Spring’s Favorite Vegetable Is Back Here’s How To Cook Asparagus In A Myriad Of Simple Ways
Ananda Eidelstein is a vegetable-loving food writer, recipe developer, and editor. She is the former Senior Food Editor at REAL SIMPLE magazine. Prior to writing and editing feature stories, having her own monthly vegetarian column, and developing over 300 recipes during her time at RS, she was the Assistant Food Editor at Rachael Ray Every Day. She has also gained experience in the test kitchens of Martha Stewart’s Living, and Saveur magazines, in catering, TV, and a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City. Ananda is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, now known as the International Culinary Center, with nearly a decade of culinary and food media experience.
One of the first signs of spring is the spears of asparagus that begin to pop up everywhere. Most commonly known for their green, almost too-perfect spears, asparagus can also be found in white or purple varieties this time of year. With only slight variances in flavor and texture, the beauty of any type of asparagus is that no matter how you choose to cook it , it will always deliver on that fresh, earthy flavor. There is no right or wrong way to cook asparagus, lean into what’s more convenient for you and what you’re craving.
Keep in mind that the thickness of the asparagus will affect cooking time. Pencil-thin asparagus will cook much quicker than thicker spears. The range in cooking times below reflects this, but keep a close eye.
How To Prepare Asparagus
Rinse the stalks well in cold water. Snap off the ends as far down as they will easily break when you gently bend them, or cut off the tough white portion. If youre working with large stalks, use a vegetable peeler to gently peel the tough area of the stalk from the end to just below the tip. If the tips are large, scrape off some scales with a knife.
For more tips, follow our step-by-step guide to how to prepare asparagus.
How To Prepare Asparagus For Grilling
Get rid of the woody ends. The ends of asparagus are woody and tough to eat. Be gone, woody ends!
Trim asparagus with a snap. To prepare the asparagus, simply snap the ends to trim by bending each stalk gently about 2/3 of the way down the stalk. The asparagus will naturally break where the woody part begins, leaving tender stalks perfect for eating.
Or, line them up and cut all at once. If patience is not your virtue and snapping asparagus sounds blasé, line up a handful of the asparagus in a row and use a sharp knife to cut the asparagus 2/3 of the way down the stalk. Likewise, use a knife to tidy up the ends of the snapped asparagus if desired.
Season simply. Because the fire and grill adds so much flavor to grilled vegetables, olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper are the only flavorings youll need for dynamite grilled asparagus.
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How To Broil Asparagus
Similar to roasting but even more of a time-saver, broiling asparagus is a great technique to keep in your back pocket, with a short prep time and an even shorter cook time. Heat your broiler on high and arrange asparagus in a single layer in a broiler-safe pan or sheet pan. Toss with a bit of oil and salt and cook for 5 to 8 minutes total time until charred in spots and crisp-tender.
Eat it just like that as a side dish, or dress it up with a citrusy bagna cauda with fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, anchovy, and crunchy almond topping a la this charred asparagus dish.
How To Buy And Store The Best Asparagus
The best, freshest asparagus is what you can buy seasonally from a local farmer . To ensure you’re buying fresh asparagusin or out of seasonfollow these tips.
- Check the tips. They should be firm and springy. If they are soft, move on to another bunch.
- Check the stalks, They should be firm. If they are soft and rubbery, they aren’t fresh.
- Check the ends. If they are woody, it’s not the best, but it’s okay. You’ll be removing the ends. Shriveled or split ends indicate the asparagus is past its prime.
To store asparagus, first remove the rubber band if there is one around the stems. Remove any packaging. Then, treat the asparagus like flowers. Trim about a half inch from the bottom of each stalk and refrigerate in a container of water. This will keep the stalks fresh for 2 or 3 days.
For a simpler method, remove the rubber band or any wrapping, and wrap a damp paper towel around the stems of the asparagus stalks. Place in a plastic bag, and store in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer.
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Can You Cook Asparagus On The Grill
Yes, you can cook asparagus on the grill. With the traditional method of grilling, you need to look for thick asparagus stalks so that they wont fall through the grates of the grill. With this foil packet method, you can use any size asparagus you like, and theres no risk of losing the stalks in the fire!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
I think just about any vegetable grilled tastes better, wouldn’t you agree? There’s something about the smoke and char that adds a ton of flavor with minimal effort.
It only takes minutes to make.
Super simple made with a handful of ingredients!
Asparagus never tasted better. It’s the smoky flavor from the grill, delicious!
Asparagus grilled is a quick and easy side dish and takes just minutes to make. While you’re letting your bbq’d chicken or steak rest, then toss these on the grill and poof they are done!
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How To Roast Asparagus
Roasted green anything can turn even folks ambivalent about vegetables into veggie lovers, as roasting elicits natural sweetness from the vegetable. If youre looking for a versatile asparagus recipe, you cant go wrong with roastingit makes for an elegant accompaniment to chicken, fish, eggs, you name it.
To roast asparagus, grab a baking sheet , and set your oven to 400°-450°F. Toss prepped spears with a bit of olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper if desired, and pop into the oven for 8 to 18 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalks, until easily pierced with a knife. Dress it up from there. We love this rendition of Roasted Asparagus With Garlic. Roasted asparagus also marries brilliantly with Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar.
How To Roast Asparagus In The Oven
Roasted asparagus is tender, slightly browned and crisp on the ends, and addictingly snack-worthy. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Dry your asparagus by rolling it around on a kitchen towel. Place the asparagus in large a bowl and drizzle with olive oil I use about 1 tablespoon of oil per pound of asparagus. Add a couple of pinches of salt and toss gently with your hands until all of the asparagus is coated.
Spread the asparagus on a large rimmed sheet pan a single layer is best!
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How Do You Trim Asparagus
The thicker bottom of asparagus stalks tends to be tough and woody, and isnt great to eat. The best way to figure out where to trim your asparagus is to take a stalk and gently bend it. Wherever the stalk snaps is the spot where the tender part starts and the tough part ends. From there, you can line up all your asparagus stalks and trim the bottom off in the same spot as where your original piece of asparagus snapped in half.
Guide On Cleaning & Trimming Asparagus
Before we get to grilling, let us first cover off on how to properly clean and trim asparagus.
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Grilled Asparagus Flavor Variations
- Veggies: You can add other quick-cooking vegetables to these foil packets if youre looking for a little variety. I recommend trying sliced zucchini, diced red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, yellow squash, thinly sliced red onions or even frozen corn kernels.
- Flavorings: Amp up the flavor by adding lemon zest, sun dried tomatoes, olives, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, cooked crumbled bacon, pine nuts or sliced almonds.
- Cheese: After the asparagus packets are cooked through, add a sprinkle of parmesan, feta or mozzarella cheese.
This grilled asparagus in foil is my go-to vegetable side dish when its hot out. If youre an asparagus fan, youll definitely want to give this one a try.
Ways To Serve Your Asparagus
There are so many different ways to use your grilled asparagus. Below, find a couple of options.
- Alongside Protein: Pair the asparagus with a grilled ribeye, 5-minute grilled chicken, or pork kabobs for a quick low-carb meal.
- Salads: Chop and chill the asparagus and add it to your favorite salads throughout the week.
- Pastas: Slice up the asparagus and add it to alfredo pasta.
- Soups: Dice the asparagus and add it into minestrone soup for a smokey kick.
Hot Tip: Spruce up your asparagus by topping it with parmesan cheese or feta cheese right when it comes off the grill. Then, sprinkle on some roasted pine nuts or almonds for a nice nutty crunch.
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These Methods For How To Cook Asparagus Come Straight From Our Test Kitchen From Roasting And Grilling To Sauteeing And Air
When spring rolls around, theres nothing better than spears of fresh asparagus to accompany a weekend brunch or weeknight dinner. And with dozens of asparagus recipes that call for different cooking methods, its worth learning how to cook asparagus using various techniques.
From oven and stovetop methods to grilling to Instant Pot cooking, this guide will help you master multiple ways to cook asparagus.
How To Serve Grilled Asparagus
You can serve this simply prepared vegetables just as is, or with some lemon wedges for squeezing over at the table. Some shaved Parmesan is also lovely. You can also consider some sauces for dipping or drizzling over the top of the asparagus.
How to Grill Asparagus: Perfectly grilled asparagus is a spring and summertime joy, a great side dish to all kinds of meals.
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Whats The Best Asparagus To Grill
While I love pencil-thin spears for roasting in the oven, when it comes to grilling I buy thick asparagus spears. Thick asparagus spears wont overcook or char to a crisp, and you wont have the challenge of losing them through the grill grates as they cook on the fire.
Look for thick spears that are firm and green with ends that arent withered.
How To Cook Asparagus In An Air Fryer
Crispy bits and tender spears are ready in under 10 minutes with this easy, air fryer cooking method.
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Grilled Asparagus Topping Ideas
I like my grilled asparagus simple with a squeeze of lemon. But if youre looking for more ways to jazz up this simple green, try one of these ideas:
- Add browned butter and nuts, like in my recipe for Roasted Asparagus.
- Drizzle the grilled asparagus with balsamic vinegar then sprinkle with goat cheese and toasted pine nuts
- Top with smoky cooked bacon and Parmesan cheese
- Go Mediterranean style and top with feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and chopped kalamata olives
- Try it Asian style with ponzu sauce and toasted sesame seeds
How To Choose And Store Asparagus
Now if you’re not lucky enough to head out in the backyard and harvest these tasty stalks this is what you need to look when you are purchasing fresh asparagus
- stalks that are bright green
- the top of the stalk has a slight purple hue
- size indicates the maturity of the stalk – Thinner stalks will be more tender. But thick asparagus spears won’t fall through the grill, so there’s that!
- when you get home, snap off the end of the stalk and store them in water, cut side down. They will continue to absorb water, keeping them plump and tender!
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How To Steam Asparagus
You can steam asparagus in a frying pan or skillet, like in this Garlic Parmesan Asparagus recipe. Simply fill a large skillet with about 1/2 inch of water and bring it to a boil. Add the asparagus, and cover and cook it for 3 to 5 minutes until it reaches your ideal tenderness. Then drain, season and serve!
Should I Cut Or Snap Asparagus
The conventional wisdom is that this natural snap-off point is where the unpalatable toughness ends, and the tender asparagus begins. This is one snap decision thats dead wrong. Of course, cutting and peeling individual asparagus spears takes time. But in this case, time really is money.
Yes! Place packet on grill over low heat. Cover grill cook 10 to 15 minutes, rotating packet ½ turn after 4 minutes, until asparagus is tender. To serve, cut large X across top of packet carefully fold back foil to allow steam to escape.
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How To Cut Asparagus
The great news is, you dont even need to cut asparagus . Just bend and snap! You just want to discard the woody ends of the asparagus. Grab the end of the spear with one hand and grasp just above the middle with the other. Then just bend until it snaps the asparagus will naturally break at the right place. Discard the end.
You can bend and snap all of your spears, or bend and snap just one, then line them up on your cutting board and trim all of your spears on the same spot that the first piece broke off. Easy!
Now youre ready to roast, grill, or blanch!
How Long To Grill Asparagus
Now its time to put your foil pack on the grill. Preheat your grill to 400ºF. Place foil pack asparagus right on top of the flames and cook for around 20 minutes.
We prefer to grill out asparagus at a higher heat for a shorter amount of time. This is not only timely with most meats but also gives your asparagus a nice crunchy/char flavor. You can alternatively grill your asparagus on a top rack of your grill, not directly on the flame for a longer amount of time .
You know your asparagus is done cooking when you can easily pierce it with a fork. Be careful not to overcook as it may become mushy!
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How To Prepare Asparagus For Cooking
Before you try any of the methods for cooking asparagus, you’ll want to trim up the asparagus stalks. Trimming asparagus is a “snap.” To remove and discard the tough woody ends of the stalks before cooking, you can just cut them off with a knife. But what’s more fun is to use your hands to snap the stalks in two. They naturally snap at about the point where the woody part begins. Once you’ve snapped your asparagus, you can line them up and give the bottom ends one last neat trim, if you’d like.
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Pro Tips For The Best Grilled Asparagus
A couple of pro tips will help you get the most out of your grilled asparagus.
- Use thick asparagus stalks if youre cooking on grates. Avoid using thinner stalks if youre grilling the asparagus directly on the grill grates. This will prevent the spears from falling through into the fire!
- Avoid over flipping the asparagus. Avoid over flipping the spears or foil packet. If youre cooking on grates, over flipping can compromise the char marks. If youre steaming the asparagus in the foil packet, youll increase the odds of tearing the foil.
- Play around with different seasonings. This is a great baseline recipe, but feel free to tweak it with your favorite seasonings. Tack on some freshly cracked black pepper Add a squeeze of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar right after they come off the grill.
Hot Tip: Dont want to fire up the grill? Use a grill pan on your stove top instead.
Tips For The Best Grilled Asparagus
If you struggle to tell when asparagus is finished grilling, I recommend poking it with a fork to test its doneness. The asparagus should be softened, but not mushy. It should also be bright green in color.
If using regular table salt, scale back the amount of salt you add to the grilled asparagus. Kosher salt has larger flakes, so its not as potent as table salt.
Leftover grilled asparagus can be repurposed so many ways on sandwiches, in frittatas and egg bakes, in salads, and more. Its delicious cold or room temperature!