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Cooking Beans in the Thermal Cooker – The Easiest, Cheapest Method

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Cooking dried beans in a thermal cooker

Dried beans are a frugal staple.

But do you ever feel that cooking from scratch just takes too much time?

Who has time to soak and cook beans, right?

Well here’s a method of cooking dried beans that takes only 3 minutes cooking time and less than 6 minutes hands-on prep time, some of which you can do while the beans are cooking!

Less than 10 minutes a month cooking and freezing some beans can save you big bucks on the groceries.

How do you save time, save money and save electricity?

The secret is thermal cooking.

how to cook beans in the thermal cooker

You can cook just about anything in a thermal cooker, but it’s best to start with something easy like rice or beans.

If you didn’t see Monday’s post on how to make your own thermal cooker and how to use it, check out that article first.

Here’s how to cook your beans using a thermal cooker.

1. SOAK YOUR BEANS

You can either soak your beans overnight and put them on to cook in the morning or if your mornings are too hectic, you can soak your beans in the morning and then cook them overnight.

To soak your beans simply throw them in a pot, cover them with cold water and put the lid on. Too easy.

Leave your beans to soak for around 8 – 10 hours. It doesn’t need to be precise, but the bigger the bean, the longer you soak it for. I’ve left Pinto beans to soak for around 18 hours and they turned out perfect. Too long though, especially if it’s hot, and they can go mouldy.

Hands-on time: 30 seconds

2. DRAIN AND RINSE YOUR BEANS

After your beans have soaked, drain your beans, give them a quick rinse and then throw them back in your pot and cover again with cold water.

Hands-on time: 1 minute

3. BRING THE BEANS TO THE BOIL

Bring the beans to the boil and boil for a couple of minutes.

While the beans are coming to the boil, prepare your thermal cooker: place a blanket or old pillow in the bottom of a laundry basket or cardboard box. Place a towel in the box so that you can fold the towel over the pot. Gather more towels or blankets to cover.

Cooking time: 5 minutes

Hands-on time: 2 minutes

4. PLACE YOUR POT OF BEANS IN THE THERMAL COOKER

After the beans have come to the boil and have boiled for about 2 minutes, put the lid on your pot, turn the stove off and place the pot directly into your laundry basket/box aka thermal cooker and fold the towel over to cover the pot.

Place towels or blankets down the sides of the pot and over the top to make your pot snug as a bug in a rug.

Put your thermal cooker aside for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours. I leave my beans in the pot overnight, so about 12 hours. They turn out perfect.

Hands-on time: 1 minute.

5. DRAIN COOKED BEANS

The next morning, or in the evening depending on your schedule, drain the beans. They will be tender, perfectly cooked through and still steaming hot, so beware of burns!

If, after 3 or 4 hours, you decide to check your beans and they’re not cooked, simply bring back to the boil on the stove and put them back in the thermal cooker for another few hours.

Hands-on time: 1 minute

The total direct cooking time for the beans is 3 minutes, saving you electricity. Hands-on time is less than 6 minutes, around 10 if you count putting the towels back in the cupboard and freezing the beans for later use.

Beans are a nutritious frugal staple, and cooking them in a thermal cooker makes them quick and easy as well. If you’re wondering what to do with all those beans once you’ve cooked them, then check out Kitchen Stewardship’s The Everything Beans eBook. There’s a whole bunch of bean recipes (including a chocolate brownie recipe made with beans!).

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6 Comments

  1. I have been thinking about a thermal cooker for some time now. I really like to use the original crock pot which is well insulated and really does use very little energy. I have seen the thermal cooker at Aldi and have seriously considered buying it. I like the idea of the DIY as I can fit whatever size pot into it. We have an old esky in the garage that will do the trick. I especially like the idea of cooking beans in a thermal cooker because I don’t have to watch over them as they cook.

    1. I didn’t know you can get them in Aldi – I’ve been considering buying one too (except so far, they’ve been too expensive for us). But I love that I can do it just as well in a basket! I’ve seen photos of people in Africa cooking with a simple basket and blanket.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment :).

  2. This type of cooking has been used for centuries. One of the original ways was to to nestle the cooking pot in straw in a box.I believe this method of cooking was used in the US when the waggon trains carried the settlers. The meal was prepared the night before and heated in the morning so when they camped the next night they didn’t have to cook just reheat.The next nights meal was the prepared to start the cycle again. They used a lot of dehydrated ingredients meat ,vegetables and beans in this way. I have a wide mouthed thermal container and have cooked things like this without having to add external insulation. Joints of meat can be cooked in a similar fashion – Use high heat (till the meat is partially cooked through) at first then wrap in foil, then insulation(towels ,blankets etc. and put in a similar type of termal container. The cheap old styrafoam esky
    is great .

  3. I was drawn to this post by the fact that I bought an Aldi thermal cooker a couple of years ago and for at least the last 12 months it has resided on the top shelf of my spareroom wardrobe. I used it a few times whenI first got it and was not all that happy with the results. Maybe I didn’t boil food long enough or it could have been I needed to use larger quantities in the cooker. Using your instructions, I cooked kidney beans overnight. I have just emptied them out and they are “PERFECT”. My only deviation from your instructions was to use tap hot water to soak given kidney beans are sometimes harder to cook. Thanks Melissa for the inspiration, and the savings.

    1. Awesome. I’m so glad you gave your cooker another go and it worked out well. :) I’ll keep your tip in mind when I cook kidney beans, thanks.

  4. I know this is an old post but it’s the first hit on Google so it’s referenced a lot.

    I have a Billy Boil thermal cooker and I want to start cooking beans from dry rather than using tinned beans in recipes.

    I’ve read of the toxins contained in raw beans, and some sites state they must be boiled for at least 10 minutes to deactivate the toxin (I believe red kidney beans are the worst). One site even said to boil them for 90 minutes!

    Can you comment on this as you stated above just boiling for a couple of minutes (and you obviously haven’t had any problems)?

    Thanks (great website btw).