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How to get a GOOD, soft consistency with dried black beans ?

I've tried the quick soak and overnight soak methods and cooked them for hours and hours, but my black beans never come out nice and soft like you get them from a can. My sister says I need a pressure cooker. Short of buying yet another piece of kitchen equipment, any tips?

asked by Fresa over 6 years ago
13 answers 39003 views
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Amanda Hesser

Amanda is a co-founder of Food52.

added over 6 years ago

One tip would be to make sure you're cooking them gently in plenty of water.

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Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

added over 6 years ago

This is a helpful thread: http://www.food52.com/foodpickle...

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added over 6 years ago

Fresa, this happened once to me when I was dying for Cuban food as an exchange student in the Netherlands, and I boiled black beans all afternoon once to no avail. My solution was to buy them whole at the Schiphol Airport international store. Many times, dried beans are sold stale, and they will never reach the desired consistency. Short of finding a specialty store with dried black beans in bulk, I'd reckon your best bet would be to find somewhere they are sold in higher volumes like a Hispanic store and engage the shopkeeper. When you've acquired and gently boiled your beans, be careful not to salt them until they have softened. I believe this can lead to breaking the skins.

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added over 6 years ago

Do you have a slow cooker (crockpot)? You put in 3 cups beans, 6 cups water at the high setting, turn it to low when it is boiling, and leave it until the beans are soft. (I also put in a large chopped onion.) A good lid will form a sort of vapor seal and act something like a pressure cooker, very slowly -- the initial heating up takes the place of the soak period. I once had a small deli without a real kitchen, and this is how we started our chili, adding the other ingredients when the beans were soft.
I now have a good pressure cooker and use that, so if you're ready for a new, useful but bulky pot, It's a good investment.

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added over 6 years ago

Pressure cooked beans are the best, they come out so soft but retain their shape and don't turn into mush! I miss my old PC, but it exploded once when I forgot about it. However, I recently made goya (dried) black beans and the directions on the back of the package were great, the beans turned out much like PC cooked, I paraphrase: you boil the the beans in 1.5 times the amount of water for about five minutes. Then let them soak for 2 hours. Drain and add back twice the amount of fresh water as beans and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cover, cook 1 hour or until tender.

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added over 6 years ago

ichibanbrianne and Sadassa_Ulna have stated the two things that have made all the difference with the beans I cook - fresh beans and pre-boil the beans and soak. I have also learned two other important components - cook the beans in a pot with a wide base and add oil when cooking. The wide based pot gives the beans more room and stops the cracking and mushing up. The oil adds a flavor dimension and gives a creaminess. I use olive oil.

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pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

added over 6 years ago

The problem really does sound like old, tired beans. You can cook those for days and never be satisfied. Whole Foods also sells beans in bulk.

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added over 6 years ago

One great trick I learned is to add a strip of the seaweed Kombu to the beans as they cook. There are enzymes in the Kombu that help soften the beans and speed the cooking time, and it doesn't leave any noticeable flavor behind.

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added over 6 years ago

I'm not so sure about the salt makes them hard or having negative effects. I have been putting a pinch of salt in my water for the quick soak ( bring water and beans to a boil for a few minutes and turn off and let sit) for decades with no ill effect. I was taught to do this with the explaination that it softens the water and breaks the water tension so that the water can be absorbed by the bean. If I have beans that have not showed any sign of softening during a quick soak method I've learned to dump them and start over. The only thing I have attributed the splitting to is not enough water and too fast of a boil. Give the beans lots of room to swim on a low simmer. Beans are not meant to be cooked fast.

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added over 6 years ago

Thanks for the great tips, everyone! I'm going to try fresher beans from my co-op, adding a piece of Kombu and a bit of olive oil in a wide pot, quick soak, dump the water and start with fresh.

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added over 6 years ago

I buy all of my dried beans from Rancho Gordo. Go on youtube and watch how he demonstrates cooking his beans. Also make sure to check out their website. I didn't think that there could be much of a difference as to where I bought dried beans until I got them from Rancho Gordo. I won't buy them anywhere else!

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added over 6 years ago

I have also started getting beans from Rancho Gordo - what a difference! I haven't made black beans yet but the Cranberry and Cannellini I've made have been wonderfully creamy and richly flavored.

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added over 6 years ago

a pinch of baking soda can help as well, but it really does sound like old beans are the problem.

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