For perfectly cooked green beans that are flavorful, crisp, and tender, you have to employ a quick two-step technique. Here's how to do it.
Selecting Green Beans
Snap, string, or green beans are all names for pole or bush beans that grow in the spring and early fall. You'll find pole and bush beans in green, yellow, and purple hues. Haricots verts are a smaller, thinner French varietal that can also be cooked using this method if you reduce the cooking time in half. Buy fresh green beans for this method (not frozen or canned, which are each partially cooked). Be sure to rinse the green beans and remove the stem end before cooking.
Step One: Sauté
Sautéing the green beans first achieves two things. First, it quickly removes some moisture from the beans, concentrating their flavor while also improving their snap. Sautéing also heats the pan so the water added during the second step quickly turns into the steam that cooks the green beans all the way through.
Step Two: Steam
Adding a small amount of water to the hot pan of green beans creates steam that can be captured with the lid and used to gently finish cooking the beans. Steaming green beans is better than boiling because it prevents the beans from overcooking and preserves a vibrant green color.
Mix It Up
While the recipe below calls for olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes to season the beans, you can easily swap those ingredients to customize the beans' flavor. Use sesame oil, ginger, and Chinese five spice instead, or simply swap the olive oil for butter (it will brown and become nutty) and add slivered almonds instead of red pepper flakes at the end. Once you've mastered the basic technique, go ahead and mix things up.
How To Cook Green Beans
Makes 12 ounces green beans
What You Need
fresh green beans
garlic, thinly sliced
red pepper flakes (optional)
Large straight-sided pan with lid
Measuring cups and spoons
Rinse and trim the beans: Rinse the green beans under cool water and shake dry. Trim the stem end from the beans and halve any very long beans.
Sauté the beans: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add green beans and cook, stirring often, until the beans are bright and glossy, 5 to 7 minutes.
Season the beans: Add the garlic and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Steam the beans: Add the water and immediately cover. Cook covered until the beans are bright green and crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes.
Serve: Add the red pepper flakes, if using, and serve immediately.
Storage: Leftover beans can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.