Beans and slow cookers were made for each other. Instead of steaming up the kitchen and the house all day long, beans can be started in the slow cooker over night or the morning of the meal. Cooking beans in a slow cooker is not only more convenient, it makes the beans a better meal as well.
Let’s face it, beans are bland by themselves. It takes hours for them to absorb the flavor from meats and seasonings even at full boil. Yet beans are one of the healthiest foods around and certainly a must for the vegetarian. However, who would come home after a day of work and cook a pot of dried beans? With a slow cooker they’ll be ready when you walk through the door.
Creating a bean dish in the slow cooker is also a great use of large amounts of leftover meat especially pork. Beans and pork have a very unique relationship as there is absolutely no bean grown on the earth that does not benefit from the flavor pork imparts.
Leftover ham from holiday meals can add just the right touch to northern, navy, pinto, and black or any dried bean you can think of. Although pork is ideal, any meat can work with beans and leftovers save the chef the trouble of having to pre-cook the meat before adding it to the pot.
Other meats that work well with beans in the slow cooker are smoked pieces. Again, pork is ideal but smoked turkey works well also. Surprisingly, even beef jerky is a great component of a bean dish. The only problem with jerky is the food coloring used to make it more appealing in the store tends to cook off and color the beans while the meat itself becomes grayish.
Beans can’t just be dumped into the pot and set to cook. For best results, rinse the beans in a colander and sort through them to discard damaged beans and stones. After sorting, they should be placed in a bowl and soaked for six to eight hours covered by water.
Dried beans often have a toxin on their casings that only boiling will get rid of. Boil beans on top of the stove for 10 minutes to ensure the toxins are gone. After draining they can go into the slow cooker.
Meat that is going to be used in the bean dish should be pre-cooked. Even the highest temperature setting of a slow cooker is not hot enough to kill bacteria on raw meat. The exception to this rule would be dried meats such as jerky.
Smoked meats are a favorite compliment used in bean dishes and can really fill the beans with flavor. To use them with a slow cooker, boil them on the stove first for about 10 minutes. Use the liquid produced as the water for the beans in the slow cooker.
Although it is most common, meat does not have to be used in the preparation of a bean dish in the slow cooker. The use of onions and other seasonings will produce a flavorful bean dish as well.
Beans should be covered by at least three inches of water before cooking. At a low or medium setting, beans will take 8 to 10 hours of cooking in the slow cooker. The time will be less if the cooker is set on high.