I've been preoccupied with cooking legumes for about the past year. Fortuitously, in the middle of that period, I got to spend a couple weeks in Bangalore eating lots of beans. I left there with wonderful memories of my favorite bean dish, dal mahkani, a spiced butttery, tomatoey mix of urad dal and kidney beans. Drawers in our kitchen now overflow with masoor dal, lentils, kidney beans, navy beans, black and white chana, black eyed peas, black beans, etc. Beans are a big part of our diet.
This exploration into beans started when Indian coworkers tried to impress upon me the importance of a pressure cooker. After some practice with one (I use a Faygor 8 qt stainless steel) I realized there is a loooong way to go between the doneness of a canned bean and overcooking to mush. Canned beans are ok, I used to be a big fan of Bush's. But a truly silky smooth bean needs a lot of extra cooking.
Here's my tips on beans:
1. My favorite weeknight method: Pressure cooker, most beans about 8 minutes, lentils less. I use 720 g water (3C) / 200 g beans (1C, unsoaked, I almost always forget to soak beans) and about 10 g salt, often I use a source of pork too, most of the time just a slice of bacon.
2. I fully cook beans before other ingredients are added.
3. I also slow cook beans, but NOT in a slow cooker. I never have luck with a slow cooker, chalky. Instead my slow cooker is the oven. In a tightly covered cast iron dutch oven, I use beans, water, salt and a source of fat, often a few strips of bacon and bake at 220F for 3-4 hours. Beans this way are sublime, perfectly smooth. I've done black eyed peas and navy this way. I've even cooked pulled pork on top of beans. Also pretty perfect.
4. Chickpeas are bullet proof. I see no other way than a pressure cooker, high setting, a good 30 minutes for a properly done chickpea (then conversion to chana masala is easy). The outer skin may burst, but still need to taste to know if it's done.
Here's some recent oven preps:
Affter about 4 hours, the beans were perfect and meat fell apart. We piled this on crisped tortillas for a kind of nachos meal.