While most cooking instructions will say six to eight hours or overnight soaking is enough, it's actually quite helpful to soak beans for two to three days. Simply place the dried beans in a bowl with enough water to cover them by about four inches. Drain the water and replace it twice daily. When it's time to cook the beans, drain the water completely and add fresh water for cooking. You might find that a small tail has begun to form on some beans. This means that they have started sprouting and are even more digestible.
Different beans have different cooking times, roughly dependent on their size. As a starting point, small beans such as lentils need, at minimum, thirty minutes; medium-sized beans such as adzuki and mung need at least sixty minutes; and large beans such as kidney and cannellini need a full hour and a half. Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) can require up to two and a half hours of cooking. Ultimately, you'll want to test the beans to make sure they're nice and soft. This is one instance in which overcooking is preferably to undercooking.
While these cooking times might sound really long, the nice thing about it is that beans don't require babysitting. You can put a pot of beans on the stove, bring it to a boil, and then turn down the heat to very low and leave it. I'd recommend staying in the house, but you don't have to be actively involved in the cooking.
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