Why You Should Avoid Buying Pre-Trimmed Green Beans

They're so tempting. Those glistening cellophane bags of perfectly trimmed green beans beckon us as we stroll through the grocery store produce department. Come on. Give us a try. It's okay to skip a step. Just this once. No one will ever know. We glance at the tumble of fresh green beans, tips intact, in a nearby bin. An image comes to mind. We're standing at the kitchen sink painstakingly pinching our way through what seems like a never-ending pile of fresh green beans. Pinch. Flip. Pinch. One by one. With a sigh, we glance back at the ready-to-go, pre-trimmed beans. Should we or shouldn't we?

It depends. There's a trade off, but if you're tight on time and don't mind sacrificing quality for convenience, the pre-trimmed beans are an option, especially if they're playing second fiddle in an ensemble dish. For something like stew, Serious Eats says you can probably get away with the pre-trimmed variety, but it's still a good idea to sort through and discard any beans with noticeably damaged ends before adding them to the pot.

Fresh is best

While pre-trimmed green beans are an option, Serious Eats advises opting for the fresh, untrimmed green beans any day of the week. Here's why: Green beans are surprisingly fragile. So, the more they are handled, the greater the potential for bumps and bruises that turn into unsightly brown spots. Even the refrigeration required to efficiently transport green beans to the grocery store can have a negative impact on quality.

Imagine your local supermarket's produce section. Are those shiny bags of trimmed green beans flirting with you from the refrigerated section while the untrimmed fresh green beans beckon from a room-temperature bin? Saunter over to get a closer look at the pre-trimmed beans. Pay particular attention to the trimmed ends. Do they look damaged or even a bit squishy? Is it worth paying the extra money for the perceived convenience of pre-trimmed beans when you're probably going to have to trim them, anyway?

Easier than you may think

Giving pre-trimmed beans the benefit of the doubt is a personal decision, but if the deciding factor is the anticipated drudgery of pinch-flip-pinching your way through a pile of beans, A Couple Cooks offers this advice for cutting through the daunting task in short order: Start with a handful of beans. Line them up on a cutting board so one side of the pile is even at the tips and chop off the tips. Flip the beans and do the same at the other end. That's it. Or just don't trim them at all.

According to Sweetish Hill, the tips of green beans are perfectly harmless. In fact, the practice of snipping the tips, known as tailing the bean, is more about aesthetics than necessity. On the other hand, it's advisable to remove the stem, known as topping, simply because it has an unpleasant texture. Sweetish Hill says look for fresh beans with a clear complexion and toss back any with brown spots or bumps (signs the beans are past their prime).