Beans, beans... The musical fruit...

ritaotayFebruary 1, 2008

Sorry, couldn't resist... But I do have a question about beans... How do you cook them so they stay in one piece... I've bought canned pork and beans ( not any more ), canned chili beans, bottled pinto beans and canned baked beans and all of them contain whole beans... When I cook beans either they turn to mush or most of them split open... If I stop cooking them while they're still whole they're too hard to eat... lol

I have to learn how to cook them the right way... Hubby loves his beans and I can no longer buy canned ( I won't pay twice as much for 'no added salt' when the dry beans are so cheap )... I have better ways to waste my money... lol

I don't really need recipes, I've made chili and baked beans from scratch and they tasted great, mushy but great... Well, when the texture isn't right the taste isn't as good... But anyway... I need to know how to cook them the right way.

Oh, another question, with baked beans do you add all the other ingredients to the dry ( soaked over night ) beans then pop them in the oven or precook the beans on the stove then add the other stuff and bake?


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1. Make sure you are using enough cooking water in the pot. Enough to cover the beans and then 2-inches more. They need some room to move around in.

2. Bring SLOWLY to a boil (forget cranking the fire on high), remove the foamy scum, then turn the beans down to a simmer. Add more water as necessary. It sounds like you are boiling them for the entire cooking time. Don't over-cook them.

3. Cook beans until barely tender if you are going to use them in another recipe.

4. You may have better luck cooking them in a pressure pan.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 6:28AM
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Also, don't add salt to the cooking water or use a salty broth to cook them in. Makes the skins of the beans tough. Have each individual diner salt them to taste on their plates.

Healthier that way, too.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 9:03AM
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My grandmother used to take a spoonful out of the pan when they were nearing done and blow on them...if the skins wrinkled she called them done.
I taste them.
I think the clue is to not have them on a furious boil...
Linda C

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 9:40AM
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I forgot to add... I "cook" beans in a thermos (steel-cut oats, wheat and other grains as well). Two thirds cup of dried beans = approx. 2 c. cooked beans, which is what a 1-pound can has in it. Saves a lot of cooking time and cooking energy. The overnight method is simple to do.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 9:47AM
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Er...How do you cook beans in a thermos??

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 10:25AM
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Adding cold water to beans while cooking causes splitting.

To help "de-gas" beans bring to a boil, turn flame off & put on a tight fitting lid & let set an hour. Pour into a colander, drain all liquid & rinse in HOT water. Add fresh HOT water and simmer a long time. I cook 'em nearly all day in an iron pot 'cause we like really thick 'juice'.

Learned this from an elderly neighbor lady who cooked dried beans EVERY day while raising 10 children.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 10:26AM
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Cooking Beans In a Thermos

Choose a quality thermos, such as a Stanley. Plastic, lunch box type thermos bottles are not adequate for the task.

To make 2 c. "cooked" beans, soak 2/3 c. dry beans in water for 6-8 hours (or overnight).

After the beans have soaked and you are ready to "cook" them, prepare your thermos by filling it with hot tap water and placing the lid on it to heat the thermos (this step is a MUST!). Set aside. Bring water to a boil. Drain the hot tap water from the thermos, add the soaked and drained beans. Add enough boiling water to fill the thermos. Secure the top. Shake gently once or twice, then lay the thermos on it's side (this step is a MUST!). Another gentle shake to make sure they are evenly distributed. Leave overnight (or all day - depending on when you start them). Check after 4-6 hours (depending on the type of bean you are using) to see if the beans are done. If not, drain the liquid and add boiling water again and allow to sit for another hour or two.

Another source says:
If cooking grains, use two parts water to one part grain - 2:1 water to grain ratio.

If cooking legumes, use three parts water to one-part beans, lentils, etc. - 3:1 ratio.

Take care not to add too much because the beans/grains expand and won't have enough room for proper cooking.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 11:53AM
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Also, Navy beans hold together better than Northern beans, if you like white beans.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 12:11PM
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You've already gotten good advice so I won't add but had to say that your Subject Title gave me a real good chuckle for the day!:)

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 12:36PM
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Grainlady: More good advice !

Suzi : Good tips here too.
I could rocket around the house a few times,
If I didn't do this.

Everybody added something good !

I soak them overnight, then cook them slow.

Rita : That was a, Have to take a look " Title "
Where have you been ???

And ! You never have enough recipes. I have one for Baked Beans for you !
I made this every time we went hunting.
I never ate it until, I was done hunting for the day.
The other guys ate it for lunch, and wondered why they didn't see any deer.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 1:26PM
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Grainlady, you have such interesting techniques to share. I really like the thermos idea. No jostling about for the beans at all.

I just got the latest Cook's Illustrated and they advocated an interesting technique too. They were working on a Tuscan Bean Stew with cannellini beans. They ended up soaking the beans overnight in a salt solution. Supposedly the salt soak tenderizes the skins (The salt water is rinsed away before cooking). To solve the exploding beans problem, they advocated baking the beans at 250 degreese (with all the flavorings except tomatoes & salt) after bringing them to a simmer on the stovetop. The said the baking method produced "...perfectly cooked beans that stayed intact."

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 1:48PM
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Grainlady, I'll have to try the thermos cooking next time, wanted the beans for tonight...

Dixiedog, glad I could help... lol

Lou... LOL... I've been lurking, not enough time to post.

Shambo, I used to soak the beans in baking soda water but I couldn't find a reference as to just how much sodium the beans retain... ( Hubby is on a salt restricted 'diet'. )

Ok, first off I'm using Great Northern beans today and was shooting for baked beans... I soaked them over night in cold filtered water and this morning rinsed in fresh filter water... Since no one said not to add other ingredients I added a bit of pork stock, a good pinch of dried minced onions and a carrot to the fresh filtered water... Brought the un-salted water to a boil, reduced the heat and added the beans, covered the pot and simmered on low ( electric stove )... BTW, no scum...

I just checked them... Took a spoonful and blew on them... The skins split wide open and the beans are still hard, you can eat them but... Well canned beans are a lot softer... Oh, and the skins are tough too, even though I didn't add salt...

I certainly can't cook them all day or I'll end up with bean puree... And I'm afraid baked beans are out because if I cook them for a 3 or 4 hours in the oven I'll end up with flavored bean paste... lol

I've turned off the burner and the beans are still holding together, as long as I don't take them out of the liquid... Think I should stick them in the oven with the tomato puree, molasses and spices and still try for baked beans or just add some veggies and call it soup? lol


    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 2:31PM
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Rita, the salt soak is something I probably wouldn't ever do either. For the same reason you have. While we're talking about beans, would you mind sharing your recipe for baked beans?

Chili without salt is easy. Because of all the spices & flavorings, it tastes good & no one feels deprived. However, I've had trouble getting a good flavor for baked beans. I love traditional baked beans with just a touch of sweetness, mustard, & some sort of smoked pork product. But it just doesn't seem to work well without the ham or bacon and salt. What's your secret?

I do have a good recipe for barbecued beans that tastes really good without added salt. It uses the no-salt ketchup along with other flavorings.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 3:48PM
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Man this is one awesome posting! Ladies please keep it going. I absolutely love great beans but have had limited success in cooking them either for just having great beans or as the start of something special like a certain ladies chili on this forum.
Anyway some thing that you ladies taught me early in my quest to learn to make edible food dishes was associated with dried beans and you were absolutely 100% correct!! See, I do listen, LOL
I thought dried beans were just that, dry! You could store them for years, no problem. I don't remember who said basically that this was BS!
She was exactly right. Buy the dried beans from someplace that has a BIG turnover (fresher beans) and leave those store specials alone.
I used to think getting those 2 or 3 pound bags were a great deal for a "2 for 1 price" and sometimes they were fine but it was so random that I never associated bad ones with being old! Then I would shove them in a cubbord for God knows how long and wonder why my beans never would be easy to cook or edible.
That is one of the MAIN things I learned here! I didn't see anyone say anything so I thought I better blow it into the conversation (no pun intended,LOL).
It is however very true, buy them FRESH.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 4:51PM
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changling - A way to tell if you are getting new or old pinto beans is the color. The lighter the color, the newer they are. When they get older, they look darker - like they have a layer of varnish on them.

I've never done this because I basically don't cook in a microwave, but you can cook dried beans in a microwave...

(Source: Country Beans - by Rita Bingham)

Wash and sort a pound of dry beans. Place beans and 8 cups of water in 5-quart casserole, along with any seasonings called for in the recipe. Microwave at full power 8-10 minutes or until boiling. Cover with plastic wrap and/or casserole lid. Let stand 1 hour.

Stir several times and add hot water as needed to keep beans covered as they absorb the soaking water. Cook at full power again 20 minutes; reduce powder level to 50% and cook another 30-40 minutes or until tender.

Beans may also be soaked using the overnight or quick method, then cooked full power for 8-10 minutes or until boiling, then at 50% power 20-40 minutes or until tender.

NOTE: Boilovers are common using the microwave and I have not found that this method saves any cooking time.

Cooking Tips from the same book:

- If a recipe calls for lemon juice, vinegar or tomatoes, wait until the beans are almost tender before adding them, as the acid in these items slows the softening process (unless using a pressure cooker).

- At high altitudes or in hard water areas, increase both the soaking time and the cooking time, as necessary (or use distilled or reverse osmosis water which is mineral-free).

- Gently simmer beans to prevent them from bursting, causing floating skins which should be skimmed off the soup/stew.

- Two to three teaspoons of oil or butter added during cooking reduces foaming and boil-overs.


    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 6:01PM
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I sure don't get the problems....I think beans are the simplest of things to cook. The only times I have had any sort of a problem is when I have had a bag of black beans that were about 2 years old....and eventually they got done.
Linda C

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 6:19PM
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I sure don't get the problems....I think beans are the simplest of things to cook. The only times I have had any sort of a problem is when I have had a bag of black beans that were about 2 years old....and eventually they got done.
Linda C

    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 9:13PM
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Changeling, the best thing to do with old beans is to donate them to a kindergarten or PE teacher to use in making bean bags (for throwing). Or better yet, if you sew, make the teacher some bean bags using your scrap fabrics and those beans!

That's what I did when I cleaned out my kitchen cabinets this past summer before the remodel. I found 2 bags of old beans, and made bean bags for my classroom. We've had more fun with them this year!


    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 9:36PM
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Went with the baked beans...

They ended up looking good, smelling good and apparently they tasted good, hubby ate them all... He didn't even notice that he only had about 2 oz of meat on his plate... LOL

My biggest problem in cooking beans was that the skins always came off, you'd get a mouthful of skins and your next mouthful was mushy beans... Looks like just simmering them solved that problem... One of the things I learned today... You just can't hurry beans and have them come out right...

When I replied to my post I said the skins where starting to split and the beans were still hard and not more than 10 minutes later the were soft... Guess it took longer to cook them because they were old... As I said, blowing on the beans, to check for doneness, didn't work for me but that might be because of my cigarette breath ( lol )... The other thing I learned today, you can not hurry old beans... LOL

As for a recipe... I didn't really follow one, sorry Shambo... I just did a search for baked beans and added the things most recipes had, onions ( I used dried because hubby won't eat anything with fresh onions or any kind of garlic ), brown sugar, molasses and something with tomatoes... In fact the only thing I measured was the tomato puree, I used the Hunt's, which has 100 mg of sodium in a 1/4 cut so that's all I used... Oh, when I started cooking the beans I added about a cup and a half of pork stock... Last week I used the meat, minus the fat, from some country ribs, for something else, and made stock out of the bones and bits of meat with the fat, cooked it all down, picked the tiny bits of meat off and added it to the strained 'juice' and stuck it in the freezer... Just before adding it to the water, for the beans, I scraped off the hardened fat...


    Bookmark   February 1, 2008 at 10:05PM
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Rita, thanks for the guidelines. I really like your idea of home made pork stock. I'll have to remember that. I bet it will make a big difference in flavor. And my husband would also enjoy the little bits of meat. The tomatoes probably made a difference too. When you're low on salt, something acidic really helps punch up the flavor. That's why I use vinegar now in all kinds of dishes. I've got some powdered & liquid hickory smoke flavor at hand. Maybe I could add just a touch to replicate the taste of ham or bacon.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 12:32AM
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Well the pork stock was an accident... Sorta... When I used to make spareribs I'd save the unflavored 'juice' for soup... Now, since hubby has to restrict his fats, I end up wasting a lot of meat when I trim off all the fat... When I read Michelle's post and all the fantastic responses I put two and two together.... Save the trimmings and make stock! lol

Well, it's not real stock, just the meat juices, no veggies... All I did was put the bones and scraps in the oven with some filtered water and let it cook for a few hours... I'm sure it adds some flavor, to the beans, but it probably also adds some of the nutrients from the pork, such as potassium and sodium... I have no idea just how much though so I just cut back a little on something else.

I never thought about using vinegar... Doesn't it make things sour?


    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 10:02AM
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Rita, your accident & your beany tale inspired me. I rummaged through my pantry last night and found some great northern beans. I set them to soak and am now baking the barbecued bean recipe I referred to earlier. I used homemade chicken stock as the liquid.

This morning I remembered I had some bone-in country style ribs in the freezer, so I got those out & thawed them in the microwave. I cut off the bony parts & stuck them in my crock pot with some seasonings. Thanks to your idea I'm making pork stock for future bean adventures. I got rid of a bunch of fat on the rest of the pork and will make a chili verde stew tomorrow.

Regarding vinegar, I've noticed that the Cook's Illustrated kitchen advocates adding a bit it near the end of cooking many things. They claim it adds a brightness. Even before I saw them do it, I started using either rice, wine, or balsamic vinegar in many long cooked dishes. When you can't use salt to flavor things, you've got to come up with alternatives (as you so well know). I especially like the combination of a hunk of meat (like pot roast or lamb shanks), some sort of tomato product, and a couple of tablespoons vinegar. Of course, I wouldn't use it if I were adding wine to the dish. And lemon juice is just as effective. I usually add the vinegar or lemon juice at the beginning of cooking, so the sourness has pretty much cooked away. I keep forgetting to follow the Cook's Illustrated suggestion of using a bit as a finish.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 5:34PM
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Hubby asked for pintos lastnight..did the soak over night(no salt) Drained rinsed, put them on the stove, brought them up to a bubble, turned off and left for 5 hours. Came back, drained, rinsed again, and then put on the stove to simmer..with lots of fresh Garlic and Fresh cracked pepper. I didn't have any hocks or shanks in the freezer, so stired in a big T of smoked paprika. I'll use Penzey's 4S Smoked to salt and season them. We'll see how they taste without the ham simmering with them..

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 6:46PM
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When I do Ribs, I boil them for about 1/2 hour or more,
with all kinds of Spices.
I freeze the juices in a ziplock bag and label & date it for
making Spaghetti sauce.
Or anything that rerquires a Pork flavor.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2008 at 4:03PM
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