I’ve tried several methods for cooking dried beans, and have had mixed results. Then I happened upon this method, which produced tender beans in about three hours. I use this to cook a whole 1 pound bag of beans at once, then I freeze them with their soak water in the same portions as canned beans (about 15.5 ounces.) When I need them for a recipe, I defrost the beans, drain, and use as usual.
Sorting the Beans
Unlike canned beans, dried beans are not perfect. When you open the bag, the first step is to sort the beans. Look for beans that are broken or wrinkled. Dried beans should be smooth. A few knicks here and there won’t be a problem, but beans split in half or missing chunks should be tossed.
Rinse the Beans
Next toss the beans into a colander and rinse quickly with cold water.
Quick Soak the Beans
I’ve tried soaking beans overnight, but it took a long time and it didn’t measurably improve the beans. Instead, I use the quick soak method. It still takes about three hours to cook the beans, but you don’t have to use as many bowls. Simply put the beans into a large, wide-bottomed pot. Add 8 cups of cold water for every pound of dried beans. Bring the beans to a rapid boil. Boil for 10 minutes, and then turn off the heat. Cover and let sit for one hour.
Cook the Beans
Drain the soak water and rinse the beans in a colander. Return them to the pot and add 6 cups of water. Add salt, usually about 2 teaspoons, but I don’t measure. Put the lid on the pot, but tilt it or set it to the side so some air can escape. Simmer for an hour and a half to two hours. Start checking for doneness after an hour. If the water level gets close to the top of the beans, add another couple cups of water. The beans are done when they’re tender.
Cool the Beans
Let the beans cool in the pot. Use what you need that night, then divide the rest among freezer bags with some of the cooking water.
I keep all of my bags of beans in a gallon-size freezer bag. I have black, white, red, and kidney beans in there more of the time. They work just as well as canned beans at a fraction of the cost, and usually with less sodium. Most stores sell beans for $1 to $1.50 a pound, depending on the type. Watch for sales to snag them at lower prices. The 99-cent store also carries beans, if your store is overpriced. The cheapest I’ve seen canned beans was 50 cents a can. You can get at least three cans worth from a bag of dried beans.