I have been trying to save some money on my food budget. I’ve pretty much constantly had my 4 quart slow cooker going this month, either making economical casseroles & stews, or to cook my dried beans. Instead of using as many canned beans, I’ve been cooking dried beans in bulk and freezing them in can sized portions for my recipes in air tight containers. Its just as convenient as canned when you make them ahead of time.
There are quick cooking legumes for those nights when you forget to pre-cook your beans. Red Lentils, brown lentils, & split peas cook on the stove in less than hour, just make sure to simmer on medium-low; these kinds of legumes are more delicate and will explode and split if you cook them on high heat. All of these are also great additions to slow cooker stews, as you can just throw them in the same pot as your other ingredients and they will cook to perfection without a lot of effort. Just make sure to pre-sort them for debris and rinse them in clean water.
Most other dried beans in the slow cooker require a similar method of preparation (unless they are kidney, then you need to pre-boil them for 10-15 minutes to neturalize their toxin, phytohaemagglutinin,). I like to pour out my beans on a clean dish towel and sort through for any broken pieces or little specks of rock. Then, I rinse them thoroughly in a colander until they are clean. 1 pound of dried beans fits perfectly in a 4 quart slow cooker. The rule for most slow cookers is that you want it be filled up to about 3/4 of its capacity for the most even heating. You want at least 3 inches of water above the line of your beans in the crock. You can error on the side of caution with more water, just drain the beans or fish them out with a slotted spoon. Nothing worse than dried up, burnt beans from not using enough water!
I usually slow cook my beans on low heat for about 8 hours overnight in my slow cooker and they are usually perfectly tender when I wake up. Make sure to test them to ensure they are done; if they aren’t tender enough, let them cook for another hour or so in the slow cooker. Another benefit of slow cooking beans is that I find I don’t have as much issue with the beans losing their skins or becoming too mushy as when I soak them and simmer them on the stove.
Some beans may take longer to cook, depending on a few factors:
I know cooking your own beans seems like it would be a lot more work than opening up a can, but using a slow cooker is effortless. You don’t have to slave away stirring beans on a stove, they can cook while you sleep! Also, dried beans double in volume when they are cooked; 1 pound usually equals about 6 cans worth of beans for less than $2!