How to Cook Asparagus
Try roasting, sauteing, grilling and more to bring out the flavor in this crowd-pleasing vegetable.
The harbinger of very early spring, asparagus stays in season through the summer. Its elegant, snappy stalks stand up well to a variety of preparations, including roasting, steaming, sautéing and grilling. You can even eat asparagus raw: shave it into ribbons with a vegetable peeler and toss into dishes like Shaved Asparagus Salad with Lemon and Parmesan or Asparagus Fettuccine Carbonara. Because of its delicate grassy flavor, asparagus is often paired with buttery sauces and mild tangy flavors like lemon juice or mustard. If you’re as excited about asparagus season as we are, cook your way to perfection with the following tips and techniques.
How to Prep Asparagus
First things first, you’ll need to remove the tough, woody ends on your asparagus. We prefer to do this by quickly snapping off the ends. If you’re working with thick stalks, peel the ends first with a vegetable peeler to make them easier to snap. Next, place one hand on the end of the stalk and one on the middle and snap the asparagus — it will miraculously break where the tough part of the stem meets the tender part of the stem. Don’t worry, you won’t snap off too much. If you’d rather achieve a more even look, snap one stalk, line up the rest and slice them at the same point with your chef’s knife (we call this the snap and slice method). Now you’re ready to cook your asparagus, so choose your own adventure below: roasting, steaming, sauteing or grilling.
How to Roast Asparagus
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to prepare asparagus, this technique imparts toasty, rich flavor to those green stalks. To roast asparagus: Transfer asparagus to a baking sheet and toss to coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, then roast the asparagus until lightly browned, 6 to 7 minutes. Although roasted asparagus is perfectly delicious on its own, if you’d like to up the ante, check out some Food Network favorites: Ina Garten’s Parmesan Roasted Asparagus, Rachael Ray’s Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus Bundles or Roasted Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette.
How to Steam Asparagus
This technique turns asparagus vibrant green and takes just a few minutes. We love using it on young slender stalks that just need a touch of cooking to bring out their fresh flavor (especially when they’re in season in spring!) Here’s what you do. Fill a pot with a few inches of water and insert a steamer basket or insert. Lay the asparagus in the steamer and cook until it’s bright green and crisp-tender, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Then submerge the asparagus in a large bowl of ice water to quickly stop the cooking. When you’re serving, season the asparagus with salt and pepper.
How to Sautee Asparagus
Sauteing asparagus imparts roasty flavor on the outside while preserving asparagus’ fresh snap. To sauté asparagus: Cut asparagus into 2-inch pieces, which will cook more quickly and evenly than whole stalks. Melt equal parts olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add them to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Stir the asparagus pieces frequently until tender, about 3 1/2 minutes. One of the great parts of this technique? It’s easy to add other ingredients to the skillet, too. For example, just a few ingredients add savory flavor to Sauteed Asparagus with Olives and Basil. And this simple Sauteed Asparagus recipe gets a boost from lemon juice, lemon zest and toasted almonds.
How to Grill Asparagus
To get a good char, be sure to use medium-sized asparagus — no pencil-thin stalks. Preheat a grill over high heat. Toss your asparagus in olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then arrange the stalks across the grates, to prevent them from falling through. Grill, flipping halfway through cooking, until the asparagus begin to char, the pointy ends start to crisp and the stalks are just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. If you want more inspiration, check out Food Network Kitchen’s Grilled Asparagus with Gremolata or Grilled Asparagus and Bell Pepper.
We found that the best way to grill asparagus is to lay it right on the grill grates at an angle--no foil packet or grilling basket necessary. We jazzed ours up with tangy, creamy feta and fresh mint. To get a good char, be sure to use medium-sized asparagus -- no pencil-thin stalks here!