How to Cook Asparagus
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Not sure how to cook asparagus? Learn these simple preparation methods to enjoy asparagus in many recipes!
Asparagus is one of the most popular vegetables come spring.
Once asparagus starts popping up in February, we start cooking with it nearly weekly.
Asparagus has both a bitter and sweet flavor and can taste somewhat grassy or nutty.
It’s delicious with a wide variety of ingredients, so don’t be intimidated by this tender spring veggie — give it a try!
How to choose asparagus
While most grocery stores only carry green asparagus, there are other color varieties as well.
White asparagus is mild in flavor with a slight bitterness. It lacks color because it is grown under a layer of dirt to prevent the color-developing chlorophyll from forming.
Purple asparagus has a sweeter flavor than its green counterpart. It is not purple all the way through, but tinged purple on the outer layers with a pale green interior.
Keep in mind that the purple can disappear in the cooking process, so if the color is what you’re after, stick to quick-cook methods like steaming or blanching for purple asparagus.
Choose stalks that are vibrant in color and firm, with tight leafy tips.
Thickness is a matter of preference, though thicker stalks hold up better to longer roasting.
How to prepare asparagus for cooking
Although asparagus bundles sold at the grocery store are trimmed, they are generally only trimmed to make the stalks even for bundling.
Asparagus spears have a woody end opposite the leafy tips.
These ends are fibrous and not pleasant to eat, so they should be removed before cooking.
To remove, you can either slice off about 1 inch of the asparagus, or use the snap method.
Hold the asparagus between your thumb and fingers and bend until the end snaps off. It will snap at the natural division between the tender and woody ends.
If your asparagus is older or especially thick, you can use a vegetable peeler to remove the tough skins.
How to cook asparagus
There are many ways to cook asparagus, but three main methods stand out for preparing and using in other recipes: steaming, sautéing, and roasting.
Steaming is a great way to cook asparagus when you want to enjoy its full, fresh flavor, or use it in another recipe.
To steam, you’ll need a pot fitted with a steamer basket. I use a large pasta pot with a steamer insert.
Asparagus steamer pots are also available, but not practical unless you absolutely love asparagus!
Add a few inches of water to the pot and bring to a boil.
Arrange the asparagus in the steamer basket, cutting as needed to fit.
Once the water is boiling, place the steamer basket in the pot and cover.
Depending on the thickness of your asparagus, steaming will take only 1-5 minutes. Remove from the heat when it is tender-crisp.
Sautéed asparagus is also quick and easy. I love to use this method when I want a little more flavor from the oil and searing.
Trim the asparagus to fit your sauté pan.
Heat your cooking oil of choice in the pan over medium-high heat, swirling the pan so it coats the bottom.
I prefer to use olive oil, but you can use canola oil, vegetable oil, or avocado oil. You can also try walnut oil or coconut oil for flavor-filled options.
Once the oil is shimmering, add the asparagus. Use tongs to toss the asparagus and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the asparagus is vibrant green.
Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of any vegetable. It’s a great option for asparagus, especially if you choose to add bacon or cheese.
To roast, toss the asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.
Roast at 400°F for 10-15 minutes, until tender.
Recipes for asparagus
Now that you’ve learned the basics of how to cook asparagus, try any of the asparagus recipes below!