Save time and maximize the rich flavor of pinto beans by skipping the soak that so many recipes call for before cooking with dried beans. A 2014 article in the Los Angeles Times indicates that soaking only saves a negligible amount of time, while doing nothing to improve the taste or texture of the beans. No matter how you choose to cook the beans, the preparation steps are pretty much the same. Place the pinto beans in a colander, pick through, find and discard discolored beans or stones, and rinse the beans thoroughly before cooking them.
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Stove Top Method
Cooking beans on the stove top requires minimal special equipment -- just a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid and spoon for occasional stirring. The downside of stove top cooking is the decreased ability to maintain a perfectly even temperature while you cook the beans. Add the rinsed pinto beans to the pot and fill it with enough water to cover them by approximately 2 inches. Place the cover partially on the pot and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer the beans for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the beans reach the desired tenderness. As the beans cook, occasionally skim any foam off the top of the pot and add water if it's needed.
Simmering the pinto beans uncovered results in firmer beans that are ideal for using in salads or other dishes when you want them to hold their shape. Simmering them with a lid partially on gives you creamier beans that are more tender and ideal for use in dishes, such as burritos, which benefit from a softer texture.
Oven-Baked Pinto Beans
This method isn't all that different from cooking the beans on the stove top, but it does allow you to achieve a slow and steady pace to cook the pinto beans. Start by adding the beans to an oven-safe, heavy-bottomed pot with as much water as you need to cover the beans by 2 inches. Preheat the oven to 300 or 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring the pot to a boil while the oven preheats, then cover the pot and pop it in the oven for approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the beans are tender. Occasionally check the beans and add water if the pot starts drying out.
Pressure Cooking Method
Pressure cooking pinto beans is a double-edged sword. On one side, if you want to cook beans quickly, nothing gets the job done as fast as the pressure cooker. On the other hand, unsoaked beans may split open in the cooker, making these beans more ideal for use in dishes, such as soup or hummus, which don't require the beans to maintain a firm, intact form. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and 4 cups water for each cup of pinto beans to the pressure cooker. Heat the cooker to high pressure and cook the beans for 20 to 25 minutes. Hip Pressure Cooking, a food blog centered around the art of using the pressure cooker, recommends using the natural release method. To release the pressure naturally, remove the cooker from the heat source and allow the pressure to subside. The process typically takes up to 15 minutes.
Avoid filling the pressure cooker more than halfway for the best bean texture and for optimal safety while pressure cooking.
Slow Cooking Pinto Beans
Utilizing your slow cooker is one of the easiest, fuss-free ways to cook dried beans. Add the beans, along with enough water to cover them by 1 to 2 inches. Put the cover on and cook the pinto beans on low for 6 to 8 hours or on High for 3 to 4 hours.
No matter which method you choose to use for cooking the unsoaked pinto beans, adding aromatics to the cooking liquid helps infuse the beans with flavor as they cook. Some ideas include the following:
- Use broth for the cooking liquid instead of water.
- Add aromatic vegetables such as celery, carrots, onions or garlic to the cooking liquid.
- Throw some roughly chopped fresh or dried herbs in with the cooking liquid, such as oregano, thyme, bay leaf, parsley or basil.
- Add lemon juice or tomatoes to the pot at the very end. Adding acidic ingredients too soon can interfere with the tenderness of the beans.