How To Cook Green Beans

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For perfectly cooked green beans that are flavorful, crisp, and tender, you have to employ a quick two-step technique. Here’s how to do it.

Snap, string, or green beans are all names for pole or bush beans that grow in the spring and early fall. You’ll find pole and bush beans in green, yellow, and purple hues. Haricots verts are a smaller, thinner French varietal that can also be cooked using this method if you reduce the cooking time in half. Buy fresh green beans for this method (not frozen or canned, which are each partially cooked). Be sure to rinse the green beans and remove the stem end before cooking.

Sautéing the green beans first achieves two things. First, it quickly removes some moisture from the beans, concentrating their flavor while also improving their snap. Sautéing also heats the pan so the water added during the second step quickly turns into the steam that cooks the green beans all the way through.

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Adding a small amount of water to the hot pan of green beans creates steam that can be captured with the lid and used to gently finish cooking the beans. Steaming green beans is better than boiling because it prevents the beans from overcooking and preserves a vibrant green color.

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While the recipe below calls for olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes to season the beans, you can easily swap those ingredients to customize the beans’ flavor. Use sesame oil, ginger, and Chinese five spice instead, or simply swap the olive oil for butter (it will brown and become nutty) and add slivered almonds instead of red pepper flakes at the end. Once you’ve mastered the basic technique, go ahead and mix things up.

How To Cook Green Beans

Ingredients

  • 1 pound

    fresh green beans

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 2 cloves

    garlic, thinly sliced

  • 1/2 cup

    water

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions

  1. Rinse and trim the beans. Rinse the green beans under cool water and shake dry. Trim the stem end from the beans and halve any very long beans.

  2. Sauté the beans. Heat the oil in a large straight-sided skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the green beans and cook, stirring often, until the beans are bright and glossy, 5 to 7 minutes.

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  3. Season the beans. Add the garlic and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.

  4. Steam the beans. Add the water and immediately cover. Cook covered until the beans are bright green and crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes.

  5. Serve. Add the red pepper flakes, if using, and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftover beans can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Meghan Splawn

Food Editor, Skills

Meghan is the Food Editor for Kitchn’s Skills content. She’s a master of everyday baking, family cooking, and harnessing good light. Meghan approaches food with an eye towards budgeting — both time and money — and having fun. Meghan has a baking and pastry degree, and spent the first 10 years of her career as part of Alton Brown’s culinary team. She co-hosts a weekly podcast about food and family called Didn’t I Just Feed You.

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