First, discard beans that are discolored or shriveled; then rinse them with cold water in a colander.
Step 1: Soak them.
- If you have an hour: Place the beans in a large saucepan and add water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 1 hour.
- If you have all night (and don’t want to lift a finger): Place the beans in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Let soak at room temperature for 8 to 10 hours.
Step 2: Cook them. Drain the soaked beans and return them to the pot. Cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until tender, 1½ to 3 hours. (Refer to the package directions for specific times. In general, the larger the bean, the longer the cooking time.) Note: A heaping half cup of dried beans is equivalent to a 15.5-ounce can of beans.