What’s the secret to tender, tasty green beans . . . that stay green after you cook them? Salt!
Add ¼ cup salt and green beans to boiling water in saucepan. Return to boil and cook for 6 minutes.
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 serving platter.
When we made these green beans in the Young Chefs’ Club lab, we made green beans in salted water and plain water. The green beans we cooked in salted water stayed bright green—and cooked in almost half the time—compared to the beans we cooked in plain water. Plus, the saltwater beans tasted more seasoned and, well, green-beany. Why did that happen?
As vegetables cook, they become more tender and easier to chew, partly because the glue that holds plant cells together (called pectin) gets weaker. Something else happens as green vegetables heat up—they start to lose their bright green color. And the longer they cook, the duller their color becomes (sad!).
Salt to the rescue! Adding all that salt to the cooking water is like pressing fast-forward on cooking the green beans. Salt helps weaken the pectin in green beans. This causes the green beans to become tender—and finish cooking—much more quickly. And less time in hot water means that these beans lose only a tiny bit of their bright green color. Plus, thanks to a process called diffusion, some of the salt makes its way inside each bean. This extra bit of salty seasoning helps bring out the flavor of the green beans. Just another way that salt saves the day!
To make trimming green beans quick and easy, line up several green beans on cutting board with tough ends (the ends with the little stems attached) facing the same direction. Cut off tough ends. Repeat in small batches.
It’s easier to float in saltwater (like you find in the ocean) than freshwater (like you find in lakes)? That’s because the dissolved salts make saltwater denser than freshwater, and it’s easier for things to float in denser water. The ocean contains about 3.5 percent salt. The saltiest body of water on Earth is the Don Juan Pond in Antarctica. It contains 44 percent salt. It’s very easy to float in this VERY salty water . . . if you don’t mind the cold!