Basic Shell Beans

Preparation info

  • Serves


    Appears in

    Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini

    By Elizabeth Schneider

    Published 2001

    • About

    Slow, gentle cooking rather than boiling produces beans with a uniform texture and prevents skin breakage. Cooled in the cooking liquid, they remain moist and plump, with tight-fitting coats. If firmer beans with a dry texture and slightly more colorful skin are your preference (some like them this way in salads), boil the beans in unsalted water until just tender. Add salt to taste, then drain. For pronounced flavor, cook beans in broth with aromatics.


    • 3 cups shelled fresh beans
    • Optional: savory or thyme sprigs and/or bay leaves
    • 1 to 2 tablespoons butter, olive oil, or pork or goose fat
    • Salt


      1. In heavy saucepan, combine beans, optional herbs, butter, and cold water to just cover. Bring to a boil.
      2. Reduce heat to very low. Cover and cook until beans are uniformly tender, monitoring heat to keep below a simmer to prevent breakage. Timing varies: Small or thin beans may take 15 minutes, while larger beans may take 30. Taste often.
      3. When beans are tender, add salt and other seasonings, if desired. Uncover and allow to cool in liquid. Remove herb sprigs or bay leaves.