There are as many ways to cook dry beans as there are types of beans on the market. Any single one of them is a safe bet for forming the basis of a hearty meal. Cooking them properly doesn't take much skill, but a little attention to detail goes a long way toward making the end result delicious.
Every expert has their own method for preparing their beans before putting them on the stove. Some prefer to prepare with an overnight soak, others swear by an hour of boiling, or a long, slow simmer.
Once you've softened them up, you can use them however you'd like. Baking, pan frying, and adding them to soups are popular options. You can also eat a plain bowl of pinto beans by themselves, or you can combine several different varieties and make chili, soup, or pasta sauce.
Sorting The Beans
For the purposes of this recipe, we'll use a one pound bag of pinto beans. For the first step, you'll need a colander and a trash can. When beans are picked and packaged the quality control is sometimes less than perfect. Rotten beans, dirt, bugs, tiny rocks, sometimes even twigs are often found in any given bag of beans. Those must be removed prior to cooking, so it's a good idea to go through a quick sorting exercise.
Once you've inspected the beans, place them in the colander, and rinse them well under warm water to remove any dirt or chemicals. Any rotten beans you might have missed will tend to float in water and can be removed with your spoon when you set the pot on the stove to simmer.
Soak The Beans Overnight
Soaking dried beans overnight in cold water mixed with a tablespoon of salt is an excellent way to prepare them for action. In addition to softening them for cooking, this will reduce the gas factor of the beans by making them less acidic.
A pound of dried pinto beans translates to a whole lot of beans when they're fully cooked, so you'll need to use a large stockpot. Dump out the water you soaked the beans in overnight, then wash and rinse them once more with cold water.
Fill the pan with water, place it on the stove and bring the water to a boil. Once the water starts boiling, turn the heat down to simmer and allow the beans to cook until they're tender. In areas with hard water, adding a tablespoon of baking soda to each pound of beans will make them more tender.
Caution: Special care must be taken while the beans cook not to let the water level get too low. If this happens the beans can burn. In some extreme cases, this can cause a fire.
The Slow-Cooker Method
Another way to cook dry beans after soaking is to cook them slowly in a pressure cooker or crock pot. These beans can either be cooked in a soup or by themselves.
One delicious example of a slow cook dish is a 15 bean buffalo chicken soup. This recipe takes 15 minutes to prepare and seven hours to cook, and makes 12 servings.
A 20-ounce package of dried 15 bean soup mix
2 Pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 Yellow onion diced
3 Carrots, sliced
One teaspoon garlic powder
One teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup buffalo wing sauce
9 cups of chicken broth
One bay leaf
2 tablespoons finely minced cilantro
You can add Tortilla chips or tortilla strips on the side for serving.
Step 1 - Prep
One. Rinse and sort beans, discarding any debris. Discard the ham flavor packet from the beans and save it for another recipe if you so desire.
Step 2 - Load
Two. Place the rinsed and sorted beans into the slow cooker.
Step 3 - Mix
Three. Add the chicken, onion, celery, carrots, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, pepper, buffalo sauce, and chicken broth to the slow cooker and stir. Place the bay leaf on top.
Step 4 - Cook
Four. Cover and cook on high for seven hours without opening lid during the cooking time. When the time is up, remove the bay leaf.
Step 5 - Shred
Remove the chicken thighs onto a plate and shred them with a pair of forks. Add the shredded chicken to the slow cooker
Step 6 - Stir
Add the minced cilantro and stir.
Step 7 - Serve
Serve the soup with tortilla chips or homemade tortilla strips, and enjoy!