Photo: Jennifer Causey

The path to a perfect pot of beans is precise but not at all fussy. The main ingredient is time: first to soak the beans, then to slowly simmer them until tender and well seasoned. Each step is designed for the best end result, from salting throughout for the best flavor to storing in the cooled cooking liquid for the ideal texture. We break down the hows and whys of our method below as well as share our guide for simmering each type of bean.

September 11, 2017

1. The Soak

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Pick out any small, shriveled beans—these aren't spoiled, just too hard to cook. An overnight soak rehydrates the beans for less simmering later.

2. The Liquid

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Add just enough water to cover the beans before cooking; too much will dilute the flavor and make for less delicious beans.

3. The Fat

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Adding oil helps disperse flavors from aromatics like thyme, bay leaves, and onion in the liquid. It also helps the beans become creamy.

4. The Simmer

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Cook the beans at a slow simmer from start to finish, skimming the surface as needed. Boiling would damage the skins and cause the beans to fall apart.

5. The Salt

Add salt before, during, and after cooking so the beans can gradually absorb it. Salt slows the softening of the beans so they don't lose their texture.

6. The Cooldown

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Cool and store the beans in their cooking liquid, draining only when ready to use. This way the beans stay plump and firm outside and tender inside.

View Recipe: Master Dried Beans

HOW LONG TO SIMMER EACH BEAN VARIETY

Cooking the beans with the aromatics and 1 teaspoon salt for the first 30 minutes. Add the second teaspoon of salt, and cook for the suggested time or until beans are tender.

Red kidney beans — 1 hour
Great Northern beans — 1 hour, 15 minutes
Black beans — 1 hour, 15 minutes
Cannellini beans — 1 hour, 45 minutes
Pinto beans — 1 hour, 45 minutes

PRAISE FOR THE CAN

Canned beans will always have a place in our pantry alongside the dried. We love their convenience and versatility. Look for unsalted or low-sodium beans (rinsing and draining them will also cut down on sodium). Another happy discovery to come from the can? Aquafaba, which is the liquid in a can of chickpeas or beans that can be whipped to a meringue-like consistency and used in vegan cooking and baking.