Dried beans are great food storage items, but they do take a little bit of time and forethought to prepare.
Pour out the beans you want to use and sort through them. You don't want a small stone to ruin the dish, or someone's teeth.
Soaking the Beans
Ideally, you want to soak the beans in water, for at least 8 hours, or overnight. Make sure you're using a very large bowl for this. Dried beans will soak up quite a bit of water, increasing their size by nearly double in some cases. You don't want to wake up in the morning to an overflowing pot of beans.
There is a “quick soak” method, where you bring the beans to a boil for ten minutes, cover, and remove from the heat, and let them soak for one hour. It works, but I seem to get the most consistent results with an overnight soak.
Either way you soak them, drain and rinse the beans thoroughly, afterward.
Cooking the Beans
Put the beans in a large bowl and cover with a generous amount of cold water. Add a dash or two of salt and bring them to a rapid boil, boiling for ten minutes.
Reduce the heat to low, cover, and gently simmer the beans until tender. They should feel soft in the center when squeezed.
The amount of time you'll need to simmer them depends on the bean. Most dried beans, like Red kidney beans and black beans, take about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Adzuki beans will be ready in only 45 minutes, while chickpeas can take up to 2 hours.
If you want to prepare beans ahead of time, soak them, put them in a plastic freezer bag, and freeze them. You can thaw them, and finish cooking them, when you're ready.
I keep a stock of dried and canned beans on hand in my food storage. When I have time, I'll use the dried ones. They soak up loads of flavor when cooked over time in soups and sauces. On a weeknight, or whenever else I'm in a hurry, I'll use the canned ones.
Picture by Leonardo Borlot