It’s that time of year when the grills and BBQ pits are going full steam. It’s about good food and fun times with family and friends and a chance to show off all those creative side dishes you love to make, But nothing beats everybody's traditional favorite, Baked Beans. Here’s Sweet Daddy D’s no-angst recipe for some Darn Good Baked Beans that will be the rave of the BBQ, so don't expect any leftovers! Plus, I’ll share a few shortcuts so you can enjoy these even if you don’t have a lot of time.
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[Publishers Note: I originally published this article in April 2018. I am publishing this update to provide some clarifications with step-by-step instructions and web-friendly photographs of each step. Let me know what you think.]
Here’s What You Need
Why type of canned beans are best? You can use your favorite, but I always use and recommend Vegetarian (or Plain) style. Many of the "flavored" canned beans can mask or affect the overall flavor you are trying to create.
Here is some of the equipment I used to prepare this recipe:
Here’s What You Do
First…you have a beer. Hopefully, you’re getting ready for a big gathering and getting the pit set up, so you probably already have a beer. But even if you’re just having a weeknight family dinner, go ahead and pop a top while you read the recipe from start to finish so that you know what you’ll need and what you’re going to do with each ingredient. This is truly a no-angst recipe if you and the ingredients are prepared beforehand.
Mise En Place
What happens in this step? This is when we make sure we have all the ingredients and prepare them prior to cooking. It is much more fun when everything is prepped and all you have to do is concentrate on the cooking process.
- Chop the yellow onions and bell peppers and place them in the same prep bowl (they go in the pot at the same time). You can use a rough chop on them, in fact I like finding chunks of onions and bell peppers in my beans.
- Chop the garlic and slice the bacon into about 1 or 2 inches pieces. Place these in separate prep bowls.
- Mix the brown sugar, ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and a pinch of salt in a large measuring cup. Make sure the brown sugar dissolves in the ketchup and mustard.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees
Caramelize the onions and bell peppers
What happens in this step? Great flavor is derived from the bacon grease and caramelizing the onions. This is an important step in building the sweetness of the beans. It’s important not to rush this part. Let the bacon render without burning and give the onions and green peppers ample time to caramelize. A little time pays big benefits in flavor.
Fry the bacon in a large, heavy-bottom Dutch oven with a heavy lid over medium heat, until all the fat is rendered out, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the bacon and set aside, but leave the bacon grease in the pan.
Add the yellow onions and green bell peppers to the bacon grease, maintain a medium heat and let the onions start to caramelize. Stir often so they don't stick and burn. This could take 15 or 20 minutes but it's worth the time. (see the shortcuts below in the HInts and Tips section if you don't have a lot of time)
When the onions are caramelized, add the garlic and stir well. Stir for about 2 minutes until the great garlic aroma is on your nose.
Mix the beans and the Fixins'
What happens in this step? Now we will combine the beans and fixings with the caramelized onions and seasonings and prepare them for the oven.
When the garlic is aromatic, it's time to add the beans and their liquid.
When the cans are empty, fill one of the empty cans with water (see the Hints and Tips section about how much water to use). Stir the beans well and add about a half can of water. Make sure everything is well mixed.
Bring the beans to simmer and let them simmer slowly for about 5 minutes. Stir the Fixins' (brown sugar/ketchup mix) into the beans and let them return to a simmer for another 5 minutes.
Finish in the Oven
What happens in this step? The beans will spend up to three hours in a low oven so that the flavors fuse and sweeten. This is when that unmistakable flavor of baked beans is created.
Place the lid on the Dutch oven and set it in the preheated oven (300 degrees Fahrenheit). For optimal flavor, it should in that low oven for three hours, stirring completely every hour. Make sure to get all the beans off the bottom and sides and add some water if it's getting too thick. Likewise, if it's too watery, take the cover off the last 30 minutes.
These are going to be some Darn Good Baked Beans.
Hints and Tips
Sometimes you just don’t have the time to stick these in the oven for three hours so here are a few tips and suggestions that can shorten that time and still turn out some darn good beans:
Save the bacon grease next time you fry some bacon. You should never throw away your bacon grease-you can store it in a jar in the fridge for many months and you can just scoop out what you need (use about 3 tablespoons for this recipe). Keep it handy, it will save lots of time by not having to fry bacon for this recipe and others.
Use vegetable or olive oil instead of bacon grease. Although smoked bacon and bacon grease lend some serious and special flavor to this recipe, sauteing the onions and pepper in vegetable oil or olive oil will save some time. It may not be bacon, but it’s still pretty darn good.
Saute until the onions are just starting to get clear, about 5 to 8 minutes. Caramelizing the onions slowly over medium heat imparts the natural sugars in the onions and adds to the sweetness and body of these beans, but again, it takes time you may not have. Whether you use bacon grease or oil, this can save you at least 10 minutes.
Cook them covered over low heat on top of the stove. Go as long as you can, I’d go at least 30 minutes, but as long as they are completely warmed through you can enjoy them. Maybe they aren’t “baked” Baked Beans, but I won’t tell anyone!
Cook them a day in advance. If you don’t have about 4 hours the day you need them, cook them fully or partially the day before. They will keep well in the fridge, then just warm them on top of the stove or finish cooking them in the oven before you serve them.
Leftover baked beans can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days and in the freezer for up to two months. Make sure to store them in an airtight container for the best quality. When it’s time to reheat, thaw them in the fridge overnight if frozen. They can be reheated in the microwave, on top of the stove, or in the oven (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for 10 to 20 minutes or until heard all the way through.
This recipe assumes 15-ounce cans of beans. If you are using the 28-ounce cans, just fill it halfway. Fill one of the cans with water, then swirl it around and pour its contents into the other cans. Repeat this a few times and you will end up with water flavored with the juice from the beans. Add as much or as little water to the beans to reach your preferred level of thickness.
OK, you have your Darn Good Baked Beans in the oven. Do you know the perfect companion side dish for the cook-out? Sweet Daddy D's Potato Salad with Marinated Purple Onions.
These baked beans will be Darn Good with these:
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Yeah You Right!
Darn Good Baked Beans
Here's What You Need
- 4 @ 15 ounce cans pork and beans or 2 @ 28oz cans
- 3 slices smoked bacon sliced into 1" pieces (3 Tablespoons bacon grease)
- 2 cups yellow onion chopped-about 1 med-large onion
- 1 ½ cups green pepper chopped-about 1 medium pepper
- 2 tablespoons garlic minced-about 3 cloves
- 15 ounces water See Notes
- ½ cup brown sugar light or dark
- ½ cup ketchup
- 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
- Pinch kosher salt
Here's What You Do
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
- Chop all the vegetables and set aside. Mix the Fixins' in a small bowl making sure to break up any lumps from the brown sugar. Set the Fixins' aside.
- In an oven-safe heavy Dutch oven with a lid, fry the bacon over medium heat until almost crispy and plenty of fat has been rendered. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside. Make sure to leave the bacon grease in the Dutch oven.
- Continuing on medium heat, sauté the yellow onions and peppers in the bacon grease until starting to caramelize. Don't rush this step, it will take about 20 minutes. See NOTES.
- Add the garlic and stir until aromatic, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the beans and mix well. Increase the heat until it comes to a simmer for a few minutes.
- While it's simmering, fill one of the cans with water. Pour the water from can to can to capture all the juice. Set aside. See NOTES.
- Add the Fixins' and combine completely. Add about ½ can of the water and increase the heat to bring it to a boil, set the remaining water aside. Cook on a slow simmer for about 5 minutes. Add back some or all of the bacon.
- Place in a 300 degree oven, covered for about three hours total. Stir every hour or so making sure to scrape the beans off the side and bottom, Add more water from the reserved can depending on how thick you like your beans.