Dry Hard

Pulses; Dal

Dried pulses, the dried seeds of legumes are inexpensive but take time to cook, which uses time and personal energy, and fuel or power. Dried legumes last for months and years. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization recognizes 11 types of pulses harvested as dry grains: dry beans, dry broad beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cow peas, pigeon peas, lentils, bambara beans, vetches, lupins and pulses nes (not elsewhere specified). Split pulses are commonly called grams. But some pulses are called grams. t depends on the source of information,

Dry beans dry naturally. Green beans, string beans and soybeans are not dry beans.

Lentils are variants of one or two species in the genus Lens. They have a flat, disk-like shape. In the North American grocery market, the common products are large brown and green lentils grown in the USA and Canada, noted in the Lentil#Types section on the Wikipedia page.

Peas are round; variants of Pisum sativa. Chickpeas are in the genus Cicer. White chickpeas (garbanzo bean; Egyptian pea; kabuli chana) have been grown, cooked and consumed around the Mediteannean and in Asia as far east and south as India for a few millenia of recorded history. In India, dark chickpeas have been cultivated since before recorded history. The dark chickpea is the bengal gram.

Some sources recite old botanical taxonomy and refer to some European and Asian dry beans as Phaseolus. Broad beans, and faba (or fava) beans are vetches (Vicia faba); Lupini beans are lupins. Broad beans and lupins are the original Meditaranean and European dried beans. Most kidney-shaped or oval beans are variants of Phaseolus vulgraris, a pulse that evolved in South and Central America. The American variants include pinto, navy, Great Northern, lima, red kidney, cranberry and black turtle beans. Phaseolus has travelled and been modified and used in European and Indian agriculture and cooking. Cannellini beans (white kidney), and Great Northern beans were adopted in Italian, Mediterannean, and European cooking and agriculture. Red Kidney beans have become a north Indian food.

In Indian cooking, dal may refer to small pulses: lentils, urad beans, mung beans, and pigeon peas. It may include and to split chickpeas. A recipe may include other pulses; the term covers many pulses. This Indian cooking site explains and has images. I like Anupy Singla’s books (I am not sure what whethet her Internet ingredient store is the most economical way of getting ingredients). She explains the terms for whole, split and skin or skinless legumes.

English namesDescriptionIndian namesBotanyCooking
Brown lentilwholemasoor dalgenus LensIndian lentils are small;
American lentils are larger
Red lentil;
pink lentil
split brownmasoor dal duhligenus Lens
Mung bean;
Green gram
wholesabut moong dalVigna mungo;
South Asian peas;
Mung beansplit, skinnedmoong dal;
duhli moong dal
Vigna mungo
Urad bean;
black gram
wholesabut uradVigna mungo;
South Asian peas
hard; long cooking time
Urad beanspliturad dal chilkaVigna mungo
Urad beansplit, skinnedurad dal duhliVigna mungo
Pigeon peawholesabut toor dalgenus Cajanus;
India; South-East Asia
Pigeon peasplitduhli toor dalCajanus
Chickpea (white)
Garbanzo bean
wholekabuli chanagenus Cicer
Chickpea (black)
Bengal gram
wholedesi chanaCicer
Chickpea (black)splitchana dalCicer
Cowpea
Blackeyed peagenus Vigna;
Africa; spread to
America and India
Red Kidney beanrajmaphaseolus vulgaris;
central American,
spread to India

Canned beans are cooked to a point, canned, and cooked in the can at high temperature. Canned beans are high in sodium, except for some brands.

Cooking

Dried pulses have to be rehydrated and cooked. Old pulses are drier and harder to cook. Age is not easily judged from appearance. The questions are whether to rinse or soak, and whether to cook just below the boiling point of water (if that is possible with a modern stove), boil, or cook at higher temperature under pressure. It’s time, energy, tools and results – and finding the right ones and using them before they dry out.

The cooking time for depends on the seed, age and cooking method. Soaking before cooking reduces the cooking time, saving energy and giving the cook some confidence about getting the beans cooked on schedule for a predictable meal time. There are varations – soaking in brine; adding baking soda to the cooking water.

Mexican and Central American cooks simmered pinto beans and black (turtle) beans in an olla in enough water to keep the beans covered in water through the entire process – clay pot cooking. The beans would be cooked for several hours. Little water was lost to evaporation. The beans absorbed much of the water, and the cooking fluid became a broth. With this method, the beans were not soaked or pre-cooked. According to Rick Bayless writing in Mexico, One Plate at a Time (Scribner, 2000), cooking in an olla heated the beans and water to 205-210 degrees (F), just below boiling. Rick Bayless recommends using a slow cooker for these beans, without soaking, flavouring the cooking water with dried herbs and peppers, and using the cooking water as a gravy.

A beanpot or cooking pot (e.g. a Dutch Oven) filled with beans and water can be put in an oven. This is the preferred method for baked beans. An oven might be set as low as 250 F to simmer the beans slowly; many recipes suggest a hotter oven. The main constraints on slow simmering and baking are to start early enough to get the beans soft and well cooked by meal time, to use enough water, and to keep the heat low and steady.

Dried pulses can be cooked in cooking vessels, including stovetop pressure cookers, on home stoves. Stove and ovens became the preferred approach where hot stoves were workable, including Europe and North America. Stovetop elements and burners heat the contents of metal pots above the boiling point of water, even at the lowest settings. With stoves, metal pots and cheap energy or fuel, the prevalent approach became to soak and boil.

A pressure cooker reaches cooking temperatures above the boiling point of water. Early versions of modern stovetop pressure cookers were introduced in America before World War II. Electric (third generation) pressure cookers were introduced in 1961. Pressure cooking involves pre-heating time before cooking temperature is reached. Critics say that pressure cooking does not necessarily use less time, fuel or electical current that other devices. Products improved; prices dropped; good recipe books for modern pressure cookers became available: e.g. Cooking Under Pressure (1989) by Lorna J. Sass (web site); hip Pressure Cooking (2014) by Laura D.A. Pazzaglia (hippressurecooking.com). These books, and other books, have methods for dried pulses. The hip pressure cooking book has a section of dal recipes, a section on the “Italian” beans, and recipes using kidney, pinto, black and red beans.

A pressure cooker is a good way to cook dried pulses. There is a risk of overcooking split pulses which is a benefit if the cook wants soft texture. There is a risk of splitting the skins of larger pulses – my reaction is: so what. I like my beans cooked, not chewy.

Slow Cookers

The slow cookers manufactured in the USA in the 1940s were beanpots: a crock, heated with an electric element, designed to braise food in liquid at low heat and slowly bring the ingredients to a sufficient temperature to make the food tender and digestible and kill bacteria. Whether and when a machine got to a particular temperature depends on the machine, the ingredients, and time. The classical slow cooker with a ceramic insert uses continuous power. In a machine with an off-low-high switch, high puts out more power. High is not hot enough to heat water to boiling very fast. But, even on low, a small amount of water would eventually boil; a small amount of food would eventually burn, if left long enough. The cook can control the amount and type of food, heat settings and the cooking time. The table in this article says that 7 hours on low is equivalent to 3 hours on high. This guideline depends on the type of device and many factors not apparent to the user. Slow cookers never were made to be hot enough to saute, fry or roast food: they have low powered elements and are not insulated. Manufacturers developed roasting pans/oven in the shape and style of slow cookers, and slow cookers with metal inserts. Metal pans transfer heat differently, requiring different elements and controls.

  • Users must not add cold ingredients into a hot crock;
  • Users must not to use the insert on stove elements, in hot ovens, or in microwave ovens;
  • The element is in the metal shell that holds the ceramic insert. The ceramic material near the element gets hot first and is always hotter than the rest of the insert. Food touching the insert near the element may brown, stick or even burn;
  • Users are warned by manufacturers and culinary writers to not lift the lid or stir the food;
  • Consumers complain about glazing breaking down. Manufacturers deflect by blaming users for ignoring warnings and limit their liability to short warranty periods. Replacement inserts are hard to find – they may be out of production, or out of stock.

A few slow cookers worked as electric Dutch ovens; the electric roasting pan emerged on the market. Manufacturers began to use hotter elements in regular slow cookers and crock pots to avoid leaving the food in the temperature range that fostered bacterial growth. Most manufacturers continued to use glazed ceramic inserts. Ceramic insert devices have several rules, warnings and issues:

Users must not to use these crocks on stove elements, in hot ovens, or in microwave ovens. The element is in the metal shell that holds the ceramic insert. The ceramic material near the element gets hot first and is always hotter than the rest of the insert. Food touching the insert near the element may brown, stick or even burn. Cooks are warned by manufacturers and culinary writers to not lift the lid or stir the food for fear of losing heat and wasting time and energy. Consumers complain about glazing breaking down, which manufacturers deflect by blaming users for ignoring warnings and rules in the product manual and by limiting their liability with short warranty periods. Replacement inserts are hard to find – they may be out of production, or out of stock.

Manufacturers added timers, switches, lid latches, probes, and “smart” wireless controls to ceramic crock slow cookers, which extended and diversified the product lines. These innovations added some value for consumers. Timers give cooks an option to change the heat after a fixed time. Jardine, which owns the Crock-Pot name and brand, introduced an instant Crock-Pot, an electric pressure cooker with a non-stick metal insert to compete with Multi-cookers.

Slow cookers are a good way to cook dried pulses. The recipes that work cook the pulses on their own, or en olla as a bean course. A simple crock pot type slow cooker will cook dried beans in water, in time. I cook beans in a simple high-low 4 quart ceramic crock. Pinto beans do well with about 8 hours on low. Black turtle beans can be done in 6 hours. Lentils only take a few hours in a slow cooker. Dal can take a long time – urad are hard, rajma are large red kidney beans and chana dal are chickpeas – they take time. Dried split peas did not cook well in a slow cooker.

A slow cooker recipe with pulse in a stew (or a chili) should be done either with canned beans or in stages, with the pulses done first.

Multicookers

The technology of non-stick pans, sensors, and controls emerged in rice cookers, bread machines and electric pressure cookers. The multicooker (e.g. Instant Pot) is an electric pressure cooker with a metal pot or insert, and controls to slow cook at low (180-190 F) or high (200-205 F). The element in these devices is at the bottom of the pot; the power to the element is programmed to maintain a steady temperature. They can reach a safe slow cooking temperature and maintain it.

Pressure cooker books that cover electric pressure cookers are useful for cooking with multicookers. Slow cooker recipes work in multicookers.

Multicookers are loaded with cycles and settings that a user may not use. The most useful ones are saute, slow cook, pressure cook.

The sensors of multicookers, like those of rice cookers and electric pressure cookers, are outside the pot. The sensor reading and/or the machine’s calculation of the cooking temperature are not displayed. People can experiment using the custom settings on programmable multi-cookers for Sous-vide, but measuring the temperature of food depends on the cook’s tools and time, and existential limits. Taking the lid off lowers the temperature. Using a glass lid in a multi-cooker on a slow cooker setting, the food is in a safe range but not as warm as the manual says for that setting. With the pressure lid on (and the valve open) the food cooks hotter; often more than the manual says. The device does not give the cook as much control of temperature and time as may be assumed.

It works for me

I used a 6 quart Crock Pot with a removable ceramic insert and a manual off-low-high switch for years. It heated the ingredients enough: it created humidity under the lid and some bubbling in the pot; some ingredients would bake to the sides. I made stews and chilies that filled the pot to 2/3 to 3/4, cooked on low for 5-7 hours. I refrigerated or froze leftovers. These recipes require precooked dried beans or canned beans

I tried a recipe with dry white chickpeas once. The other ingredients were well cooked at 6 hours on low before but the beans were not done – rather crunchy. Chickpeas are said to need 3 hours or 4 hours on high in a crock pot or slow cooker. I haven’t tried that; I won’t. I have done curried chickpeas (using a chana masala spice blend); cooking time of 14 hours on high. I prefer pressure cooking to cook or parcook chickpeas before slow cooking. If chickpeas have been soaked, they take about 15 to 18 minutes on high pressure in a pressure cooker. Some books say 8-10 minutes but that only parcooks them.