The Basics: Cooking Beans (Pressure Cooker Method)

For the longest time, I was at a complete loss when it came to cooking with dry beans.  They are super-economical and allow you to enjoy varieties of beans that might not be available canned, but there's a hitch: ya have to cook 'em.  And who has time for that these days, I ask you??  But I love them.  My Mom made a lot of beans growing up, on the stovetop, and I just loved the yummy smell of cooking pintos, not to mention digging into a bowl of warm, hearty beans on a cold winter's day.

Enter: The Instant Pot (link is to the one I own.)*  Initially purchased for cooking rice, I decided that my stovetop method produced fluffier, more tender grains than the Instant Pot did.  So looking for good ways to make use of my new pressure cooker, I struck gold with using it as a super-efficient bean-cooker (click here for more on how pressure cookers work, and why.)  Now I'm working my way through the bulk bean section at Whole Foods, cooking everything from garbanzo to adzuki to black beans (and more, click here for a list of dry bean varieties) with this sucker.  

The thing about the Instant Pot is that you don't HAVE to soak your beans before you cook them, which is a great thing when you have limited time to putter around in the kitchen (but still need to eat.)  You can soak them, though, and I do with the aim of reducing their phytic acid content (why? click here.)  Melissa Clark, a Darn Good Cook, got me started this year on soaking my beans with salt, with impressive results!  I cook beans longer than many sources recommend, since I like my beans nice and tender, almost falling apart, rather than crunchy (undercooked red kidney beans, in particular, can make you sick.) So, I tend to err on the side of caution.  

Onwards, my Darn Good Cooks!  Here we go...

Easy Beans (Pressure Cooker)

Cooking time: 60-70 minutes, plus time for pressure cooker to heat up
Serves: 4 (2 cups dry beans makes about 5-6 cups cooked)


Instant Pot (I use the 6.33 quart one)
Measuring cup

2 cups dry beans, any variety, rinsed and picked over for rocks
Sea salt (I love this Celtic variety
Filtered water

Put It Together:

  1. Cover the beans with a decent amount of filtered water.  Add a shake of Celtic sea salt and put the Instant Pot lid on. Soak overnight (or most of the day) ahead of when you'll need the beans.
  2. Drain the soaking water (it will be quite dark-colored in the case of many beans, and the liquid can stain light-colored countertops, so be warned.)  Add a generous amount of filtered water to again cover the beans, and replace the lid, turning until it locks into place.  Make sure the pressure valve on top is set to "Sealing" (middle position.)  
  3. Plug in the pressure cooker, then select the "Bean/Chili" button.  Use the "Adjust" button to move the cooking temperature setting to "More" (see the picture gallery, below, for more detail on how to do this.)  Then use the "+" button to set the cooking time to "70" (I find that it takes the 70-minute setting to get most bean varieties done...kidneys may take even longer.)  
  4. The cooker will beep at you when it's reached the right temperature and is pressurized.  DO NOT take the lid off to check on the beans while they're cooking!  There is a lot of pressure inside the Instant Pot and you have to let it de-pressurize slowly once the cooking process is done.
  5. Cooker will beep again when the 70-minute timer goes off.  After a few minutes, put on a hot-mitt and switch the pressure valve on top from "Sealing" to "Venting."  A lot of hot steam will come out, and this will get the pot de-pressurized so you can safely open the pot. 
  6. Once the pot has a chance to de-pressurize (and you know this because hot steam isn't screaming out of the pressure valve on top anymore!), you can carefully unlock the lid and twist to open.  Test a couple of beans to see if they're soft enough for your liking. The stainless-steel insert will be super-hot by now, so watch your fingers.
  7. Drain the beans, and enjoy!  


* N.B. Our Terms and Conditions particularly apply when I recommend you experiment with this kitchen gizmo!  I would feel horrible if any of my Darn Good Cooks got hurt while using something I describe on this blog.  So PLEASE read your instruction manual carefully before operating for the first time, and use at your own risk.  Just like a car, a new kitchen gadget can get you where you want to go, or it can get you in trouble if you don't know how to "drive" it!  It's also important once you've begun using a pressure cooker to regularly clean the rubber seal inside, as well as to clean the pressure valve where the steam escapes from (see your owner's manual.)  If your pressure cooker starts to have problems with a leaky seal, valve, or develops other defects such as cracks, STOP USING IMMEDIATELY and contact the manufacturer of your pressure cooker.