Tammie Ostdiek, UNL Extension Educator, Morrill County
In the early months of the pandemic, non-perishable foods like dry beans were flying off grocery store shelves. If you still have some packaged dry beans in your pantry, winter is the perfect time to prepare them.
While canned beans are cooked and ready to be heated, served, or used in recipes, packaged dry beans need to be cooked to a palatable texture. For best results, it helps to understand the variables involved with cooking dry beans.
Cooking time depends on the type of beans and the seed variety the farmer plants. Generally, smaller beans will cook faster.
There are many market classes of dry beans: pinto, black, yellow, navy, great northern, kidney, cranberry, red and more. For each market class, there are many varieties, according to Carlos Urrea, UNL Dry Bean Breeding Specialist in Scottsbluff.
For example, a single bag of great northern beans is likely to consist of many seed varieties. After farmers harvest beans and deliver them to the bean-processing company, the company will blend all the great northern beans, regardless of the seed variety, into one bin for processing. This means that, at the end of cooking time, when most of the beans are tender, some beans may still be a little firm.
Moisture content of beans will influence cooking time, but not the nutritional value or taste. Moisture content is influenced by drought conditions during the growing season and age of the beans. According to Urrea, most beans grown in drought and stress conditions require increased cooking time.
Beans lose moisture while sitting on the shelf, particularly if the package has been opened. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that dry beans be consumed within one to two years from date of purchase for freshness and quality and one year from the date a container is opened. Beans stored longer are safe to eat, as long as they can be cooked to a palatable bite.
Most beans will cook more evenly and quickly after they have been soaked, which increases their moisture content. Soak for several hours, drain the water, and start the cooking process with fresh water. This will shorten the cooking time and also eliminate most of the sugar from the beans, which contributes to flatulence often associated with beans. Adding salt to the beans during both cooking and soaking will enhance the flavor.
Pressure-cooking dry beans in the multi-cooker is a time-saving cooking method. Soaking will reduce the cooking time, but if that is not an option, beans can be put in the multi-cooker without prior soaking. When pressure-cooking beans, allow the multi-cooker to naturally release pressure and open the lid once the pin has dropped. Taste the beans. If they are just a bit too firm, set the multi-cooker to the sauté function and continue to cook until desired results are achieved
For more information and recipes:
Use cooked beans in recipes such as White Chicken Chili, Easy Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas or Super Quick Beans and Rice found here: https://food.unl.edu/recipe-central.
For more information on cooking dry beans, see https://food.unl.edu/article/how-cook-dry-beans-scratch.