August 25, 2016 at 3:29 pm #37234
Revisiting the concept of using a ceramic pot inside of the Instant Pot.
I’ve been playing with slow cooking beans in the oven the Russ Parsons way:
I like the even cooking and intact beans that the oven method, using an enameled iron pot, which retains heat nicely, brings to problem beans. I do soak, as beans were unevenly cooked when I didn’t. I should add I get perfectly acceptable results with some other types of beans in my PC.
But bending down to my oven to check the progress of the beans is awkward and annoying. So I’ve been looking at slow cookers, but haven’t found a lead-free ceramic one that has a delay timer. Which brings me back to Instant Pot.
@Laura had mentioned she has urged the IP company to sell a ceramic insert for the IP for use with the slow cooker function. I wonder if this one would work:
It is 6 inches tall and 8.25 inches wide. It has a built-in trivet, so it would never be higher than 6 inches. Would that fit in the IP stainless steel insert with a lid on top? Has anyone heard of folks cooking beans in an Osawa pot in their IP?
If it fits, one would effectively have, I think, a 3-quart ceramic slow cooker with built-in helper handles. The company selling it told me it would have to have some water around the base during cooking.
@Swtgran started a thread on this ceramic pot a while back, but the discussion focused on pressure cooking rice, and the consensus seemed to be that this pot’s advantages weren’t worth its price.
But for slow cooking in an IP, I wonder if a more compelling case could be made.August 26, 2016 at 5:56 am #37247
Are you thinking of lowering the Osawa pot directly onto the Instant Pot’s heating element? Because, it’s really not recommended. Think about THAT pot boiling over… you would basically be ruining the Instant Pot. : (
Although Instant Pot is not currently marketing a ceramic-lined insert Fagor’s LUX and Breville’s Fast Slow Pro both come with aluminum ceramic-lined inserts. I find the heat distribution (because of the aluminum) and retention (because of the very thin ceramic layer) much better than with them compared to the stainless steel insert.
For example, after pressure cooking I can lift and move Instant Pot’s inner pot with my bare hands (though, granted I have a higher heat tolerance than most). But the Breville and Fagor inner pots are impossible. I always have to get my silicone pinch-mitts out!
LAugust 26, 2016 at 9:00 am #37256
I was thinking one might use the Osawa pot inside of Instant Pot’s stainless steel insert with the recommended water around the Osawa pot’s base. The pot is made to be used in a PC or stockpot with water.
I’m just playing with ideas as I work out the easiest way to cook a few types of hard-to-cook beans. The small red beans I get here are really stubborn to cook uniformly and intact. So far, they seem to do best salt-soaked, then low and slow in the oven. But the ergonomics of my oven make checking the contents of a lidded pot awkward. So it would be nicer to cook them counter-top.
You thoroughly convinced me earlier about the joy of delay timers, so the Breville is out, but I’ll read up on the Fagor Lux. Thanks for your suggestion.August 26, 2016 at 9:33 am #37258
I finally got a couple Fagor LUX’s in-house and I’m having lots of fun with them – at some point I will do a review but I’m working on other projects now so for the moment I’m just cooking in them and discovering all of the ins, outs, and hot inserts! ; )
OK, about the ceramic pot. Why do you think the beans would be better in the pot vs directly in the insert with the Instant Pot on Slow Cooking mode?
Though I agree it is a fancy piece of ceramic and I wish I could come up with a way to justify getting one myself!!! ; )
LAugust 26, 2016 at 10:16 am #37259
Oooo. New PC review ahead. :-)
Here’s why. In an earlier discussion the notion of ceramic creating a “heat bank” that would even out cooking came up. It’s my impression that the IP slow cooker function would provide mostly bottom-up heating. From what you said above, it doesn’t sound like the IP cooker shell or stainless steel insert provides heat retention in the range of, say, iron, aluminum, or ceramic. No heat bank.
I’ve been impressed with how evenly certain stubborn beans cook in a heat retentive vessel in the oven. I’ve read that this results from the food being heated from all sides and the heat retentive properties of the vessel evening out oven temp fluctuations. Maybe a ceramic pot inside the IP would receive and radiate more uniform heat in all areas of the pot, instead of only the bottom part.
I don’t own an IP, so my impressions of it may be way off the mark.August 26, 2016 at 5:21 pm #37272HelenAdamsParticipant
I have done slow cooking 3 times in My IP. Not with beans. For what it is worth, I found that it works much better than newer slow cookers. Closer to the older slow cookers which the USDA said were dangerous but have since taken it all back. (Like wooden carving boards, sous vide etc.) They like to toy with people I think :)
I am good with pressure cooker beans.August 26, 2016 at 10:05 pm #37273
Hello, Helen :-)
I am good with my PC, too, for cooking chickpeas, pintos, and lentil soup. But a low oven works better for me for red beans and several types of heirloom beans, all of which don’t cook evenly and tend to blow out in my PC. In his book “Keys to Good Cooking,” Harold McGee recommends a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven for cooking beans evenly. My cooking tests this summer have tended to support this.
Now, oven cooking is a pain compared to PCing. But unevenly cooked beans are less — ahem — digestible, as well as less palatable, so in my book the extra trouble to get them cooked right is worth it. I suspect a good slow cooker would be as effective as a low oven for this purpose, but I’ve never owned one.
If you care to elaborate on why you think the IP slow cooker is better, I’m interested. It has seemed to me that without a ceramic insert, it would be more like cooking on a stovetop burner on low setting.
Cooking-wise, I’ve focused more this summer on learning how to cook better than on exploring new recipes. My kitchen is still a mess most of the time. What have you been up to?August 27, 2016 at 1:35 am #37274
Suzanne, can you share your “baking” method? I’d like to try it to compare – I’d be using a toaster oven because firing-up my 36″ beast in the summer makes NO sense!
BTW, I’ve had terrible luck with the red beans I purchase from my Pakistani market – I suspect maybe they’re really old. They’re a darker red and whenever I cook them even after soaking for 24 hours they remain al dente and crunchy.
BUT, the red beans I get from my supermarket and BIO store are much brighter red and DEFINITELY easier to cook. They were all creamy and perfectly cooked.They were imported from Canada. They cost an arm and a leg (5x to 10x price comparatively) but they’re worth it.
So much color came off the Pakistani beans during the soak I secretly wondered if they “colored” them? There is no “country of origin” on these beans, just that they were imported into and packed in the UK. They’re super cheap and sketchy. I did notice most of their Indian-branded spices originate from China and are packed in the U.K. So, hmmmm…
My point being: instead of getting an Instant Pot and Oshawa Pot and whole new set-up… maybe you should try another variety of red beans?
LAugust 27, 2016 at 2:05 pm #37275
Your point is a good one: It would be easier to switch bean source. Walmart has them, and the local big chain supermarket does, too. I’ve had a few bad bean experiences and read unfavorable things about beans in big stores, so I’ve tended to stick with my food co-op’s bulk section, which has served me well, except for the small red beans. But it wouldn’t hurt — too much — to try these other brands. ;-)
I had a big stash of small red beans I bought at a co-op sale last winter, and wanted to use them up before fall. It seemed a good opportunity to compare the effectiveness of different cooking techniques for muscling these obstinate beans into fawning submission, using beans from the same lot.
I noticed the oven also worked better for some dried heirloom runner beans from Mexico. I’ve been thinking the low oven (or a slow cooker) might be a good fallback solution for fussier beans in general.
Those maybe colored beans from the Pakistani market sound scary! I wonder if they were actually adzuki beans. I’ve never had any luck with those. My small red beans do lose a lot of color when soaking and end up more pale pink than red.
That’s great you are interested in playing with this as well. First let’s make sure we are talking about the same bean. The term “red beans” gets used for, by my count, four different kinds of bean.
3. cranberry beans (I see this usage in French cookbooks and online, referring to coco rouge beans)
4. Mexican small red beans
I’ve been referring to no. 4, Mexican small red beans. Is that the same bean you were writing about above? Sorry if this is tedious — just wanted to make sure we are on the same page.August 27, 2016 at 2:16 pm #37276HelenAdamsParticipant
Totally agree about the extra trouble. I will cook some things for 3 days.
But I do not eat the same quantity of beans or have same expectations/standards as you do. My bean palate is underdeveloped I guess.
I have had several old-style slow cookers and a few new ones, one as high as $150 in price. The old ones make a better product IMO. This is not nostalgia talking because I have one in the north which I bought at a thrift store.
My Instant Pot produces similar results, maybe not as good, or maybe as good. Subjective.
My other slow cookers gave me less pleasant results for stews. But… I have not cooked beans in a newer slow cooker either.
Most of my cooking is focused on making things better and/or more convenient.
I like to try different recipes/methods/even foods, but I also like to have some of the things I like that freeze well precooked and packaged so I can just reheat.
I often go off on wild tangents like Asian dumplings or bread baking, (or even pressure cooking) but usually that means I have time on my hands :)August 27, 2016 at 8:41 pm #37277
“Bean palate.” Too funny!
I’m with you on getting organized so there’s always an easy meal to be had. Since we chatted last spring, I’ve cleared out most of the freezer to have more room for homemade frozen meals and some chicken carcasses for spontaneous chicken soup this winter.
Today I organized dried beans into large mason jars to keep them fresher and threw out old bits of beans in bags left from recipe experiments. Cleared out cupboard ingredients that aren’t being used. Getting ready for fall.
Seems like I go through phases of trying new cooking approaches/recipes and buying novel ingredients. My refrigerator and cupboards get stuffed and cluttered. Then the experimenting and buying slows down as I sort out what I’ve learned that’s worth keeping, and fine-tune and integrate it into routines. Then the failed experiment ingredients get purged. Like neural pruning in child brain development. This time last year I thought I could learn to cook black-eyed peas in a way that would persuade me to like them. The last sad dried peas are in the trash now, along with the green mango powder and onion seeds.
It’s a nice feeling, not having any grand cooking projects in mind. Would be peachy to avoid any “wild tangents” of my own for a while. Maybe my kitchen will stay cleaner.August 30, 2016 at 6:57 pm #37300
@Laura, here’s the method that worked, along with the failures. Each time I used an iron enameled pot and boiled the beans 10 minutes stove top first.
1. I salt-soaked, changed water, and cooked in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for an hour. This yielded intact, evenly cooked beans. But gassy.
2. Because so many people online have converted to it, I tried the Parsons method, no soaking, at 350 degrees. Salt toward end of cooking. After 2.5 hours, beans were very unevenly cooked and very gassy.
3. Then I soaked beans, changed the water, salted toward end of cooking, and cooked half of beans at 200 degrees for 2.75 hours and the other half at 350 degrees for 2 hours. There was still too much uneveness, although quite a bit less than with the Parsons method. Beans were less gassy, but too many were broken up. Didn’t detect any difference between the two oven temperatures.
4. So I went back to my original approach. Salt-soaking to keep skins intact but this time a lower temperature and more cooking time. So, salt-soaked, oven at 250 degrees, for 2.5 hours. This yielded an acceptable result (sounds of a parade)! Intact, well-seasoned, and pretty evenly cooked beans, not too gassy. Next time I cook small red beans, I’ll use a 200 degree oven for at least 3 hours and see if that evens them out completely.
In a New York Times Q and A, Harold McGee wrote, “I recommend soaking beans, then cooking them in the same water at a bare simmer for at least a couple of hours, even if they’re soft before then. Extended cooking breaks down the gassy carbohydrates.”
That would explain the difference in result between tests 1 and 4. Getting to a soft and creamy state in Test 1 didn’t de-gas the beans. Low temperature and/or extra cooking time in Test 4 did.
I was surprised that, given how salt-soaking accelerates cooking, in Test 4 I could more than double the cook time used in Test 1 with no ill effect. Slow-poke beans continued to soften and catch up to the faster cooking beans, but the faster cooking ones didn’t blow out.
No disrespect implied: Russ Parsons writes his method may not be the best for all beans and all recipes, and these red beans have a long track record of deliquency.
My food co-op, where I get them, did some digging for me. This lot of organic beans dates from the 2014 fall harvest. Not old by Rancho Gordo standards. They were equally uncooperative last fall when they were only a year old. Every lot has been consistently stubborn over the years. Other co-op beans from the same U.S. national distributor cook easily, so they must be storing them well.
So I can’t say why these beans are outlaws, but now they know where the jailhouse is. ;-)
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