How to cook asparagus

Article by: Allrecipes staff  |  Picture by: Allrecipes
How to cook asparagus
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Learn how to cook asparagus and tips for preparing and storing asparagus. Make the most of local asparagus while it is in season with useful techniques and advice.

Prepping asparagus

The bottoms of asparagus spears can be chewy and woody; they will either need to be snapped off or peeled. To snap off the tough portion, simply grasp the spear with both hands and bend the bottom portion until it breaks off. The asparagus will naturally break off at the point where the tender portion ends and the tough, stringy part begins.

You can peel your asparagus instead. Simply lay a spear of asparagus flat on a work surface and strip away the tough outside layer with a vegetable peeler, beginning just below the tip and working your way towards the bottom.

Cooking asparagus

Asparagus comes in several sizes, ranging in diameter from thinner than a drinking straw to fatter than your thumb. While some people prefer the smaller spears for their delicacy and tenderness, others like thick asparagus for its more robust flavour and texture.

Thin asparagus is perfect for sautéing in a pan with just a drizzle of olive oil over medium high heat. All it takes is a couple of minutes, depending on how firm you prefer your asparagus.

Large asparagus will need approximately 5 minutes in boiling salted water. Bring the water to the boil and place the asparagus in the pan; test for doneness after 4 minutes, sticking a knife through the fattest part of the spear.

Buying and storing

Whichever size you chose, look for firm, brightly coloured spears with tightly closed tips.

Asparagus begins to lose its sweetness as soon as it's picked, so try to cook it as soon as possible after you buy it. Local asparagus is best, as there's less time between when it's picked and when it reaches the market.

If you do plan to store asparagus in your refrigerator for a few days after you buy it, treat it like a bouquet of flowers: trim a small amount from the bottoms of the spears with a sharp knife and place them in a tall glass with a little water in the bottom. Cover the top loosely with a plastic bag, and store in the fridge. This will keep the spears firm and crisp until you are ready to cook them.

Leftover asparagus

It's hard to imagine leftover asparagus, but there's a first time for everything! If you find yourself with leftover cooked asparagus in the fridge, you can:
  • Enjoy it cold straight from the fridge
  • Incorporate it into an omelette, frittata or quiche
  • Toss it with some dressing for an asparagus salad
  • Combine it with couscous or pasta
  • Puree it into an asparagus soup

More cooking methods

You can grill asparagus with great results. Simply toss the asparagus in a tablespoon or two of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, then place under the preheated grill in a single layer on a baking tray. Grill for approximately 5 minutes, or until your desired doneness.

Steaming asparagus is easy and retains vitamins. Simply steam in a steamer basket or insert for approximately 5 minutes (more or less depending on the thickness of the spears).

Asparagus on the barbecue is an early summer treat. Simply toss in a tablespoon of olive oil and place over a hot barbecue for 2 to 3 minutes, or to your desired doneness.

See our Asparagus recipe collection for loads of delicious and easy recipes.
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