Beans are a really interesting topic.
They hold many different associations for people: non-animal protein and fiber, mexican and southern cuisine, bloating and stomach discomfort....
Which of the the previous categories you most closely fall under probably goes hand in hand with how beans are incorporated in your diet.
Maybe you are a vegetarian or someone who likes to try meatless mondays. Maybe you have beans with your meat. Maybe you only eat beans when they are served near a tortilla or corn bread. Either way, if you have ever experienced the potential negative consequences of bean consumption, you probably limit your intake and thus do not get all of the awesome benefits from eating beans.
Bean consumption has been suggested to reduce cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and has been linked to lower rates of certain cancers. They are rich in B vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants, as well as the classically known protein and fiber.
A great article about the greatness of beans: Beans: Fabulous Health Benefits, Weight Management and Nutrition at Very Low Cost
So, first of all, how on Earth do we cook beans in a way that won't leave us bloated and cramping?
**The following is for dried beans. I prefer them to canned for a couple reasons: 1. They are really cheap. Seriously, anyone who says it's too expensive to eat healthy doesn't buy dried beans. Even organic dried beans are super affordable. 2. Most cans have a chemical coating on the inside that I would rather not consume. Not to mention the aluminum from the can and any other additives such as massive amounts of sodium that are common. Of course, in a pinch, use canned beans. It happens.
This is how I cook beans. My friends and family constantly tell me how they never have any trouble eating the beans that I cook as opposed to at other places, so I think it's a good process.
1. Presoak: If you are cooking any beans that are not lentils or split peas they should be presoaked. Personally I find that the quick soak method is actually far superior to the long "normal" way. The normal way means soaking them over night in cold water. The quick soak method means you put the beans in an appropriately sized pot with an inch or two of water above them (an inch for a 1/2 cup of beans, 2 inches for a cup is a good guideline). Bring the water to a boil. Let the beans boil for a couple minutes then turn the heat off. Let the beans sit with the lid on.
How long to let them sit? An hour is a good guide. Longer can be better and I've gotten away with much shorter. It can depend on the bean. If the beans have gotten larger and the water has changed color to resemble a bit of the bean color, that's a good sign. The biggest key I find is the next step.
2. DUMP THE WATER: You need a strainer or colander that can withstand fairly high heat for this whole process. Pour the beans into the strainer and dump all of the water. Rinse the beans and the pot out. Leave the strainer in the sink.
3. Cooking: This is where my method really differs.
Put the beans back in the pot with a bit more water on top than you did in the soaking step. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Different beans take different lengths of time to cook. You can look up average cooking times HERE. (Although, to be honest, the best thing is to test beans as you go because I have found that beans often take less time than they say. When the beans are soft but not mushy they are done.)
Ok here is the IMPORTANT PART: Depending on about how long you think the beans are going to take- when they are about 1/3 of the way through DUMP THE WATER AGAIN. Pour the whole pot of hot water and beans into the strainer (Not too quickly, be careful of splash). Fill the pot back with fresh water, add the beans back and return to the stove top. Again, bring to a boil and simmer.
Do that again when the beans are about 2/3 of the way through. Essentially, you will be dumping the beans twice and putting completely fresh water in. I swear that this is the trick! You can try to skim the scum off the top and other little techniques, but I have found that the way to not have gas-causing beans is to dump the water while cooking.
When the beans are done, pour them a final time through the strainer and they are ready to be added to your dish in whatever manner you've concocted. Happy eating!