Beans and a Slow Cooker, Sitting in a Tree
So, this year I got a slow cooker, and I am very excited to see what all the hoopla is about. Essentially what a slow cooker does is braise things, very slowly, using moist heat. Because the pot stays closed and there is liquid inside, the temperature stays low (but safely low), and that means you get to toss everything in in the morning, and forget about it all day. The idea of a hot meal waiting to be be spooned out is a gift at the end of some days (and we all have some days).
What’s a slow cooker good for? Anything that benefits from long slow cooking does extremely well: stews, roasts, tough pieces of meat. But these days smart cookbook authors, and home cooks, are developing recipes for all kinds of surprising things that can be made in the slow cooker, like blondies, lasagna, and duck confit (which, when you think about it, isn’t that surprising, but it sure is cool).
But while the slow cooker is coming into its own in all sorts of way, one of the all-time greatest uses for this appliance is cooking beans. The humble, lowly, and amazingly versatile bean. The incredible, edible bean (I know, that’s not how it really goes).
Beth Hensperger is an author who knows her way around a slow cooker (amongst many other topics). She has written 18 cookbooks, including the Not Your Mother’s ____ series, and several of those books focused on the slow cooker. So, when I needed some advice on cooking beans in my new slow cooker, I was awfully glad to find her chart. This is from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, and I’m keeping it close at hand.
I just made a white bean crostini, with simply cooked cannelini beans, olive oil, some minced shallot, fresh mint and parsley, and truffle salt (what???), and those beans from the slow cooker were what beans oughta be.
For me, one of the keys to embracing a new appliance is to leave it on my counter, since I am definitely an “out of sight, out of mind” kind of person. But this year I really want to see what the fans are raving about. What are you favorite things to cook in your slow cooker?
Slow Cooker Beans Cooking Times Chart, from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook:
The cooking times suggested below are based on 1 to 2 cups of beans or legumes with at least 3 inches of water to cover. Beans can also be cooked in broth or vegetable stock, which tastes especially nice if the beans will be eaten as a side dish. The beans should always be completely covered with liquid throughout the entire cooking time. They are done when tender and most of the cooking liquid has been absorbed, although if you are making a dish to eat with a spoon, like Tuscan beans, they can remain soupy. Always check towards the end of the cooking time and add more boiling water if the beans look too dry. If they are to be used in another dish, such as chili, soup, or vegetable stew, cook them until al dente rather than totally soft.
The following chart tells approximately how long to cook various kinds of dried beans on HIGH in the slow cooker. Each cup of dried bean will swell to about 3 cups when cooked. These times are meant to be used as guidelines because variables such as hard or soft water, the mineral composition of the soil where the beans were grown, and the age of the beans can affect cooking times. Hard water will lengthen the cooking time. Remember that beans and legumes always take slightly longer to cook at higher altitudes. All beans, except split peas and the various kinds of lentils, should be presoaked (for about 8 hours or overnight), which rehydrates them, making for more even cooking, and leaches off some of the compounds that make beans hard to digest (note that you should pour of the foamy water at the end).
Presoaked Dried Bean Cooking Time on HIGH
Anasazi 3 hours
Black beans (turtle beans) 3 hours
Black-eyed peas 3½ hours
Cannellini beans 3 hours
Chickpeas (garbanzo beans) 3½ to 4 hours
Fava beans 2½ hours
Flageolets 3½ to 4 hours
Great Northern beans 2½ hours
Kidney beans 3 hours
Lentils, brown 1½ hours (firm-tender) for salads, 2 hours (completely tender) for soup
Lentils, green (du Puy) 2 hours
Lentils, red 1½ hours
Lima beans 2½ hours for baby or small 2 hours for large
Navy beans 2½ to 3 hours
Pink beans (pinquito), small 3½ hours
Pinto beans 3 hours
Red beans, small 2½ hours
Soybeans 4 hours
Split peas, green or yellow 2½ hours
White beans, small 3 hours