Those Elusive Perfectly Cooked Beans
For years, I have tried to make perfectly cooked beans. And having failed a number of times, I’ve begun to wonder why people go vegan if this staple is so hard to make. When I talk about “perfectly cooked beans,” I’m talking about how to do so using dried beans, and cooking them to the same quality as store bought canned beans. And, while I have had mild successes, they have been inconsistent at best. Further, all the methods I’ve used in the past have been very consumptive in terms of energy and thus environmental impact. Combine my repeated failures with this article on solar energy I was reading the other day, and I got to thinking, how can I cook perfectly cooked beans WITHOUT using so much energy? And how can I cook them perfectly every time?
I have tried countless methods using countless tools – presoaking the beans before cooking them, not presoaking them before cooking them, using crockpots, rice cookers and stove top methods and even adding baking soda while cooking – but I’d say my overall success rate has been about 60%. That’s not too bad, but that leaves me with either over or under done beans about 40% of the time. While this is hardly a real problem, I do like the tender juiciness of store bought canned beans. But, I don’t like paying four to five times the price (by weight) for the canned ones as compared to dried ones.
So, for as long as I can remember, I have rolled the dice and cooked beans at home. But time and again, I found the traditional methods for cooking dried beans don’t work for me. My newly discovered method is the simplest, cheapest, and easiest of all the others I’ve tried. And of those, it’s the most environmentally friendly method for making perfectly cooked beans that I have ever discovered. And, you’ll be able to use those beans to cook any number of these fantastic vegetarian recipes. This method will yield perfectly cooked beans for you every time, just as it has for me, but I’ll get to that in a minute. First, what hasn’t worked for me, and why.
What Hasn’t Worked For Me
I’ve tried to make perfectly cooked beans in crockpots, and again, I’ll succeed about 60% of the time. Part of the trouble I have with this method is the heat is often too high, yielding overcooked and mushy beans. I also don’t like the fact that crockpots use a lot of energy.
While I have successfully used rice cookers to bake cakes and brownies, I have not had success with beans. As an aside, to do this simply follow the normal brownie/cake recipe instructions and start the rice cooker repeatedly until the brownies/cake are done. They will come out perfectly moist and delicious! Back to perfectly cooked beans though…I find the porridge setting is too cool for beans and leaves them a bit crunchy. I also find the rice setting to require me to push the button multiple times – quite inconvenient. And again, a rice cooker consumes a lot of energy.
I have had the least amount of success in making perfectly cooked beans on the stovetop. The heat on a stove comes directly from the bottom of the pot/pan. I find this causes an uneven cooking and even sometimes burns the beans on the bottom. Stoves require close attention to prevent fire hazards, and again, they use a lot of energy.
A Thermos for Perfectly Cooked Beans, Every Time? YES!
So, what works for making perfectly cooked beans? The KISS method again saves the day (Keep It Simple Stupid)! All you need is one simple item: a wide mouth thermos (wide enough to allow you to pour in dried beans. Mine is about 2 inches wide.). The thermos should be able to hold about 1 gallon of water. And the best part of all, you’ll use a fraction of the energy of the other methods. A thermos like this should work perfectly. *
The basic process goes like this. Prime the thermos with boiling water. Prime means pour boiling water into the thermos, gently swirl it around, and then cover the thermos and let it sit for a few minutes. You only need to fill the thermos up about 1/2 of the way when priming it.
Meanwhile, rinse one pound of beans in cold water. This process ensures the beans are clean. Then, dump out the water you used to prime the thermos. Then, put your dried beans into the thermos. I use my hands to funnel them in. You can also use a wide mouth funnel. Then, put 1 tbsp. of salt into the thermos. Then, pour in 1.5 L of boiling water into the thermos. Cover it, and let it sit for 10-12 hours. Afterwards, dump the entire contents of the thermos into a pot, add a little extra water if necessary, and bring the whole thing to a gentle boil for 1 minute. Voila! You will have perfectly cooked beans every time. For this recipe, you can look below.
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- Dried beans (1 lb. [500g])
- Salt (1 tbsp. or to taste)
- Priming Boiling water (1/2 gal. [2L])
- Cooking Boiling water (2/5 gal. [1.5L])
For this recipe, you will need a thermos. It should have ~1 gallon capacity, and it should have a wide mouth. The mouth on mine is ~2 inches, and it works perfectly.
- Boil 1 gallon of water
- Rinse 1 lb. of beans
- Pour the priming* water into your thermos.
- Carefully pour out the water used for priming.
- Pour the dried beans into the thermos.
- Pour the salt into the thermos.
- Pour the cooking water into the thermos.
- Gently swirl the beans and water in order to dissolve the salt.
- Cover the thermos.
- Let it sit for 10-12 hours.
- Gently swirl the thermos to dislodge the cooked beans at the bottom.
- Pour the thermos water and the beans into a pot
- Bring the beans and thermos water to a gentle boil for 1 minute
- Turn off the heat, and let the beans cool.
- Enjoy perfectly cooked beans!
*Priming means fill your thermos 1/2 way, gently swirl the water around, cover the thermos, and let it sit for a 2-3 minutes.