I talked about trying to cook 30 year old pinto beans that my mother-in-law had stashed away… they never did fully cook properly and had to be tossed out.

Pressure cookers. You can reduce the cooking time to about 40 minutes if you use a pressure cooker, and that’s if you don’t pre-soak the beans. If you soak them, cooking time will be shorter, about 30 minutes. Great article. I didn’t know about soaking removing the gas causing sugars. Nice to know.

Pressure cookers are a wonderful invention, aren’t they? If you can spare the time then using a “wonderbox” or thermal cooker is another great way to cook many foods, even beans as another commenter pointed out.

Good info. Being a single mom, we ate a lot of beans and ham for dinner. My kids loved cornbread and beans for dinner! I used to soak them over night then put them in the crock pot before going to work. I never thought about removing floating beans or that really rinsing them off well helped reduce the oh so famous side effects. See? It’s information like this that allow people to glean more information. No one ever knows it all. Thanks! Now, if I could only get my husband to eat them! He didn’t grow up with beans and ham hocks as a kid. He’ll eat homemade chili with beans, but say “no” to pinto beans. Guess he doesn’t notice that I use kidney and black beans in my chili. LOL!

The first thing that came to mind was to hide the pinto beans in his soups or chili here and there and then subtly reveal the fact that you’ve been adding pinto beans to his meals for years and he never objected. You could even go so far as to start to make things like refried beans from pinto beans and not tell him. 😉

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