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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.

                      1. 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

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

                          1. re: paulj

                            Hi, paul:

                            Frozen beans... tender yet rubbery.


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

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

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Cynsa

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

                                      1. re: Cynsa

                                        that's for dried beans, not green beans.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          i've heard that for green beans, but i don't think it works if you cover them, whereupon they turn duller green. i've never tried it myself, because i like my good ol' dull green beans, mama style.

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            you and me, both -- while I *do* steam slender green beans, big ones are stewed for hours in bacon and onion.

                                            And they've always been tender.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              i describe them as "meaty" for some reason. i just love 'em.

                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                us, too -- it's a big family tradition, especially at holidays, but we make them at other times just because we like 'em like that.

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  and since this one hasn't been mentioned:

                                                  I start with a pound or two of green beans -- big ones, larger than a pencil. Wash well and tip (one end or both - your call) Cut into manageable pieces if you wish.

                                                  Cut a half a package of bacon into pieces about 1/4"-1/2" wide (no accuracy here....)

                                                  Render the bacon over medium-high heat until brown (don't worry about crispy...)

                                                  Dice a yellow onion or two and sweat the diced onion in the bacon fat until translucent and just beginning to brown.

                                                  Add the beans, bacon, a goodly grind of black pepper, and water to about half the depth of the beans. Bring to a boil, then lower to a slow simmer. Cover and let simmer 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally.

                                                  Salt to taste. Done. Yes, the beans will be a very dark green.

                                                  These are even better the next day.

                                      2. 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

                                          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

                                            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. 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. 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.

                                              1. I just tasty tender soft just like the can green beans. I trim the ends, steam them for about 10 minutes, while they are steaming i saute bacon, throw in chopped onions. Saute for about 15, throw in green beans with cup water of the steam water. Bring to boil. Seamer until desired tenderness. About 20 min. Tender just like can beans except so much better.

                                                1. Hey danny_w. My market has some more expensive green beans called (French) haricots verts. They are in a package, are usually thinner than Kentucky Wonders, and tender up nicely. If I want them tender for my kids, I steam and then do a quick saute for flavor. I find that steaming works (for me) better than blanching/boiling.

                                                  Reduced beef stock, mushrooms, and cracked black pepper works for me.

                                                  1. 1. get frozen pole beans, like the bagged variety from pictsweet (good brand -- "italian pole green beans" -- http://pictsweet.com/our-products/gre... ).

                                                    2. render diced bacon (half pound for large bag of beans) in a pot
                                                    leave bacon in once fat rendered. use big pot so beans are not stacked high in pot -- maybe only 1/3 to 1/2 of beans up the side of pot) -- for even cooking.

                                                    3. add the pole beans and some water to cover plus approx. 1 1/2 inches, add some salt at this stage (maybe a good teaspoon and a half), and stir to get bacon off bottom of pot and more on top of beans.

                                                    4. bring to good boil for about 5 minutes, then turn to medium to an earnest simmer with lid on -- till they're as tender as you want. (a good 1/2 hour i'd say, at least, to start. start checking at 20 minutes). make are water is always covering your beans, and near the end only should water maybe be a half inch below top of beans. (you need that pot likker for your cornbread!


                                                    the fat and salt tenderize them more than simple boiling.

                                                    or do all in pressure cooker. pronto tender and tasty, the way my mom made them (with fresh pole beans). i think once at pressure, it was like 5-7 minutes (but it has been a long time since i observed that, so i could be off).

                                                    that's country style. brings back good, comfort food memories.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: alkapal

                                                      i meant beans should only fill pot 1/3 to 1/2 full. the beans will cook better if they are in shallower and wider pot (vs. deeper and narrower pot, where bottom beans will tend to overcook, while top level beans are still raw). you don't want to stir pot often, because you lose flavor and heat -- and you'll have to wait longer to eat! when you check at 20 minutes, stir the beans to redistribute them and taste one for salt. you can adjust a bit, but don't go up to final desired level, as liquid will concentrate more before beans are done. you don't want over-salted beans!

                                                      and make sure the lid is well-fitting.

                                                      <after re-reading my original post, i see that autocorrect is really changing my typing a lot -- and in error! is it this my computer or chow hound?> e.g., "make 'sure' your beans are always covered by water..."

                                                      fyi, for you bean lovers, try the lebanese dish with beans, garlic, onions, tomatoes and (evoo) olive oil. it is delicious when eaten hot, room temp, or from the fridge at 9 pm! ;-) it's perfect to take on a picnic or have as a cookout side dish, because there is nothing to go "bad" in the sun. loubieh bi zeit is the name.

                                                      this recipe is good but does not have nearly enough oil to be "authentic." http://oldwayspt.org/recipes/loubieh-... but, play it by ear. the oil is what allows all those great flavors to meld and infuse the beans with savory goodness. (look at other online recipes, too -- you'll see range of ratios -- e.g., cf. http://www.pbs.org/food/fresh-tastes/... with http://www.mamaslebanesekitchen.com/v... ). it does take long time to simmer on stove, though. worth it!

                                                    2. Try french beans instead of green beans. Slimmer and more tender if available. They come in a package in the veg section

                                                        1. re: monavano

                                                          the recipe sounds interesting -- two pounds of hock to two pounds of beans is pretty pork heavy. that photo cannot depict that recipe. first, there isn't enough pork shown and two, the beans aren't limp.

                                                        2. Here is a link to country style green beans. After cooking it only 30 minutes the beans are almost tender. Try it to see if you like it. I grew my own green beans in my garden, and snapped some of them in thirds instead of only in half or leaving them whole. Good luck! http://chickensintheroad.com/cooking/...

                                                          1. Just to give you a visual aid, this is how I like to simmer. I love soaking in a pot slathered with fat. It feels great, like a sauna for green beans. But you're all legitimately naked and squished close together. You really get to know everyone, inside and out, if you know what I mean. Sometimes some green beans' beans fall out and it's really embarrassing, but we all embrace them and make them feel better so they don't cry too many bean tears into the oil.