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How to Cook Asparagus 6 Easy Ways

Fresh asparagus is quick and easy to cook, and makes any meal feel just a little more special. No wonder we love it when asparagus season hits and the price drops so we can eat all the asparagus we can hold. Here are six simple ways to cook asparagus, complete with top tips and recipes to try.

 

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Grilled Asparagus | Photo by Meredith

Try this recipe: Grilled Lemon Parmesan Asparagus

6 Ways to Cook Asparagus

1. Steamed Asparagus

Asparagus is held in a basket to cook gently over steaming water. You can use an upright steam basket (shown below) or a collapsible steam basket. Steaming is good for cutting calories, as it requires little or no fat.

 

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Asparagus Steamer | Photo by Meredith

This video for Simply Steamed Asparagus shows you how to steam whole asparagus using a collapsible steam basket:

Recipes to Try

John's Raspberry Asparagus
Farfalle with Asparagus and Smoked Salmon
Lemon Asparagus Risotto


More: Learn what to look for in a food steamer, and shop for the right steamer for you.


2. Boiled or Blanched Asparagus

Asparagus is cooked very quickly in boiling water until it's fully or partially cooked. If you're not serving the asparagus immediately, plunge it into a pan of ice water to halt the cooking. This will also preserve the bright green color. Some recipes call for partially cooking — or blanching – the asparagus, icing it, then finishing the cooking later.

Boiling Asparagus

Place trimmed asparagus in a skillet large enough to hold the asparagus and enough salted water to cover by about 1/2 inch. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook until just tender, testing frequently.

 

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Boiling Asparagus | Photo by Meredith

Icing Asparagus to Stop the Cooking

Drain the cooked asparagus and place it in a large bowl or pan of ice water.

 

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Blanched Asparagus in Ice Water Bath | Photo by Meredith

Recipes to Try

Chef John's Asparagus Tart
Asparagus with Tomatoes
Cold Asparagus with Curry Dip


3. Microwaved Asparagus

Place asparagus in a microwave-safe dish with 2 tablespoons of water. Cover and microwave on high for about 3 minutes. Stir, and microwave for another 2 to 3 minutes until the spears are firm but tender. Drain and cool.

Recipes to Try

Microwave Asparagus Salad
Asparagus Avocado Medley Evonne Style
Asparagus Soup


4. Oven-Roasted or Baked Asparagus

For this method, place the asparagus in a single layer on a shallow pan and cooked in the oven at high heat. The blast of heat caramelizes the natural sugars in the asparagus and deepens the flavor. Note that roasting could brown the spears, and they won't appear to be as plump as when they're steamed or blanched. Yet, the enhanced flavor is worth it. This video for Oven-Roasted Asparagus shows you how it's done.

 

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Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms | Photo by CookinBug

Recipes to Try

Roasted Asparagus and Mushrooms
Roasted Asparagus Prosciutto and Egg
Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan


5. Pan-Fried or Sautéed Asparagus

Asparagus is cooked in oil or butter in a skillet, as in this video for Sautéed Garlic Asparagus.

 

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Pan-Fried Asparagus | Photo by CookinBug

Recipes to Try

Pan-Fried Asparagus
Asparagus with Sliced Almonds and Parmesan Cheese
Stir-Fried Sesame Asparagus


6. Grilled Asparagus

Cooking asparagus on the grill is quick and easy, and adds a delicious smoky flavor to the finished dish. You can lay asparagus spears directly across the grill grates, corral the spears in a grill basket, or grill them in a pan.

 

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Grilling Basket | Photo by Meredith

 

The video for Grilled Asian Asparagus is all cued up for you:

 

Recipes to Try

Grilled Parmesan Asparagus
Grilled Soy-Sesame Asparagus
Bacon-Wrapped Sriracha Asparagus


How to Trim and Prep Asparagus

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 ends one last neat trim, if you'd like.

 

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Trimmed Asparagus | Photo by Meredith

To Peel or Not to Peel

Asparagus spears range in size from thicker than your thumb to thinner than a pencil. If your asparagus is on the thicker side, you might want to peel the woody stalks with a vegetable peeler. Some cooks also like to trim off the tiny leaves on the stems. But unless they're very spiky, you can leave them on.

 

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Peeling Asparagus | Photo by Meredith


Top Tips for Cooking Asparagus

Tender asparagus is so easy to cook, and even easier to get wrong. It can go from bright green and tender-crisp to limp and mushy in a flash. Here's how to avoid overcooking your asparagus.

  • Allow plenty of extra spears for testing as you cook.
  • No matter which cooking method you choose, the residual heat will continue cooking the asparagus. Remove it from the stove/grill/oven when it's almost done to your taste.
  • If you're blanching and reheating asparagus, remove it from the boiling water when it's still a bit more crisp than you like. The reheating will finish cooking the spears.

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About Vanessa Greaves

Good food, friends, and fun are always on the menu. Find me as foodelicious on Allrecipes and vanny.gee on Instagram (but only if you don't mind cat pics and cocktails).