Conventional culinary wisdom dictates that dried beans should be soaked for at least 12 hours or overnight. If you are like me, you have been preparing beans in this way since you started cooking. Well I am here to tell you that there is a faster way called the quick soak method. This technique not only shortens the cooking time but also requires less of our undivided attention. On average, beans prepared in this way cook an hour to 45 minutes faster than those that have not been presoaked. This method is ideal for most bean varieties including pinto, black, northern, kidney etc...(avoid cooking lentils in this way).
Quick Soak Method
Step 1: Sift through the beans and discard any rocks or other inedible material that are sometimes bagged with the beans. Give the beans a quick rinse and place them in a large pot or dutch oven.
Step 2: For every 2 cups of beans cover the beans with at least 6 cups of water. Adjust the ratio accordingly.
Step 3: Bring the pot of beans to a boil and continue to cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
Step 4: Cover the pot and remove the beans from the heat. Let the beans stand for at least an hour.
Step 5: Drain the beans and add them back into the pan with the aromatics and flavorings you wish to use (like onions, garlic, bay leaf, or salt pork).
Step 6: Cook the beans in a 350 degree oven, covered, and check the pot every 30 minutes or so to ensure there is enough water. Depending on the amount of beans, they can be ready to eat in as little as an hour.
Side note: Most cooks are afraid to salt their beans because the sodium prevents them from cooking but in actuality I have not found that to be the case. I like to add a teaspoon of salt for every 2 cups of dried beans.