activity

Does boiling green beans in salty water change the way they cook? The way they taste? This experiment gives you the answer—and a side dish to eat!

safety
  • Uses a knife
  • Uses the stovetop
difficulty
  • Beginner
time
  • 1 hour

Prepare Ingredients

2 quarts plus 2 quarts
water, measured separately
8 ounces plus 8 ounces
green beans, measured separately, ends trimmed
Ice
¼ cup
table salt

Gather Equipment

Large saucepan
Masking tape
Marker
Serving platter
Large bowl
Colander
Dish towel
1
plate per taster
1
fork per taster
1
 

Make a prediction: Do you think green beans cooked in salty water and green beans cooked in plain water will look the same or different? Will they taste the same or different? Why do you think so?

 
2
 
2 quarts
water

Add 2 quarts water to large saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat.

 
3
 

While water heats, make 2 masking tape labels. Use marker to write “Salted” on 1 label and “Unsalted” on second label. Stick labels on opposite ends of serving platter.

 
4
 
8 ounces
green beans

Add 8 ounces green beans to boiling water in saucepan. Return to boil and cook for 10 minutes.

 
5
 
Ice

While green beans cook, fill large bowl halfway with ice and cold water. (This is called an ice bath.) Place colander in sink. When beans are ready, carefully drain beans in colander (ask an adult for help).

 
6
 

Immediately transfer drained beans to ice bath. Let sit until no longer warm to touch, about 1 minute. Drain beans well. Transfer beans to dish towel and pat dry. Then transfer beans to side of serving platter labeled “Unsalted.”

 
7
 
2 quarts
water
¼ cup
table salt
8 ounces
green beans

Add remaining 2 quarts water to now-empty saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat. Add ¼ cup salt and remaining 8 ounces green beans to boiling water in saucepan. Return to boil and cook for 6 minutes.

 
8
 

While salted green beans cook, return colander to sink and make second ice bath in now-empty large bowl.

 
9
 

When salted green beans are ready, carefully drain beans in colander (ask an adult for help). Immediately transfer drained beans to ice bath. Let sit until no longer warm to touch, about 1 minute. Drain beans well. Transfer beans to dish towel and pat dry. Then transfer to side of serving platter labeled “Salted.”

 
10
 

Observe your results: Invite your family and friends to join you for a taste test—don’t tell them the difference between the green beans until after they taste! First, have everyone observe the two types of green beans. Then, have everyone taste a few of each type of bean. Have tasters keep their thoughts to themselves until everyone has observed and tasted. Ask tasters:

  • How would you describe the color of each type of green bean?
  • How would you describe the flavor and texture of each type of green bean?
  • Do the two types of green beans taste the same or different?
 
11
 

Eat your experiment: In small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard, and ⅛ teaspoon salt. Drizzle over all green beans. Use tongs to toss until well combined (mixing salted and unsalted green beans together). Serve.