I just pulled fresh Blue Lake Bush green beans from my garden, snapped the ends and wanted to boil them, while keeping then crisp. How should I boil them so they are cooked through, but not limp?


You shouldn't cook more than a few minutes, and should cool them as quickly as possible afterwards. Ideally, you'll be blanching them, and here's how:

  1. Bring a pot of water with a pinch of salt in it to a roiling boil
  2. Dump beans in, and cook for a few minutes
  3. Check that beans are fully cooked (time will vary by variety and ripeness of beans)
  4. Strain beans, and IMMEDIATELY transfer to an prepared ice water bath to cool as fast as possible

This ensures beans are precisely cooked, but do not have a chance to over-cook, and using the ice water helps them retain color and flavor.

It's how we get deliciously crisp haricot vert (French green beans) at the restaurant I work for. Note that cooking times and crispness will also vary based on the variety and age at which the beans were picked.

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  • To speed up the process you can boil the water in an electric kettle. – ElendilTheTall Jun 20 '11 at 8:01
  • And for extra zing, don't just use plain water, use some good stock and a little raw sugar in it – TFD Jun 21 '11 at 3:00
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    ... and if you are using plain water, at least salt it. – derobert Sep 21 '11 at 21:55
  • If you place the beans in iced water doesn't that mean you will be serving them cold? – Petras Mar 12 '14 at 1:50
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    You can warm them back up for service @Petras. Shocking them in ice water to halt the cooking process is a fantastic way to cook veggies to a desired doneness. Veggies like brocolli will even become more vibrantly green than they were in their raw form due to some chlorophyll voodoo. – Preston Oct 15 '14 at 5:30

BobMcgee's answer (the accepted one) is great (as far as it goes), as well as all of the comments. Absolutely salt the water, use stock or add flavorings if you like.

You can blanch the beans way in advance of the meal, even the day before.

Remove the beans from the ice water, shake to remove excess water, roll them in a paper towel and put them in your vegetable drawer in your fridge (or in a plastic bag, NOT sealed).

When it is time to eat, give the now dry beans a quick, hot saute in whatever you want! Olive oil, butter, sesame oil, garlic, shallots - whatever floats your boat.

That method works great for a lot of vegetables.

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    Com'on now. You're just blatantly trying to make me hungry. – Preston Oct 15 '14 at 5:32

I don't know if Blue Lake Bush green beans are different, but UK green beans reliably take just 8 mins steaming.

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  • 8 minutes?!? Blimey. I steam mine for 3 minutes max. I do like them on the crunchy side, though. – Vicky Sep 21 '11 at 14:51

The cooking time of green beans can vary quite a bit. It will be at least 10-15 min, sometimes it can go up to 30 minutes.

I advise you to cook them for about 10 minutes and taste one. Do so every two-three minutes until you have them a tiny bit too hard for your taste. After that, you will fry the beans (for example with oil/butter and onion) which will make them a bit softer, as you like them.

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    -1 Anything past five minutes and they are mush. Steam them for 2 to 3 minutes and they'll be fine – TFD Jun 19 '11 at 22:46
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    I ended up cooking them around 10-12 minutes and they were crisp and delicious. I think they take longer because they are a thicker variety. – Austin Jun 20 '11 at 11:28
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    There are two things that get commonly referred to as "green beans" in the UK: the 4" - 6" pencil-thick things, and the fat, flat, bumpy things with broad bean-like things in. I think that's where this confusion has come from. – Gary Jun 20 '11 at 11:56
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    @Mien: Nope, there are definitely flat green beans. Have a look at the varieties at Cook's Thesaurus, for example - they're a third along with common green beans and haricot verts. – Cascabel Jun 20 '11 at 15:21
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    Yes there are flat green beans, round green beans, giant green beans etc. None of then take more than a few minutes to cook properly. Anything more and you are destroying them! See @BobMcGee answer – TFD Jun 21 '11 at 2:58

Every green bean is different. Sometimes even from the same vine picked at different times the bean will be more tender and sweet than at other times requiring less cooking time.

The beans will release certain chemicals into the water which will turn them a dark green so use a very high water to bean ratio and salted water also helps keep the beans bright green.

Because each batch of beans are different it's hard to say how long it will take, but if cooked too long they become mushy and a little too waxy. The general rule is when the bean is no longer squeaky on the teeth when bit into it's done. Chew on a partially cooked green bean and you will understand.

The Blue Lake require far more cooking than a snap pea or snow pea and shouldn't be expected to have the same crunch when cooked properly. The squeak needs to go away.

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