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Pinto beans: the kindergarten of cooking beans

A staple of our meals lately has become the simple pinto bean. I love the flavor of this bean–almost could be sweet,  and I love the texture–very creamy.

Pinto beans cook up easily, so if you would like to start on learning to cook your own beans, this is a good choice.

How to shop for dried beans:  pick a store that you think might have a good bean turnover rate.  The longer dried beans sit on the shelf, the tougher they are to cook.  I find that my local Walmart has good beans.  I like the “Casserole” brand.

Any bag of pinto beans will tell you how to cook them.  The favored way is to rinse the beans and let them soak overnight.  In the morning, I choose to drain off my soaking water, dump them back into the pot and cover generously with water.  I slow cook on the stove until tender, usually 2-2.5 hours.

After the beans are completely tender, I will add salt.  I don’t add salt during cooking because it makes for tough beans.

I’ve also found we don’t need ham.  The beans really have great flavor on their own and we don’t need the cholesterol or the expense.  Ham hocks are expensive!

When I’m in a hurry, I’ve also found that I can cook pintos using the rapid boil method.  Rinse beans, sort out the odd ones, place in pot and cover with water.  Bring water to boil and once you have a rolling boil, slap on a lid, shut off the burner and come back in an hour.  Now turn your burner back on and cook your beans for 2-2.5 hours.

For our family, I find it helpful to cook up a 4 pound bag, serve pintos for supper and store the remaining beans in the refrigerator.  For that purpose, I prefer using wide mouth quart jars.  Having jars of beans in the refrigerator makes meal prep fast–burritos, beans and cornbread, beans over rice.

Why choose cooking beans over canned?

Canned beans will typically contain corn syrup and salt.  Now I like my salt, but it just feels better knowing I am choosing the amount.  I don’t, however, want corn syrup in my beans for any reason.

Canned beans come in……you guessed it, cans.  When I cook my own, I am saving the environmental production costs of a steel can.  Yep, we do recycle, but still, I like avoiding the can in the first place.  For most canned products, the steel can is also lined with a “protective” product called bisphenol-A.  I don’t need BPA leaching into my food or my kids’ food.  There is also the gas/oil expense of packing the heavy cans of beans, water and corn syrup into pallets and lugging them across the country on trucks.

And then, finally, there is the the expense to me, the consumer.  Canned beans are just more expensive than cooking your own.  The price of canned beans at my Kroger has gone up and up the past year.  How about .79 for 15 oz of store-brand beans?  I can buy a whole pound of dried beans for a little more than a $1 and those beans will cook up to the equivalent of 3-4 cans of beans.  Yes, in a pinch, I will still buy a can of beans.  But with happiness in my heart and pocketbook,  I can tell you that I like the beans I cook better.

I hope you will give cooking your own beans a try.  Will you let me know how it goes?


About onlifeandbeans

I like to make the adventure taste good by cooking tasty, wholesome food. Most of what I've learned in cooking, I've picked up from cookbooks and lots of practice. (Thank you, Fannie Farmer, for the right start. ) I so appreciate cookbooks that tell how and why to do something; that's why I do the same for my readers. I want to know what is in my food. I want my family to sit down and share a meal together. I want our food to taste good. Home-cooking takes time, but it gives back rich dividends in budget minding, good health and familial love. One meal at a time.

3 responses »

  1. Melanie Haspels

    I like using dried beans too! And I like to freeze my cooked beans in can-size portions. That way when a recipe calls for a can of whatever bean, I have the amount I need already measured out. This works well if I’m not cooking the beans for an immediate meal, but just stocking up my freezer.

    • Hi Melanie. Tell us about your freezer storage containers–are you using plastic or glass?

      • Melanie Haspels

        While glass would be nice, I use plastic bags. I’ve had too many glass jars break on me in the freezer (granted, they had chicken broth in them and not beans) and I hate throwing out the food I’ve made and stored.

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