How to Cook Asparagus (Complete Guide + Step-by-Step Instructions)

All you ever wanted to know about how to cook asparagus: boil, broil, saute, fry, grill, bake, roast, blanch – you name it!

Asparagus is a quite prolific perennial. It seems each day in April – May I return from my garden with a handful of asparagus spears. After giving it a wash in cold water, a usual question arises – what to do with asparagus🤔

How to Pick Asparagus?

When you are picking asparagus fresh from the garden, hold a spear with your fingers and bend it until it snaps off. Asparagus will break off at just the right point to separate from the tougher portion. Doing this will ensure that you get the tender part of asparagus spears.

The same applies to store bought asparagus. Try to bend a spear and let it snap to separate tender and tough parts naturally. Discard tough end of asparagus spear.

How to Cook Asparagus Guide

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First of all, if your harvest was quite small or you do not have time for cooking asparagus right away, you can refrigerate asparagus for 3 – 4 days, keeping it  wrapped in a moist paper towel in a plastic bag.

If you are ready to make a delicious side dish – wash asparagus spears in cold water, pat them dry with a paper towel and let’s consider options.

There are numerous ways to cook asparagus. Are you in a mood to boil, steam, fry, saute, bake, or grill your asparagus today ? Or just eat it raw?

Raw asparagus?

Can I eat raw asparagus?

I have not eaten raw asparagus, but after I saw some raw asparagus salad recipes I decided to check some reputable sources to see if it’s OK to eat raw asparagus.

I couldn’t quite find a clear answer.

According to Ohio state.edu  raw young shoots of asparagus are reported to be mildly toxic. They also mention that contact with young stems can cause skin irritation.

On the other hand, North Carolina state extension says that it is OK to eat asparagus raw. Rinse and dry asparagus and enjoy it as is or in your favorite dip.” 

So, it is up to you to decide – to eat or not to eat raw asparagus.🙂🍴

 

Vitamin K in asparagus

I just want to note that asparagus is a powerhouse of vitamin K (that is necessary for blood clotting and good for your bone strength).

Vitamin K is fat soluble, which means that it absorbs best when taken with higher-fat foods. So in order to reap health benefits of asparagus when eating it raw – use some kind of dip with it that contains fat, or olive oil if it is raw in a salad. And, for sure – use oil or butter when cooking asparagus.

Do You Know?

5 spears of raw asparagus contain 50% of recommended daily intake of vitamin K for an adult.

For vitamin K one raw asparagus spear is equal to 1 cup of tomato sauce, or 1 baked potato.

General asparagus cooking tips

Before we move on to learning all ways to cook asparagus, I want to give some tips to remember:

  • thinner asparagus spears are good for sauteing or stir-frying;
  • thicker and larger spears are better for steaming, roasting, and grilling;
  • peel asparagus only when stalks are half inch in diameter or larger;
  • to peel asparagus – use a swivel vegetable peeler and starting from the middle of the spear peel asparagus in direction from tip toward base;
  • always choose asparagus with tightly closed tips.

I never had a need to peel asparagus picked fresh from the garden.

All the following asparagus cooking methods can also be applied to green beans and asparagus beans (sometime called snake or noodle beans. They can be green or red. The red ones look beautiful in salads).

For the following cooking directions it is assumed that asparagus is already washed, separated from tough ends and ready to be cooked.

 

How to cook asparagus on the stove

You can boil, steam, saute, fry, and grill asparagus on the stove top.

 

How to boil asparagus

  1. Add 1 quart  of water to the pot, bring it to a boil and add  ⅛ teaspoon of salt.
  2. When water starts to boil – add asparagus and cook uncovered on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. A fork should be able to penetrate asparagus when it cooked.
  3. Drain water. Season boiled asparagus with pepper. Toss with butter (or with olive oil for vegan side dish) and chopped parsley. Shave some cheese on the top of asparagus, if desired.
how to cook asparagus

If you are planning to use boiled asparagus in salad – then after draining boiled asparagus plunge it into ice cold water to stop the cooking process and to allow asparagus to retain crispiness.

For quick and easy asparagus salad cut boiled asparagus in 1 inch pieces, combine with halved cherry tomatoes, chopped sprig of dill (can be parsley or basil – whatever you prefer), add salt, pepper, Parmesan shaved with a  vegetable peeler or grated (use large holes on a box grater) and drizzle with olive oil.

 

How to steam asparagus

If you have a steamer – then bring water to boil, place asparagus in steamer, cover and steam for 4-5 minutes (depending on thickness of asparagus spears). Asparagus should be bright green color when steamed. Season with salt, pepper and add a sliver of butter. Delish!

If you do not have a steamer- use a saute pan or skillet with a  lid. Add 6-8 tablespoons of water to a skillet (or use vegetable or chicken broth if you prefer), turn the heat on. When bubbles appear – add the asparagus to the pan and cover it. Allow the asparagus to steam for about five minutes. Remove the spears from the pan, season with salt and pepper and then toss them with a little bit of butter or a mixture of oil with balsamic vinegar.

If you have a tall narrow pot – you can cook asparagus upright. Add 2  inches of water into pot, and a pinch of salt. Stand asparagus in the pot, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 5 minutes covered. This way the stems of asparagus simmer while the tender tips steam. It might insure more even cooking.

 

Sauteed asparagus

I love sauteed asparagus – each time it turns out so flavorful!  When sauteing we are aiming for the light crisp texture of asparagus  on the outside, while tender, but still a good bite, inside.

cooking basics

So, how exactly to saute asparagus?

  1. Cut asparagus  into 1 inch pieces or leave it whole if the spears are very skinny.
  2. Add ½ tablespoon of olive oil and ½ tablespoon of butter to the saute pan, bring to medium heat.
  3. Add asparagus and saute it, stirring from time to time for 2-3 minutes (until tender).
  4. You can add half clove of smashed garlic 30 seconds before turning the heat off. Stir it into the asparagus.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, add chopped parsley.
  6. Squirt some lemon juice for brightness if you wish.
how to cook asparagus

How to fry asparagus

For frying asparagus you generally do the same as for sauteing, but use more oil and whole spears of asparagus.

  1. In a frying pan add 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (or 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter). Bring to medium heat.
  2. Add whole asparagus spears and fry them, stirring from time to time for 5 minutes (until tender).
  3. You can add half clove of smashed garlic 30 seconds before turning the heat off and stir with asparagus.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, add some chopped parsley.
  5. Squirt some lemon juice for brightness if you wish.

How to grill asparagus indoors

You can grill asparagus on the griddle indoors.

I would strongly recommend blanching asparagus (we show how to do it later in this article) before grilling indoors.

  1. Now, get your trusty grill pan (like this grill pan with PFOE-free nonstick coating), set it on the stove top and preheat on high to 450°F, then reduce heat to medium 350-375°F.
  2. Using grilling tongs place asparagus spears coated with olive oil, salt, and pepper on the grill perpendicularly (so you can get nice char marks).
  3. Cook for 5 minutes. Turn asparagus spears halfway through cooking.

Use infrared non contact cooking thermometer to check the temperature of the indoor grill, in order not to overheat it to the point of smoking. (You don’t want to trigger the smoke detectors in your house, do you? That’s a sure way to scare your kitty🙀).

How to cook asparagus in the microwave

  1.  Cut washed asparagus spears into 2 inch pieces.
  2. Place them in microwavable 2 quart casserole dish and add ¼ cup of water.
  3. Cover with a lid.
  4. Cook on HIGH for 5-6 minutes (depending on size of asparagus spears).
  5. Remove from microwave and let it stand (covered) for 3 minutes.
  6. Open lid, add a sliver of butter, salt, and pepper.
  7. Toss asparagus onto the plate.

How to blanch asparagus

You might want to blanch asparagus for 2 reasons – for freezing or to soften it a bit before grilling asparagus spears that are thick, because otherwise asparagus will be burned outside, and raw inside.

For blanching you can use stove top or microwave method.

The rule of thumb is that for blanching asparagus before cooking – boil spears for 1 minute, for blanching before freezing –  2.5 minutes. After blanching, asparagus needs to be drained and placed in ice cold water at once.

How to blanch asparagus: stove top method

This is an example of blanching thick asparagus spears before grilling:

  1. Bring a quart of water to a boil, add pinch of salt.
  2. Dump washed asparagus spears into the boiling water, boil for 1 minute.
  3. Drain in a colander.
  4. Place immediately into ice cold water to stop cooking.
  5. Dry on paper towels to remove excess of water.
  6. Proceed with grilling asparagus.

How to blanch asparagus in the microwave

This is an example of blanching asparagus spears before freezing.

  1.  Cut washed asparagus spears (1 pound) into 2 inch pieces.
  2. Place them in microwavable 2 quart casserole dish   and add ¼ cup of water.
  3. Cover with lid.
  4. Cook on HIGH for 2 – 2.5 minutes , stir ones halfway through cooking (for brighter color).
  5. Remove from microwave and immediately plunge into ice cold water.
  6. Dry on paper towels to remove excess of water.
  7. Put in the BPA-free freezer bags or freezer safe glass containers, record the date and freeze.

How to cook asparagus in the oven

You can roast, bake, or broil asparagus in the oven.

cooking basics

How to roast asparagus

  1. Toss asparagus spears with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper in the baking/roasting dish or baking sheetYou can add ⅛ teaspoon of sesame seeds and swap olive oil for peanut oil if you wish to add Eastern flair.
  2. Spread them in one layer.
  3. Roast at 400°F for about 10 minutes or at 450°F for around 7 minutes (depending on size of asparagus), until crisp.

How to bake asparagus

Follow the steps from How to roast asparagus. The only difference – preheat oven to 350°F and bake for 17-20 minutes (depending on thickness of the asparagus spears).

I like to bake asparagus together with green beans and grape or cherry tomatoes. You can get creative and mix baked asparagus with something so unexpected as sliced strawberry, or orange segments. Flavor in every bite!

how to cook asparagus

How to broil asparagus

  1. Adjust oven rack so there is a distance 4-5 inches between the rack and the broiler heating element. (If your dish is rimmed – leave a distance 6 inches.) Turn the heat on.
  2. In the mixing bowl combine 1 tablespoon of olive oil (you can use garlic and thyme infused oil), salt, and ground pepper. Add asparagus spears in the mixing bowl to coat with oil.
  3. Place the spears in one row in the broiler pan.
  4. Broil for 3-5 minutes (depending on the size of asparagus spears).

How to grill asparagus

There are two ways to cook asparagus on the grill.

Version 1

  1. In a mixing bowl combine 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, freshly grated pepper, few fresh thyme leaves. Toss asparagus spears to coat them with the mixture.
  2. Thread asparagus spears on double pronged skewers for easy turning. If you do not have double pronged skewers – thread asparagus spears with 2 wooden skewers soaked in water for at least for 10 minutes before use – this will look like you made asparagus fence sections. 😉
  3. Grill 2-3 minutes on each side.
  4. Slide from the skewers.
  5. Enjoy!

Version 2

  1. Place asparagus spears on the grill for 2-3 minutes to get a nice char on them. (For the best result – blanch them before grilling).
  2. Turn each spear with grilling tongs  and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side.
  3. In a small bowl mix together olive oil, lemon juice, salt, black pepper, a few fresh thyme leaves and Parmesan cheese.
  4. When the asparagus comes off the grill, toss the spears with the dressing.
how to cook asparagus

Final thoughts on How to Cook Asparagus

Boiled, broiled, roasted, sauteed or grilled asparagus is a welcome spring side dish. We discussed today all of the quick and easy ways to cook asparagus for a healthy side dish. So now, when you return from your garden with a bunch of fresh spears, you will know what to do with all of that  asparagus.😉 

Read more garden to table recipes:

Beet Salad

Sorrel Soup

Spring Salad

Simple Summer Salad

ways to cook asparagus

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Which way do you like to cook your asparagus?

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How to Cook Asparagus

 

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