Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cooking Pinto Beans on the Stove

Pinto beans do make a healthy yet very flavorful dish! They have been a popular choice in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine for many years. This is because they are inexpensive, simple to cook, and versatile. Additionally, pinto beans are an excellent source of protein, fiber, B vitamins, and complex carbohydrates. Pinto beans are also full of beneficial minerals including iron, magnesium, calcium, and zinc.

There are two basic methods for cooking pinto beans on the stove. First, you must sort and wash the beans, then you can choose the fast or slow method for cooking. Sorting the beans assures that there are no pieces of rocks or other unwanted materials. Broken and discolored beans are not harmful, but many prefer to remove those as well. The easiest method is to sit at a table with the beans spread out. With a bowl in your lap, slowly move the beans to the edge of the table, picking out any unwanted items. Then slide the beans into the bowl. Use a colander for washing the beans. Rinse with water while moving the beans with one hand to assure they're clean and free of dirt particles.

The fast method for cooking pinto beans actually takes over four hours, so planning ahead is essential. Beans will double in size while cooking, so be sure to choose a large enough pan. Pour the beans into the pan and cover with water to about three inches above the beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove them from the heat and let sit covered for one hour. Pour out the original water and add enough water so it reaches about one inch above the beans. Bring the beans to a boil once again, then decrease the heat to low, cover, and simmer for four hours. You will want to check the beans every hour to make sure there is enough water to fully cover them as before. This will keep them from drying out. If the water has evaporated, just add more.

Cooking pinto beans by using the slow method requires overnight soaking. Prepare the beans in a pot with water that reaches about three inches above the beans. Do not boil. Instead, simply cover and leave the beans to soak overnight. The next day, pour out the soaking water and refill with clean water to about one inch above the beans. Bring the beans to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for four hours. Check every hour to make sure there is enough water to cover the beans as they are cooking.

Although the cooking times may seem long, beans require minimal attention for its duration. The cooked pinto beans can then be eaten as is or incorporated into countless recipes. For added flavor, sauté chopped fresh onion and garlic and add to the pan to simmer with the beans. If you wish to use salt and other seasonings, wait until the last hour of cooking. For one pound of dried beans, use 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and about 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes. Enjoy down home country-style pinto beans!

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