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.
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.
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.
From here, serve the cooked green beans as is, or sprinkle ‘em with lemon juice, grated Parmesan cheese, fiery red pepper flakes, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, of course.
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.