Forget Soaking. Use Your Pressure Cooker for Perfect Black Beans in Under an Hour.

Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt

For a good 15 years of my driving life, I had a mini panic attack every time I entered the gas station because I couldn't remember which side the gas tank was on. Oh crap, am I going to be that jerk who pulls in, then has to pull out and swing around the pump while everyone watches me because I pulled up on the wrong side again? I'd think to myself. Then one day, someone told me that the gas display on your dashboard has a little arrow indicating which side the tank is on.

This was one of those simultaneously frustrating and liberating experiences in which I learned that I'd been doing things the hard way my entire life.

I had a similar experience a couple of years ago when I discovered that not only do you not have to soak dried black beans prior to cooking, but they actually come out tastier when you don't soak them. It's not new news. Russ Parsons wrote about it way back in 1994 in the L.A. Times. But, just like the gas tank arrow, it simply never entered my brain.

Some beans do need to be soaked in order to cook evenly without blowing out—but not black beans. And since I made this discovery, black beans have become my bean staple. How much easier does it get than Max's lazy black bean recipe? Throw beans in a pot, add a couple of aromatics, and boil them until finished. Done.

The answer is that it doesn't really get any easier than that. But it does get faster. With the help of a good pressure cooker, you can cut your total cooking time down from a few hours to under an hour, and the process is just as simple.


In this recipe, I start with a little bit of chorizo, which I sauté in oil until it starts to crisp up and render its fat. (You can very easily use any other firm, cured sausage—andouille, kielbasa, or pepperoni would all be delicious.) I then add the dried beans and the rest of the aromatics, and I don't even bother sweating or sautéing them first: I'm that lazy. An onion split in half, some whole cloves of garlic, an orange split in half, and some bay leaves. Cover the whole thing with chicken stock, season it with salt (contrary to popular belief, salt does not cause beans to turn tough—quite the opposite, in fact), then cook at high pressure for about 40 minutes. That's it.

What you do during that 40 minutes is entirely up to you. I suggest putting on a pair of wrist sweatbands, going for a jog, and realizing that those sweat bands are not for your sweaty wrists, but for wiping sweat off your face.

I'd been doing that wrong my whole life, too.