If you need dinner on the table fast and you realize that all you have in your pantry is dried beans, don't panic. Cooked beans are the foundation for numerous family-friendly meals and contribute loads of nutritional benefits, including fiber and iron. Dried beans are not as quick to prepare as canned, but a few methods will help you get those beans table-ready in a hurry.
If you're used to soaking dried beans overnight before cooking, speed things up with the quick soaking method. About 2 1/2 to three hours before you want to eat, place your dried beans in a large pot. Cover the beans with water, place a lid on the pot and bring the water to boil. Once the water boils, shut off the heat and let the beans sit for one hour. Drain the beans, rinse them off, then put them back in the pot, covered with fresh water. Bring them to a boil again and simmer them for 1 1/2 to two hours, or until they are tender.
If you have a pressure cooker, use it to cook dried beans in a jiffy. Do the same one-hour quick soak mentioned above, but then drain the beans and place them in your pressure-cooker. Add 3 cups of water for each cup of beans. Secure the lid to the pressure-cooker and bring the cooker to high pressure over high heat, then lower the stove to low heat. Cook the beans for 10 minutes for small beans, such as pintos, or 16 minutes for larger beans, such as cannellinis.
In the Oven
Skip the soaking altogether and make beans right in the oven. Place dried beans in a large ovenproof pot with a pinch of salt and enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch. Cover the pot and set the beans in an oven preheated to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the beans for 75 minutes, then check them for doneness. Most beans take between 90 minutes and two hours when cooked in the oven.
Keep lightly cooked dried beans in the freezer and you'll always have a healthy protein ready to go in no time. Cook beans using your favorite method until they are just slightly tender. Drain the beans, let them cool, then place them into plastic zip-top freezer bags. Keep the beans in the freezer for up to three months. To use the beans, place the frozen or thawed beans in a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water and simmer until heated through.
Leigh Good has been writing for magazines and newspapers for more than 10 years. Her work has been published in numerous print and online publications. Good has a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Georgia State University.
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