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.
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.
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.
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.
Published On: 2/28/2012 Last Modified: 4/24/2021