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Jul 31, 2011 12:11 PM

How do I cook really tender green beans?

I know this is a very basic question, but I love the really soft tender green beans that you get at places like Cracker Barrel. But whenever I cook green beans, no matter how long I boil them, they are never that soft and tender. My wife and I both really like green beans with bacon and onions, but the beans must be very tender. Perhaps I am just buying the wrong kind of bean?

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  1. Try buying ones that are young, not the older ones. I like to steam them.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      +1 to this. If they're not young, 'baby' green beans, they're going to be tough. Try a farmers market.
      (I hate canned green beans, and no amount of bacon will disguise the flavor to me.)

    2. You might want to braise rather than boil. Saute bacon and onions then add beans and some water, cook on low until they are as tender as you like. (Although lots of people like "crisp tender" vegetables, I've never been a fan and like you want them fully cooked--or overcooked in this case.)

      2 Replies
      1. re: escondido123

        Thanks for the tip. Bacon and onions really spiffed up some freshly picked garden beans. (Didn't overcook them, but I know people who do.)

        1. re: escondido123

          Choose only the youngest beans. Then slowly 'steam-sauté' them in a little clarified butter and a few drops of water with a few drops of fresh squeezed lemon juice and a tiny pinch of sugar and kosher salt until they have the texture you want.
          I don't use the bacon fat in this method b/c it will make the bean's surface texture 'greasy'.
          Using clarified butter is important b/c the milk solids in table butter adds a 'cheesy' sour note to cooked foods, especially veg. IMO.

        2. +1 to "overcooked." I grew up in the South, and to this day, still can't eat tender-crisp green beans. At my house, they were cooked for hours. Probably not one single nutrient left, but boy were they good.

          2 Replies
          1. re: pine time

            you don't throw out the cooking water (likker!) so there's still something left, I would think...

            1. re: sunshine842

              The likker gets sopped up with the cornbread!

          2. wrong form - try canned instead of fresh :)

            9 Replies
            1. re: paulj

              Yes, it's embarrassing to admit, but I (and most of the people I know only secretly admit this) like the canned ones better than fresh. Reminds us of our childhoods and diner food, I guess. I'm almost certain Cracker Barrel (and most chains like it ) use canned.

              You'll never get fresh to taste like canned, for better or worse, because of the kind of beans they use as well as the canning process. I like the S&W Brand that I get at Costco in the 8 or 12-packs (or sometimes the #10 cans) but availability will vary depending upon where you live -- you could use Libby's, Del Monte or Green Giant, all of which should be available nationally.

              Here's how I prepare canned at home. Remember that canned are already fully cooked.

              Heat a couple of tablespoons of butter (salted or unsalted, your choice) per 15 oz. can of Green Beans in a nonstick skillet. When the bubbles subside, toss in the well-drained beans; toss for 30-seconds or one minute until just heated through. Fully cooked, well done, soft but not mushy, slightly firm to the bite. Kids will vacuum them up. Better make two cans.

              The bacon and onion variation sounds great. Just saute those first, then add the beans with some of the water from the can, which is loaded with green bean flavor.

              I also like these cold straight from the can; sometimes I add a little Italian dressing. Also great in salads.

              1. re: acgold7

                "I also like these cold straight from the can; sometimes I add a little Italian dressing. Also great in salads."

                I'm with you, acgold7- often keep a can of French cut beans in the back of the fridge for this. Also a fan of the quick & easy three or four bean salad.

                Have nothing against sweet & tasty fresh ones, and I personally don't mind 'em a little crisp, with some good sweet butter and Herbamare, or browned butter and Maggi, or a little smoky bacon.

                But the canned green beans make me feel like a kid again.

                1. re: acgold7

                  I don't care for the commercially canned green beans. But, when my mom canned then, well the beans were in a whole different world. She always used mature Kentucky Wonder pole beans, but still able to be snapped (after stringing). She would then blanch them, then cook them in a pressure cooker with a piece of salt pork. Then they went into the canning jars and ,I think, cooked again in the jars. She never used those canned beans until the next year. I have never had green beans that have even came close to how wonderful those beans were. Tender, meaty and just overflowing with flavor.

                2. re: paulj

                  ^^^bingo paulj^^^

                  or try a slow method of cooking them in chicken broth with onions shallots garlic butter olive oil and bacon, when done cooking covered on real low, take off heat and disgard all but the beans. or save the broth for a later use in stews or pasta sauce or chicken pot pie gravy etc .

                  1. re: paulj

                    Oh, I 'm sorry, canned really don't do it for me, except maybe for 3 or 4 bean salad, when pressed to use canned and not fresh. It's that canned flavor, woof.

                    Buy thinner or young green beans, blanch until tender, that's it. If you want them very tender, cook 'em longer. By tender, I mean 4-5 minutes max, but I have a feeling that's not the cooking instructions the OP is looking for.

                    I've never eaten at a Cracker Barrel, wherever the chain is located, but do understand that in the South, green beans are often boiled to death, so to speak; sorry, I realize that "boiled to death" is a attitude laden culinary judgement call, but I can't help it seeing that mode of cooking that way. Perhaps, "simmered until meltingly tender" is better.

                    I went to Mississippi on a road trip years ago, to purchase honeybees for our local beekeepers. We stayed over for a few days with a genial young couple who fed us pretty well, but my traveling companion (from CT, as I was then) got into a rather heated argument with our host when it came to cooking green beans; our host had fresh garden beans that she boiled for at least 30 minutes. Ooh, it was damned criminal to my Yankee sensibilities; the beans were greyish-green, flaccid to mushy and devoid of nutrition, imo. However, please understand that I know regional parts of the US have different concepts about what constitutes a properly cooked green bean, or any food product, for that matter; degree of doneness, seasonings, all that. I have a great deal of interest in what's on the table in other parts of the US, and respect and appreciate the regional differences.

                    Tender, yes those beans were. So I guess that's how you do it. Boil 'em, or at least simmer well and long.

                    I now have a friend who grew up in Virginia; she stews her beans until very tender in a little stock with bacon, onions and a splash of vinegar at the end. I have to say I've accepted the cooking style, don't mind the overt tenderness, and do admit that they are delicious prepared in that manner.

                    I hope I haven't offended anyone here, that is not my aim; to each his/her own. I guess I just like my beans less tender.

                    1. re: bushwickgirl

                      Devoid of nutrition? Is that just an opinion or something that you measured? :)

                      More importantly, did that couple show signs of a vitamin deficiency?

                      1. re: paulj

                        Vitamin deficiency, hard to ascertain, but they looked pretty well fed otherwise.

                        I did mention that my "devoid of nutrition" comment was my opinion, due to the appearance of the long boiled beans, which would have rendered any B vitamins null and devoid. I'm sure the fiber was still intact, though.;-)

                      2. re: bushwickgirl

                        Bacon covers the "canned flavor." :-)

                        1. re: MrsCheese

                          Oh my, yes! I love fresh and canned green beans, with different treatments of course, but one shining example of the latter is my cousin's bacon-wrapped canned green bean bundles baked with some type of bottled dressing. It was orange. What's that, French or Russian or none of the above? In any case, those beans are delicious, I am sorry to say.

                    2. danny_w, have you tried a combination of boil & braise for your green beans? It might be just the ticket.

                      Tip and tail your beans while you bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cut the beans in pieces or not, as you wish. Drop the beans into the boiling water, return to a boil and cook approx 10 minutes.

                      Drain. In many cases, you would quick-chill these in ice water but, for your uses, it isn't necessary for your next phase - a long braise. In a heavy skillet, over low heat, begin cooking the bacon. When it begins to wilt, add chopped onion and cook until soft. I like a clove or two of smashed garlic - this is up to you. Add the beans to the onion-bacon and a couple small glugs of water. Cover and cook slowly, watching the liquid, adding more water as required. Cook 30-90 minutes, depending on your likes and the beans themselves. If 90 minutes doesn't produce beans to your liking, continue watching them carefully and keep cooking.

                      The larger and older the green beans, the longer they will take to cook to the softness you are seeking. I wish you success on your project.

                      Edit: I just thought about a crockpot. I've never cooked green beans in a CP but think it could free you for other tasks while the beans cook happily unattended for several hours.