Budget-friendly dried beans are packed with protein and fiber, but cooking them has long been an all-day event. Soaking the beans overnight or at least for several hours was believed to soften them so they'd cook more quickly. Cook them in the oven, though, and you can ditch the long soaking time. Once the beans are baked, you can toss them into a chili or stew, or serve them up as a side.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Rinse the dried beans in a colander, removing any stones or broken pieces.
Pour the beans into a Dutch oven or an oven-safe pot with a lid. Add enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch.
Add salt and any additional seasonings, such as garlic, chili powder or bay leaves. Choose the seasonings according to how you plan to use your beans or season your eventual dish. For example, if you're cooking beans for chili, add fiery seasonings and garlic. For a ham and bean soup, you might pick aromatic herbs, such as thyme or rosemary.
Place the lid on the pot and cook the beans until they're tender -- typically between 90 minutes and 2 hours. Check the beans occasionally and add more water if necessary. The water should remain slightly above the level of the beans. Drain any remaining water and use the beans in soups, casseroles or sauces.
Experiment with cooking times, depending on the type of bean you're using. Hard beans, such as kidney beans, soy beans and black beans take longer to cook than soft, buttery beans, such as lima beans. Anasazi beans cook in half the time of other types and produce less gas.
Store dried beans in glass jars or plastic containers and keep them in a cool, dry location. Stored this way, they'll be safe for at least 3 to 5 years and as long as 30 years, although they lose vitamins in storage.
If you're prone to stomach troubles, you might still opt to soak the beans, as soaking them breaks down the sugars that cause indigestion and gas.