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Packaged Green Beans

By Cook's Illustrated Published November 2006

When using alternatives to fresh green beans, can convenience also deliver good taste?

For those of us without a willing partner (or sous chef) to trim and cut 2 pounds of fresh green beans for our green bean casserole, a package of trimmed and cut beans can look pretty enticing. But how do they taste? We went out and bought eight types of convenience green beans: three canned, four frozen, and one brand that offered packages of trimmed fresh green beans. When used in our green bean casserole, the canned beans were pale, bland, and "beyond mushy." Slightly better were frozen green beans, though they were somewhat "waterlogged" and "spongy," with a diluted flavor. (These flaws were exaggerated in beans that were "frenched," or cut into long, thin matchsticks.) The trimmed fresh beans sounded promising, but the cut ends of the beans in the five different bags we bought had dried out and needed a retrim once we got them home—not much of a time-saver.

In the end, none of these products warranted an enthusiastic nod. Our recommendation? Spend a few minutes to trim—and blanch—fresh green beans and take a shortcut somewhere else in the menu.

NO CAN DO

Canned beans were mushy, pale, and bland.

CUT...AND DRIED

We had to retrim the dried-out ends on these trimmed fresh beans.

EMERGENCY ONLY

Frozen beans are passable in a pinch, but steer clear of "frenched" beans.

NO NUKES

Microwaveable frozen beans came out unevenly cooked and olive drab.