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How do I cook really tender green beans?

danny_w Jul 31, 2011 12:11 PM

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?

  1. ipsedixit Jul 31, 2011 12:16 PM

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

    1. e
      escondido123 Jul 31, 2011 12:26 PM

      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.)

      1 Reply
      1. re: escondido123
        DonShirer Aug 1, 2011 04:40 PM

        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.)

      2. p
        pine time Jul 31, 2011 01:35 PM

        +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.

        1. paulj Jul 31, 2011 01:52 PM

          wrong form - try canned instead of fresh :)

          8 Replies
          1. re: paulj
            acgold7 Jul 31, 2011 02:07 PM

            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
              eclecticsynergy Aug 7, 2011 04:44 PM

              "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.

            2. re: paulj
              iL Divo Jul 31, 2011 02:15 PM

              ^^^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
                bushwickgirl Aug 7, 2011 05:09 PM

                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
                  paulj Aug 7, 2011 06:53 PM

                  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
                    bushwickgirl Aug 8, 2011 06:28 AM

                    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
                    MrsCheese Aug 8, 2011 07:22 PM

                    Bacon covers the "canned flavor." :-)

                    1. re: MrsCheese
                      Isolda Aug 9, 2011 11:40 AM

                      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. s
                  Sherri Jul 31, 2011 05:07 PM

                  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.

                  1. d
                    danny_w Aug 1, 2011 05:42 AM

                    Thanks to all for your responses. I think that the suggestion to used canned was a very good idea and I will have to try it soon. For last night's dinner I cooked bacon crisp, cut up and drained it, sauteed onion and drained that, and then added both to the beans. I boiled them for about an hour and they turned out pretty well, very tasty, just not quite as soft as I like but pretty close. My wife was very surprised and loved them (and the carnitas fixed on the grill)! I will try all of the other suggestions here also. Thanks again!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: danny_w
                      paulj Aug 1, 2011 08:39 AM

                      Frenched (julienned) frozen beans are fairly tender, but not as soft as canned.

                      1. re: paulj
                        kaleokahu Aug 9, 2011 11:41 AM

                        Hi, paul:

                        Frozen beans... tender yet rubbery.


                    2. a
                      arp29 Aug 1, 2011 08:59 AM

                      My mom cooks them in a pressure cooker and I believe this produces the effect you are looking for.

                      1. t
                        TomMeg1970 Aug 8, 2011 01:50 PM

                        I find green beans are never sweeter and more delicious than when they are cooked "to death", otherwise it's like chewing on green twigs to me.

                        Lately, I like to cook my green beans in a covered heavy pot with some olive oil, garlic, salt, and a few chopped tomatoes for at least an hour over low heat. Sometimes I'll add some capers and/or red pepper flakes. When they're as tender as I like them, I remove the cover and raise the heat to boil away any excess liquid. Serve warm or room temperature or even cool with some fresh basil or parsley on top.

                        Other nice toppings would be ricotta salata (or feta) or chopped olives or some good fresh olive oil.

                        1. x
                          Xantha Aug 8, 2011 02:34 PM

                          Bring water to a boil in pot with some salt. Add beans. Bring back to boil and remove from heat. Add some cold water and let stand 5 minutes before draining.

                          This is how we cook most our veg and we're currently harvesting 3 kinds of beans from the garden!

                          1. m
                            MellieMag Aug 9, 2011 11:26 AM

                            Kentucky or Missouri Wonder pole beans are the best to me. I have yet to be able to get any real green bean flavor out of a bush bean. You can cook and season them all you want but they just won't have the flavor. The fresh beans need to be snapped and strings removed, just covered but not drowned in water, cooked low and slow with plenty of bacon grease, some nice new potatoes doesn't hurt, a hunk of cornbread and cukes and onions in vinegar. I haven't bought beans in a long time-my son and I canned 256 quarts one year. But if you want to try canned beans from the store, the Kentucky Wonder beans that will be called Italian cut, I believe, are pretty good. Can't remember the exact name but they will say they're Kentucky Wonder beans on the label. I think the brand we had was Bush's. Good luck finding beans that you like!

                            1. Cynsa Mar 29, 2012 11:33 AM

                              Add a fat pinch of baking soda to your cooking water and your beans will be soft and still green.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Cynsa
                                danny_w Mar 29, 2012 11:42 AM

                                Thanks, I never heard of that. I will have to try it next time.

                                1. re: Cynsa
                                  EM23 Mar 29, 2012 06:25 PM

                                  You should add that tip here http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/838264

                                2. g
                                  GLDavis Jan 18, 2014 11:08 AM

                                  The key to tender, great tasting green beans is dependent on two key things. First, proper ingredients - salt, pepper, onion, bacon (optional for vegetarians), & sugar (or sugar substitute for diabetics). Most people don't consider adding a sweetener but 1 to 2 teaspoons added to the equivalent of 3 cans of beans (or a large bag of frozen) adds to the flavor & helps combine with the salt, pepper, & onion to infuse the beans with that "grandma made 'em" flavor. Second, time - this is probably what most people miss in cooking green beans - especially if they are canned (which we consider already cooked & just need to be reheated). Once the bacon has been browned, the beans added, & then the seasonings - the beans should be heated to a boil, then simmered for a minimum of 45 minutes. While the beans are cooked - they're not "seasoned". That only happens after they've cooked on low for a considerable period of time. This is the way to insure that green beans, even canned, can taste like old fashioned, grandma made, green beans.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: GLDavis
                                    jeneats Jan 19, 2014 03:20 PM

                                    What GLDavis said, though I don't use bacon in mine. I always add some kind of smoked bony thing (ham hock, neck bones, turkey wing, etc.)

                                    1. re: GLDavis
                                      rasputina Jan 19, 2014 03:37 PM

                                      The ones I grew up with the bacon wasn't browned, but I think we are talking about different dishes anyway. Just reheating canned would not make the ones I'm talking about. They need to be cooked until falling apart.

                                    2. r
                                      rasputina Jan 18, 2014 01:32 PM

                                      Honestly, just start with canned, then cook the heck out of them with onion and bacon and seasonings. At least that's how I learned it. My mom swears by Frenched green beans but I've made with them with traditional cut ones.

                                      Many of the posts in the thread are not applicable to they type of bean dish the OP is referencing.

                                      1. h
                                        HBGigi Jan 18, 2014 04:25 PM

                                        We like our green beans well done too and I find that frozen green beans never get "done". For fresh green beans I start them in cold water, bring to a boil, and then simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes. Sometimes I fry up bacon and chopped onion in the pot before I add the beans and cold water. Another option is to use canned green beans.

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