Fresh green beans add color and crunch to a dinner plate as a side dish or in an entree. Proper cooking maintains their high levels of vitamin C, folate and fiber, as well as their bright color and firm texture. Find a convenient cooking method that you like to make this healthy vegetable a more frequent part of your meal rotation.
Steaming green beans in a steamer preserves their fresh flavor, bright color and crispness for use as a side dish or in a recipe. If you don’t have a steamer, boil water in a saucepan, then place washed and trimmed green beans in a heat-safe colander on top of the boiling water. The steam will rise through the holes in the colander to gently cook the beans. Place a lid over the colander to evenly cook the vegetables. For added flavor, place lemon zest or fresh herbs, such as basil or parsley, in the boiling water. Steam green beans for about five minutes, or until they reach the desired tenderness.
Quick and Easy Boiling
Cook green beans directly in boiling water or broth. Place cleaned and trimmed green beans in boiling water or broth, then bring the water back to a boil. Cook the beans for four to five minutes, or until they are tender but crisp. For a softer texture, boil the green beans longer. To keep the beans crisp for use in a salad, remove them from the boiling water and immediately rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking. Drain them in a colander, but reserve the cooking liquid — which will contain some of the color, flavor and nutrients of the beans — for use in making stock.
Roast in the Oven
Roasting green beans leaves them tender and caramelized with a slight sweetness and nutty undertone that even non-vegetable eaters enjoy. Coat prepared green beans in cooking oil or bacon grease. Dust them with sea salt and fresh ground pepper, then place them in a single layer in an oven-safe pan. Roast the beans at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 minutes, or until they reach the desired tenderness. Drizzle roasted green beans with balsamic vinegar, lemon juice or white wine, or serve them sprinkled with crumbled feta cheese or shredded Parmesan.
Stir-frying green beans is quick and preserves their crispness and color. Serve stir-fried beans alone or with fried rice or curries, or mixed in with other vegetables like onions, mushrooms or peppers. Heat a small amount of peanut oil or other cooking oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles when dropped into it. Add cut green beans without overcrowding the skillet. Move the beans around frequently with a spatula or wooden spoon until they are browned and crisp-tender, about two to three minutes. Finish with a shake of soy sauce, if desired.
The high water content in green beans makes them perfect for microwave cooking, because microwave ovens cook food by heating the water contained in it or around it. Place fresh green beans with a small amount of water in a microwave-safe dish. Cook on high heat for five minutes or until the green beans reach the desired tenderness. Cook frozen green beans in the microwave without adding extra water, because some already exists as ice crystals in the packaging.
References and ResourcesClemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center: Using & Storing Green Beans
Iowa State University Extension Nutrition Education with Seniors: Go Green, With Green Beans
The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook; Jack Bishop
ResourcesNPR.org The Splendid Table: Greek-Style Green Beans
Harvard School of Public Health The Nutrition Source: Green Beans with Chili Garlic Sauce