Our Pitmaster Club can up your game!
Benefits include:

• No more ads, faster page loads!
• "The Pit" forum with tons of info & scores of recipes
• Monthly newsletter
• Video seminars with top pitmasters
• Weekly podcast with news and interviews
• Comprehensive Temperature Magnet ($10 retail)
• Monthly giveaways of Gold Medal grills and smokers
• Discounts on products we love
• Educational and social Meat-Ups
• Support for Operation BBQ Relief
• Support for Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves
• Support for AmazingRibs.com!

AmazingRibs.com BBQ Logo

beans for barbecue

The Science of Beans

Beans play an important part in American culture and especially barbecue culture. Hard to find a pit stop that doesn't serve some sort of beans.

Canned beans are quick and easy, and safer

Open the can, drain the salty liquid, rinse, heat for 30 to 60 minutes, and canned beans are ready to eat. They are also safer. I'll discuss this below.

Once upon a time I felt it was a philosophical requirement for me to cook only dried beans. I now prefer canned.

Dried beans are cheaper and some folks like the taste better, but they take a lot of time, and there is a minor health risk

Dried beans take a lot more time and a bit more effort than canned. You can find dried beans in any grocery, and a large selection in Mexican groceries. You can find hierloom and unusual varieties online. Try those grown by Steve Santo of Rancho Gordo.

Raw or dried beans, especially red kidney beans, must be handled properly. They might have a naturally toxic protein called Phytohaemagglutin (a.k.a. kidney bean lectin). It is present in many plants and animals in small quantities, but kidney beans and a few others might have a lot of this compound. Proper cooking denatures the protein and destroys the toxins. Research suggests the best method below is the safest. It is infinitely preferable to vomiting, diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain for 3 to 4 hours, all of which can be triggered by as few as 4 to 5 beans that have not been prepped properly.

To do this right, you should start the soaking process at least 24 hours before serving time.

1) Dump dried beans on the counter and make sure there are no pebbles or other foreign matter mixed in.

2) Give them a quick rinse in cold water.

3) Measure the volume of beans. Calculate three times the volume of the beans and add that much water to a bowl or pot. Add 1 tablespoon of salt per quart of water. Older books say not to salt the beans, but modern cooks have busted that myth. Add the beans and soak at least five hours. You can soak them up to 12 hours if you wish, and you should. It takes a loooonnnnnggg time for them to absorb liquid. The longer that dried beans soak, the less time they need to cook.

4) Drain the beans and discard the soaking liquid. I know a lot of beanbrains say to save the liquid, but it can be laden with lectin. Play it safe and throw out the soaking liquid. Cover them again with at least 1" more water than the level of the beans and bring to a boil for 30 minutes. Use a deep pot because once they start to boil they make a lot of foam. Stir occasionally to make sure they don't stick to the bottom. After 30 minutes, discard the water. The beans can then be added to a recipe and cooked in the recipe. But they will not cook as quickly as canned beans.

5) After the beans have been added to the recipe let them simmer until they get soft enough to pierce easily with a fork. At first they will rattle around like marbles and when you get experienced you can gtell a lot just by stirring them. Try chewing some as a test. They may need up to 12 hours of simmering. Exact cooking time will vary depending on the type of bean, their size, their freshness, how long they soaked, and how long they boiled. Cooking time will also depend on the cooking method. Beans cook faster in a pot on the stovetop than in a pot in the oven, and longer still on a smoker underneath the meat at 225°F.

If you live at altitude, bean cookery can be consterning. Water boils at a lower temp at altitude because the column of air pressing down on the water surface is shorter and that lowers the air pressure, so vapor escapes the water at a lower temp. As a result it takes longer to cook beans at altitude. A rule of thumb is add 10% for each 1,000 feet above sea level.

The bottom line for dried beans is this: If you prefer to use them, then be patient. Give them plenty of soaking time. Buy the same type and brand of beans several times, and make note of the optimum soak and cook times for you. Once you get the hang of things, they're easy, and safe.

Pressure cooking option. Dried beans cook much faster in a pressure cooker. Rinse, soak, boil, and cook 20 minutes in the pressure cooker. Then open the lid and cook another 20 minutes or more until they bean soup is the right consistency.

Click here for Meathead's classic beans recipes.

Return to top

Please read this before posting a comment or question

grouchy?1) Please use the table of contents or the search box at the top of every page before you ask for help, then please post your question on the appropriate page.

2) Please tell us everything we need to know to answer your question such as the type of cooker and thermometer you are using. Dial thermometers are often off by as much as 50°F so if you are not using a good digital thermometer we probably can't help you. Please read this article about thermometers.

3) If you post a photo, wait a minute for a thumbnail to appear. It will happen even if you don't see it happen.

4) Click here to learn more about our comment system and our privacy promise. Remember, your login info for comments is probably different from your Pitmaster Club login info if you are a member.


 Click to Show Comments or Add Your Own

Return to top

Logos of various organizations that we support

Return to top

LeaderDog.org Ad on BBQ site

About this website. AmazingRibs.com is all about the science of barbecue, grilling, and outdoor cooking, with great BBQ recipes, tips on technique, science, mythbusting, and unbiased equipment reviews. Learn how to set up your grills and smokers properly, the thermodynamics of what happens when heat hits meat, and how to cook great food outdoors. There are also buying guides to hundreds of barbeque smokers, grills, accessories, and thermometers, as well as hundreds of excellent tested recipes including all the classics: Baby back ribs, pulled pork, Texas brisket, burgers, chicken, smoked turkey, lamb, steaks, chili, barbecue sauces, spice rubs, and side dishes, with the world's best all edited by Meathead Goldwyn.

Brought to you by readers who support us with their membership in our Pitmaster Club. Click here to learn more about benefits to membership.

Advertising. AmazingRibs.com is by far the most popular barbecue website in the world, still growing rapidly, and one of the 25 most popular food websites in the US according to comScore, Quantcast, and Alexa. Click here for analytics and advertising info.

We have strict standards for ads: They are confined to the top of the page and the right column on computers and most tablets. On smartphones and smaller tablets they are confined to boxes. Ads are not allowed to take over the screen or play audio unless you OK it. If you see an ad violate our rules please take a screen shot and post it to the comments section on each page and we will ban it. If you hate all ads, remember, we block them for members of our Pitmaster Club.

© Copyright 2017 - 2017 by AmazingRibs.com. All text, recipes, photos, and computer code are owned by AmazingRibs.com and fully protected by US copyright law unless otherwise noted. This means that it is a Federal crime to copy and publish or distribute anything on this website without permission. But we're easy! We usually grant permission and don't charge a fee. To get reprint rights, just click here. You do not need permission to link to this website.