Step 1. Soak, Soak, Soak
Put your beans in a pot and cover them in a few inches of water. Throw the whole thing in the fridge overnight. Forgot to soak your beans? Don't stress out. You can also quick soak beans and get a similar effect. Just put those beans in a pot, cover them with water, bring them up to a boil, and then cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let them sit for at least a half an hour in the hot water, drain them, and go from there.
Step 2. Simmer
When dinner time is rolling around, grab those beans from the fridge, drain them, and transfer them to another pot, then cover them in a few inches of water (the exact amount isn’t important). Bring them to a simmer, avoiding a boil (which will make them fall apart). Salt the liquid very, very lightly here. We don’t want to go overboard.
Step 3. Add Aromatics
Now, it’s time to get our aromatics involved. We’re talking onions, shallots, garlic, and chiles. Or maybe some fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, bay leaves, and thyme. This is where the flavor really starts to build. Salt the liquid again (lightly) after about an hour of simmering.
Step 4. Let 'Em Hang Out
After another 30 minutes to an hour, once your beans are tender (read: edible), turn off the heat, and season the cooking liquid to taste. This is where you salt heavily and add any acidic ingredients, like tomatoes or lemon juice. When you're tasting for seasoning, you want to taste the broth rather than the beans themselves—it will take a little bit for the flavor of the broth to make its way into those little guys, which is why it's important to let them hang out in their cooking liquid for a half an hour before eating them. If you're planning on packing them up and storing them for later use, let them cool completely in their cooking liquid beforehand.
Step 5. Eat or Save them for Later
It’s time to eat those beans. Or not. You can save cooked, dried beans too. They're perfect to pull out for chili, salads, or a nice side for chicken or fish. Throw them in a Tupperware in the fridge for dinner every night that week, or freeze them for future use. They’ll be fine. Beans freeze very well. And whatever you do, don't throw out that cooking liquid! It's seasoned, delicious, and starchy, perfect for adding body to soups, stews, braises, and even pasta sauces.
Steps adapted from Bon Appetit