Earlier in this series, we've explored soaking and salting, and today we learn about different methods of cooking dry beans. We're looking to see which method cooks beans fast, and which method makes the most tasty bean.
Dry Beans on the Stove
Probably the most common way to cook dry beans is in a pot on the stove top. For this method, beans are covered in water and brought to a boil. Once boiling, the heat is lowered and the beans are simmered until tender. More water can be added if needed. Beans need to be stirred occasionally.
Pros to Cooking on the Stove
- This method does not require any extra appliances or equipment. Just a regular pot is needed and something to stir with.
- When cooking on the stove, you have more control over the final tenderness of your bean. Depending on how you are using the beans, you may want them more firm or soft. On the stove, you can easily test along the way and decide when they are perfect for you.
Cons of Cooking on the Stove
- This method can take longer than some of the other options available, sometimes up to as long as 3 hours.
- This is not a set and forget method. The beans need to be stirred occasionally. The water level also needs to be checked so that the beans don't burn. (Burning beans is the WORST).
Dry Beans in the Instant Pot
In this method, beans are placed in the Instant Pot, or pressure cooker, and covered with water. The beans are cooked on high pressure for 25 mins (unsoaked beans) or 6 minutes (soaked beans). Pressure is then naturally released and beans are drained.
Pros for the Instant Pot
- This is the fastest cooking method
- This is a "set and forget" method. Beans do not need to be checked on. Chances for burning the beans is very low.
Cons for the Instant Pot
- It is not possible to check on the tenderness of the beans while cooking.
- Often results in a lot of split beans.
Dry Beans in the Slow Cooker
The slow cooker is a great option for cooking beans because it cooks them with heat that is low and slow. Beans are covered in water and then cooked on low for 6-8 hours (depending on the bean).
It's very important to note that a toxin known as kidney bean lectin (found in kidney beans, broad beans and lima beans) can make you very sick. It is usually killed when beans are cooked at a high heat. Unfortunately, slow cookers don't heat the beans to a high enough temperature to rid them of the toxin. So if you are cooking one of these types of beans in the slow cooker, boil them for 10 minutes, drain and rinse before adding them to the crockpot. Use fresh water to cook them and they will be toxin free.
Pros for the Slow Cooker
- Should result in very tender beans without a lot of splitting.
- Can "set and forget" (although beans should be checked on towards the end of cooking so they don't burn).
Cons for the Slow Cooker
- This is the longest method for cooking beans.
- Need to remember to start cooking the beans in advance.
Dry Beans in the Oven
This is a method I had never thought of doing before. For this method, the beans are boiled in water on the stove in an oven safe pot. (Length of time depends on the bean). The pot is then covered and moved to the oven, where beans bake at 325 degrees for 40-75 mins.
Pros for the Oven
- Does not use special equipment.
- One of the fastest methods for cooking dry beans.
- Many argue that it produces the most flavorful beans.
- Doesn't require as much checking and stirring as stove method does.
- Beans do not split as often in the oven as they do in other methods.
Cons for the Oven
- I'm stretching for a con here, but in the summer time, running your oven for an hour sure will heat up your house.
Testing the Cooking Methods Out
One crazy afternoon, we tested all 4 cooking methods out at the same time. We used black beans that had been soaked in hot water for 1 hour for all the different methods. There wasn't a "winner takes all" method, each one had it's merits. Here is what we found:
- The Instant Pot was the fastest method by far. However, most of the beans split and they were not as evenly cooked as the other 3 methods. The insides were soft, but the outsides were still a little chewy. I would recommend using this method if you are planning on mashing up your beans, like for refried beans or bean burgers.
Recipe: Instant Pot Black Beans
- The slow cooker, or crock pot, took the longest. According to the directions I followed, they should have been done in 8 hours, but mine took 9 hours. However, these beans were very evenly cooked and hardly had any splitting. They would be great in a salad or soup. I would recommend this method if you need to start cooking in the morning and can't check again till dinner time.
Recipe: Slow Cooker Black Beans
- The stove top was the most difficult. Difficult in that I had to keep stirring them and adding in more water so they didn't burn. (In fact, I came close to burning them a couple of times!) This was the 2nd quickest cooking method, however, and the texture of the finished beans was much better than the Instant Pot beans. I recommend this method if you want to make good beans as quick as possible, but can stay in the kitchen while they are cooking.
Recipe: Basic Stove Top Black Beans
- The oven produced the tastiest beans. All of our taste testers agreed that the beans made in the oven had the most flavor and the best texture. This method took a little over 2 hours, but once the beans were in the oven, we didn't need to check on them. I would recommend this method if you have a little bit of extra time and want to make the tastiest beans possible.
Recipe: How to Cook Beans in the Oven