Best Way to Cook Beans: Bake em' Don't Boil Them September 04, 2015 10:00

We have found that one of the best ways to eat healthy all week long is to investment cook. In the fall & winter, for us that means cooking a lot of stews & soups on the weekends, then freezing the dish in gallon bags for week night dinners.

Most of the soups & stews we cook are heavily bean based & I don't like to use canned beans, because they are usually high in sodium, may contain BPAs, and are quite a bit more expensive than dried beans. Not to mention, dried beans have a far superior texture and flavor to canned.

I've spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure out how to get perfectly tender, non-blown out beans. 

First things first: In my opinion you need to buy high quality beans to get good results. I have found the regular supermarket store brands to be less than adequate. I suggest buying beans in the bulk section of either the health food area of your grocer or buying them from a specialty health food store. I think (this being a personal deduction) these departments & stores stock a higher grade of beans & have higher turnover of their inventory, so your aren't buying beans that are years old.

If you don't have a bulk section in your store or don't have access to a health food store, I would suggest buying a name brand such as Goya.  

Second to the quality of beans is how you cook them. Recently, I found an easy way that works like magic, that came from the good people over at Cook's Illustrated and America's Test Kitchen. 

You're going to need to prepare the beans the night before or the morning of by soaking them in salt water for at least 8 hours. For every pound of beans, dissolve 3 tbsp of salt in 4 quarts of water & soak. According to the Cook's illustrated Science Editor soaking the beans in salt water is more effective than plain water; the sodium and calcium in the salt weaken the bean's skin making it easier for the water to penetrate the flesh of the bean.

When you are done soaking the beans, drain & rinse them as the water is too salty to cook with. Additionally, the soaking water will contain complex carbohydrates in concentration levels that many people have trouble digesting. . . beans, beans, the magical fruit. . . 

While rinsing, pick through them making sure there aren't any pebbles and toss the broken and shriveled beans; they will cook at a different rate and mess up the texture of your dish.

(example of broken & shriveled beans)

Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven & set the temperature to 275F.

Dissolve 1 tsp. of salt and 3 quarts of water in a heavy pot or dutch oven.
Once the beans are sorted place them in the newly salted water. 
Place the beans on the stove, cover and bring to a boil.
Once boiling, put them in the heated oven, cooking until tender. About 40-60 minutes.

By cooking the beans with low, steady heat in the oven, it allows the beans' flesh to absorb water at a similar rate as the skin, resulting in less blow-out, which in-turn reduces mushy, starchy bean syndrome. 

Super easy, always tender, and you'll never have to pick between undercooked or mushy beans again!