Beans, Beans

Yesterday I mentioned that I was thinking about fall weather and soup and chili. I posted about a staple ingredient for soup and today I’m posting about a staple ingredient for chili. I love chili and I make it all the time in the winter. It’s easy, relatively healthy, and makes a big batch which means lots of leftovers.

This post is not about chili though. It’s about how to cook beans in general. When you buy dry beans you have to cook them first before you can use them in a recipe (unless the recipe calls for dry beans). I can already say that buying dry beans is much cheaper than buying canned beans. But it takes a little effort on the front end to prepare them.

I plan to use my beans to make chili this fall and winter, so I bought a bag of light red kidney beans. I then consulted Betty Crocker on how to cook said beans.

Betty had a very nice section on all the different types of beans and how to cook them. She said that dried beans must be soaked before you can cook them, with the exception on black-eyed peas, lentils and split peas. There are two methods for soaking beans:

Quick-soak method – Place dried beans in a large saucepan; add enough water to cover. Heat to boiling, and then boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for at least one hour before cooking. Drain, then cook in clean, cold water.

Long-soak method – Place dried beans in a large saucepan or bowl. Add enough cold water to cover them. Let stand 8-24 hours. Drain, then cook in clean, cold water.

I opted for the long-soak method since I wanted to leave them overnight. First though you have to sort the beans and take out and foreign objects (rocks) or damaged beans. After I sorted the beans I put all of them in the biggest bowl I have and filled with cold water. That was Sunday night. On Monday morning they had already expanded to probably double their original size. Some of the beans were splitting open as well which I didn’t think was supposed to happen.

On Monday night when I got home I drained the beans and rinsed them a couple of times. Then I put them all in the biggest pot I could find and filled with cold water. To cook the pre-soaked beans, Betty says:

“Heat to boiling. Boil uncovered for two minutes. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer (do not boil or beans will burst), stirring occasionally, for amount of simmer time in chart or until tender.”

The chart said 1-2 hours for kidney beans. I turned the burner up to high and waited. I waited and waited. I folded some laundry and came back – still not boiling. I read the mail and came back – still not boiling. Finally it started to boil. I boiled it two minutes then reduced the heat down to 2.

I went and flipped some more laundry and then came back and whoa the beans were still boiling. Betty had definitely said NOT to boil the beans so I immediately turn the heat down to LO. I go do something else and come back and the beans are not simmering at all now! Ugh. Figuring out the heat is frustrating.

After about an hour since the pot came up to a boil I check a bean to see if it’s done. It’s pretty soft. I check another bean (by eating it). Also soft. After a few more “tests” I determine the beans are done and take them off the heat.

I pour them out into my giant strainer. These beans do not look appetizing at all. Kidney beans from the can are usually a nice red color. My beans are a little more on the tan or brown side. It also appears that the beans that were on the bottom of the pot are a bit mushy. Well darn it. It must’ve happened when they were boiling when they shouldn’t have been! I think I will be able to use most of them though.

The Economics: I didn’t do all the calculations since my beans did not turn out as well as I had hoped. But I can give a basic rundown. My bag of beans cost $0.79. It contained 3 cups of dry beans. Dry beans double or triple when they are re-hydrated. That means the recipe yielded at least 6 cups of beans, if not more. A can of beans contains approximately 1.5 cups of beans, rinsed and drained, and costs about $0.50 I think. Could be less or more depending on where you live and what kind of sale you can find. You would have to buy 4 cans of beans to yield 6 cups of beans which would cost approximately $2.00. Thus dry beans are cheaper.

So is it worth it? Just because I am not as excited about these beans as I am about some of my other recipes (granola) doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. Economically speaking it is worth it to use dry beans and cook them yourself as opposed to buying canned beans. Once you cook up a batch of beans you can freeze them in one cup increments or 1.5 cup increments to approximate a can of beans. Then just pull them out of the freezer whenever you need them for a recipe.

I am not giving up on dry beans. I think I’ve just done something wrong here. I am going to give it another try after awhile and see what happens. I may try cooking them in the crockpot next time instead.

If anyone has ever cooked up dry beans before and has any tips please share. Thanks!


3 thoughts on “Beans, Beans

  1. A good old stand-by for how to cook dried beans can be found in the vegetarian cookbook classic Laurel’s Kitchen. There are charts for amounts of water and cooking times. I’m thinking maybe you put too much water in your beans to soak them, or left them for too long a time. The more water there is, and the longer they sit in it, the more they expand. The older the beans are, the harder they sometimes are to cook. And it’s also my experience that organic beans cook up more nicely than those that aren’t.

  2. These are very helpful tips, thanks! I want to try this again soon, maybe with a different type of bean. I will definitely reference your comment.

  3. I have been cooking dried beans for years in my crock pot ( slow cooker). I cook a batch of beans about twice a week. I do not season the beans when I cook them only adding a little salt once they are cooked so that I can use them through out the week in different recipes and season them accordingly at that time. Once the beans are cooked it is easy and healthy to add them to soups, stews, chili, burritos, salads, dips, and many much more.

    To cook my beans ( such as navy, pinto, black, kidney, garbanzo, etc.)

    Step 1 – Sort through the beans for any dirt or broken beans
    Step 2- Cover beans with about 2 inches of cold water remove any floating beans
    Step 3- Soak up to 24 hours
    Step 4- Rinse soaked beans with fresh water and cover beans with about 2 to 3 inches of fresh water place in crock pot. Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. I have left mine on low for 12 hours and they are fine.

    Once your beans are cooked you can use them in any recipe that calls for beans enjoy adding something very healthy to your diet.

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