I typically use canned beans because I don’t have the time to prepare dried beans. I love their convenience and versatility. Look for unsalted or low-sodium beans (rinsing and draining them will also cut down on sodium).
If you have time, then using dried beans is definitely cheaper and healthier. There is a very precise way to the perfect beans – soaking, simmering and seasoning. Each step will take you to the perfect end, from salting throughout for the best flavor to storing the beans in their cooled cooking liquid for the ideal texture. Add salt before, during and after cooking so beans gradually absorb it. Salt slows the softening of the beans so they keep their texture. You may also choose to cook dried beans in the slow cooker.
Here’s what you need to do.
Soak – Soak beans with 1 tsp salt overnight or for 8 hours to hydrate them. This will also decrease their cooking time. Drain.
Add Liquid – Place the beans in the pot and cover with just enough cold water to cover. Add 1 tsp salt. Do not add too much water as it dilutes the flavor. If adding aromatics such as onions, garlic, herbs or spices, do it at this stage.
Add Fat – Add oil as it helps disperse the other flavors from aromatics like thyme or bay leaves and onion, and also helps the beans get their creaminess.
Simmer – Cook the beans on a low simmer from start to finish, skimming the surface as needed. Do not boil as that will damage the skins and the beans will fall apart.
Cooling – Cool the beans and 1 tsp salt again. If not using immediately, then store them in their cooking liquid and drain when ready to use. The beans will remain plump and firm outside, while tender inside.
Suggested Cooking Times
Red kidney beans — 1 hour
Great Northern beans — 1 hour, 15 minutes
Black beans — 1 hour, 15 minutes
Cannellini beans — 1 hour, 45 minutes
Pinto beans — 1 hour, 45 minutes
Source: Cooking Light, October 2017