Published March 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.
Canned beans may be convenient, but their flavor and texture never measure up to dried.
We tested three brands of dried black beans, including one mail-order heirloom variety, by sampling them plain (cooked with onions, salt, and a bay leaf) and in our recipe for Cuban Black Beans and Rice. We were surprised to find that the heirloom beans became blown out and mushy, while the pair of national supermarket-brand beans emerged from the pot perfectly intact and creamy. Grown by a small producer and sold within one year of harvest, the fresher heirloom beans cooked much more quickly than the other two. We tried the test again, cooking the heirloom beans for a shorter time—almost half the time allotted for the store-bought beans—but the texture remained inconsistent: While some beans in the pot were on the verge of overcooking, others weren’t yet soft. In Cuban Black Beans and Rice, the results were similar. Tasters appreciated the flavor of the heirloom beans, but we had to concede that the supermarket beans cooked perfectly in every test. Our favorite was Goya Dried Black Beans, which offered “nutty,” “buttery” bean flavor and a reliably uniform, creamy texture.