There are several ways to cook dried beans:
Surprisingly, small pebbles can sometimes be found in dried beans, so start by spreading them on a plate and check for intruders, as well as any shriveled or darkened beans.
Place 1 cup sorted beans in a saucepan and fill with enough water to cover beans by about 2″. Soak the beans overnight (or at least 4 hours) for a better textured bean and to improve digestibility.
Pour beans into a colander to drain off soaking water. Return to pot and add 4 cups water.
Bring the water to a boil for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender and the water is absorbed-which can take as a long as three hours. Beans are done when they can be mashed with a fork. If necessary, add more water if the initial amount of water is absorbed before the beans are fully cooked.
Note: Unlike rice and pasta, SALT SHOULD NOT BE ADDED to beans before they are cooked. Salt and acidic ingredients (like tomatoes) toughen beans and greatly increase the cooking time. So salt to taste only after the beans are cooked.
Follow the same procedures for cooking on the stovetop, but soak and cook the beans in slow cooker. Cook on high about 6-8 hours on the “high” setting for a soft, easy to mash bean. Note that slow cookers vary in their heat output, so some experimentation may be necessary to find the cooking time that suits your cooker and tastes. Refer to your cooker’s instruction manual for more guidance.
For a fast-cooking option, invest in a pressure cooker, which can cook beans in as little as five to ten minutes. Because the water amounts and cooking times vary widely depending on the type of bean, however, reference your cooker’s instruction manual or Cooking Under Pressure by Lorna Sass, for the exact information on each bean type (as well as great recipes.) As with the previous methods, the beans should be pre-soaked. Also, adding a tablespoon of oil to the cooking water helps reduce foam.
More Tips: Read more about successful bean cooking.