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Classic Boston Baked Beans

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Serves 10 to 12 as a side dish

These saucy beans will become a year-round favorite. They’re a great foil for smoky barbecue, and they’re comforting in colder weather. Navy beans are commonly used, but in New England, creamy, flavorful heirloom beans like maroon-eyed soldier beans, yellow-eyed beans, and maroon-and-white Jacob’s cattle are popular. They may need to cook longer.

Note: Several readers have given us feedback concerning the recipe’s cooking time, so we’ve provided additional tips from our Test Kitchen to ensure your beans come out perfect:

  • Buy the freshest beans you can find. We suggest buying beans from a bulk bin at a natural foods store, if possible. If you buy them from a grocery store, a bigger, busier grocery store is preferable. Chances are better that the beans haven’t been sitting around long.
  • Sometimes gas ovens cycle on and off and have trouble maintaining a low temperature; if your beans are not tender after 6 hours, your oven could be a factor.
  • When you open the oven door to check on the beans, you’re lowering the temperature. Check your beans sparingly—and when you do—test more than one bean for doneness. Beans cook at different rates, so try a few.
  • Finally, we know it’s hard to wait after smelling the beans baking for hours, but resting the beans for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours before serving is essential for optimum sauciness.

  • 1 lb. (2-1/2 cups) dried navy beans, picked through for stones
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. salt pork or thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1x1/4-inch strips
  • 1/2 cup robust unsulfured molasses
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbs. ground mustard
  • 1/2 oz. kosher salt (1-1/2 Tbs. Diamond Crystal or 1 Tbs. Morton)
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Tip:
Molasses helps the beans keep their shape. Its acidity makes the beans cook slower, so they don't fall apart during the long baking time that gives them all their flavor. Use robust unsulfured molasses, sometimes labeled as dark or full body. It is more concentrated and caramelized than mild molasses, yet lighter, and less bitter than blackstrap molasses.

Put the beans in a large bowl, add enough water to cover by about 2 inches, and refrigerate for 8 to 16 hours. (Or bring the beans and water to a boil in a large pot, remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes.) Drain and rinse the beans.

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 250°F.

Spread the onion in an even layer on the bottom of a 5-quart Dutch oven or similar heavy-duty pot. Scatter the salt pork on top and then the beans. In a large measuring cup, combine the molasses, brown sugar, maple syrup, mustard, salt, and pepper with 5 cups water. Gently pour over the beans.

Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then transfer to the oven and bake uncovered until the beans are fully tender, 4 to 6 hours—it’s OK if they still look watery at this point. Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours to thicken the liquid before serving. Serve, or cool and refrigerate in an airtight container.

Make Ahead Tips

The baked beans can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 240; Fat (g): fat g 3.5; Fat Calories (kcal): 35; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 1; Protein (g): protein g 10; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 1.5; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 43; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 0.5; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 710; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 5; Fiber (g): fiber g 10;

Photo: Scott Phillips

We have made this recipe a couple times... about to do it again :-) Yes, they do tend to be undercooked, and soupy. I also find them to be too sweet and cut the brown sugar totally. But I love the healthy dose of mustard, and the onions and bacon. Maybe will mix it with the other FC beans ... http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/boston-baked-beans.aspx

Cooking time was off. Like other reviewers, I cooked these for about 11-12 hours without the beans getting soft. I ended up throwing the whole pot out because the beans were inedible. What a bummer and not a great use of my time.

These are delicious. However, I benefitted from other reviewers criticism of uncooked watery beans.I compared several other recipes which all called for the lid on during baking. Since I started making my beans at 2:30pm, I boiled the dried beans for about 40 minutes. I browned the bacon and onions, then added beans and other ingredients including 4cups of water that I cooked the beans in. I baked with the lid ON at 325 for 2 hours, then for another 20 minutes with lid off. Worked great!

Beans never got soft. Six plus hours later, I finally just pulled the beans out of the oven. It's possible that it was the brand of salt pork I purchased, but there was a lot of fat on top once it cooled down. Disappointing considering all the time it took to cook.

THESE BEANS DID NOT COOK! The flavor is great but the beans never cook!!!!! Incorrect recipe! :((((

It smelled fabulous and was easy, BUT after 6 hours the beans were still not cooked, and it was very soupy. Yes, it was simmered beforehand. I suspect the temperature listed may be incorrect, as several of us have had this result.

I followed the directions but after 4 hours, the beans were firm. After 6 hours, still firm. I checked them hourly for the remainder of the day (11 hours in all), and they never softened - too bad because the flavor was exactly what I was expecting. I had once read that you shouldn't add salt to beans until after they are fully softened, and think that may be the flaw. I checked to see if there was a correction to the recipe to add the salt at the end, but there wasn't. Since I promised to bring Boston baked beans to the family cookout, I've moved on to the Fine Cooking recipe from 2009 and have my fingers crossed. Shorter cooking process, with salt and cider vinegar added at the end.

We really enjoyed this recipe-- it made the house smell great all afternoon, and it tasted great as a side to hot dogs. We didn't find it too sweet-- and I generally cut the sugar in most recipes, although I used the full amount here. The molasses, mustard and onions give these beans a robust, complex flavor. Even after resting, these beans were very saucy, verging on soupy-- but your beans may vary. This is a traditional Boston Baked Bean recipe, so it has no ketchup. It might be interesting to compare it to Jasper White's less-traditional recipe (ketchup and-- gasp-- garlic), published in FC in 2009: http://www.finecooking.com/recipes/boston-baked-beans.aspx

I think it is missing something like tomato sauce/paste or ketchup? Tastes too swwet...too much molasses perhaps? There is nohing to balance the sweetness. Needs something slightly tart.

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