It can be really easy to screw up cooking green beans. If you look away for just a minute, delicate beans can go from crisp-tender to over-cooked and mushy, and there's no turning back. Plus when they're at their peak, green beans have a vibrant green color and lovely spring flavor that shines when they're barely cooked. Before your beans lose their brightness and a staple side dish is ruined, learn how to cook green beans three ways — boiling, steaming, and sautéing.
How to prep green beans
No matter how you cook them, it's important to properly prep them. This means thoroughly washing and scrubbing them and then trimming the ends of any scraggly bits using kitchen shears or a paring knife. Haricots verts (aka French green beans) often come pre-trimmed, but be sure to give them a once-over to avoid eating any undesirable scraps. Discard or compost any beans that have brown or mushy spots and move forward with the rest.
How to boil green beans
Don't overthink this one! The best way to boil green beans is to start with salted boiling water. This isn't like pasta where the water should be as salty as the sea, but don't skimp on the salt either. A tablespoon or two should do the trick. Once the water has reached a rapid boil, throw in the beans, or rather, gently and carefully place them in the pot). Cook for just 3 to 4 minutes. Feel free to pull one out to give it a taste — in fact, you should do this! At the end of the day, the texture of the bean should be what you want so drain the water if they taste done, or leave them in for another 30 seconds to one minute to cook further.
How to steam green beans
Steaming green beans is an easy way to make a delicious side dish for weeknight dinners. So why would you steam vegetables instead of boiling them? Steaming is slightly healthier because it keeps some of the nutrients intact, but is also a more risk-free cooking method since they're less likely to overcook. To steam them, create a double boiler by placing a steamer basket (or metal colander) in a medium-sized pot. Bring one to 2 inches of water to a boil, place the beans in the basket, and cover with a lid. The cooking time may vary based on the amount of beans that you're preparing, but as a rule of thumb, start by steaming them for five minutes over medium-high heat and continue to cook until the beans have the perfect bite to them.
How to sauté green beans
To sauté fresh green beans, start by heating a stainless steel or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil or butter. Once sizzling, add the beans, cover with a lid, and cook for 15 minutes until tender. As soon as the beans are cooked, garnish them as you please (but may we suggest minced garlic or a drizzle of maple syrup?).
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Our favorite green bean recipes
Dress up fresh green beans by sautéing them in extra virgin olive oil and then tossing them with minced garlic and lemon juice and zest. It's a simple preparation that will be crowd-pleasing and easy to perfect.
The beauty of this recipe is that you can apply the cooking method to so many different vegetables beyond green beans (like Brussels sprouts!). But sautéing really is one of our favorite ways to cook flavorful, and definitely not mushy string beans.
Learn how to dry-fry green beans with this recipe. What's dry frying, you ask? Well friends, it's a very cool cooking method that calls for sautéeing green beans (or any vegetable, really!) in a dry skillet with just a tiny, tiny amount of oil. The result is also extra crispy, blistered veggies that are perfectly tender on the inside.