You may have seen piles of colorful beans at your local farmers’ market. Or perhaps you’ve stopped to gawk at the natural-foods store’s rows of bulk bins filled with a mind—boggling array of beans. Go ahead and give them a try. You can cook any variety of bean with our basic cooking method (see Pot of Beans). Then you can use them in any recipe calling for cooked or canned beans.
Place the drained, soaked beans in a large pot and add enough cold water to cover them by 2 inches (about 2 quarts of water for 1 pound of beans). Bring to a boil, skimming off any debris that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 1 to 2 hours (cooking time will vary with the type and age of the bean). Wait until the end of the cooking time to add salt or acidic ingredients, such as tomatoes, vinegar or molasses; these ingredients prevent the beans from softening.