How to Cook Beans

17 Oct

If you make beans from scratch, the cooking liquid is the best part. A smoked ham trotter and a couple pounds of beans cost about $3 in total and will leave you with more beans than you know what to do with (freeze them). Cooking them in the oven takes a lot of guesswork out of it for me, and works with or without a soak, though soaking reduces cooking time greatly. My usual method is below, along with a recipe for one of my favorite things to do with the beans: cook them with greens, which makes the most of their delicious broth.

beans and greens


One great thing to do with beans so good, and their amazing broth, is make Beans and Greens. I like to sautee the greens (it was kale in the picture above, but any green works, including broccoli rabe or spinach), then add the beans and their broth as they are starting to cook, though in How to Cook Everything the recipe says to just stick the greens in the beans and call it a day. Either way works fine. Recipe follows.

Oven Beans

I like to do this with canellini beans, pinto beans, black beans… just about any bean. For chickpeas I leave the meat out because they have their own thing going on. If you don’t want to use the pork, don’t. A smoked turkey wing is a good alternative, or just skip the meat entirely–the beans will still be way better than anything in a can. Season this with anything you’d usually put in stock: onions, celery, garlic, bay leaves, spices, fresh herbs, whatever. Or you could just use stock as the cooking liquid. That’s good too.

-1lb dried beans, rinsed and picked over
-1 smoked ham hock (or a smoked trotter, or 1/4lb. sausage or slab bacon, or a smoked turkey wing or neck)

Preheat the oven to 300F. Put the beans in a heavy, ovenproof pot, and cover with 1 inch water. Bring to a boil over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat and carefully cover and move the beans into the oven.

After 30 minutes, check on the beans see if they’re tender. If not, check every 20 minutes or so. When the beans are done, remove from the oven, cool, and store. Freeze some, you’ll thank yourself later. With the rest, make Beans and Greens, or refried beans, or bean dip, or just eat them on rice with some hot sauce. They’re good for your heart!

Beans and Greens

Delicious. Nutritious. Damn easy.

-1 tbsp. neutral oil
-1 bunch greens (kale, broccoli rabe, spinach, whatever you like)
-2 cups cooked beans in their cooking liquid
-Mild hot sauce (like Crystal or Tobasco) to taste

Heat oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the greens and cover. Cook until beginning to wilt, 3-5 minutes.

Add the beans and their liquid and toss together. Cover again and let simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

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