We all love asparagus season but it can be a tricky vegetable to get right if you don’t know what you’re doing. But don’t worry – it doesn’t take much work to cook asparagus like a pro.
Here we’ll show you 7 easy ways to cook the perfect asparagus, whether you want it healthy and crunchy or charred and crispy.
But before we get started, did you know you can also enjoy asparagus spears raw? They make a deliciously sweet and crunchy snack served with dips and are also great sliced up and scattered over salads.
Anyway, back to the cooking. All the techniques outlined below use fairly standard, slim asparagus spears, and it largely makes no difference whether you’re using green or white asparagus. Of course, some asparagus spears are very thin and may not require quite as much cooking time, whereas others can be very chunky, and may require more. For some methods, note that thick asparagus spears may benefit from blanching first.
Before starting, be sure to prep your asparagus spears properly by giving them a quick rinse and slicing off the fibrous ends. If you’re not sure where to cut, simply try bending each of them gently from the bottom of the spear and working your way up until it snaps off. For green asparagus, this is usually where the colour of the spear changes.
The quickest and easiest way to cook asparagus is simply to boil it. Just salt some large water in a pot and bring it to boil. While you’re doing this, prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.
Once the water is boiling, throw your asparagus spears in and cook until they turn bright green and tender. Depending on the width of the spears, this could take from 1 to 3 minutes. Particularly thick spears may take slightly longer.
Once the asparagus is cooked, remove them from the hot water with tongs and dump them straight into the ice bath. This will stop them from continuing to cook and losing their bite.
Steaming can take a little longer than boiling but the asparagus spears will retain their nutrients much better, rather than losing them in the boiling water.
Simply place your asparagus spears in your steamer basket and cover it (a transparent lid will make this process a lot easier). Set the heat to high and, once steam begins to form, leave for about 2 to 5 minutes depending on the width of the spears. As with boiling, they should be bright green and tender once done.
Transferring the asparagus spears to an ice bath is again recommended, unless planning to eat them immediately.
Preheat your oven to 400°F / 200ºC. Coat your asparagus spears with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and place on a baking tray.
Roast the asparagus in the oven for about 9–11 minutes, turning them halfway through. The spears will be done once tender and the tips have browned.
Coat your asparagus spears with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fire up your broiler and place the asparagus spears underneath at a distance of about 6 inches / 15 cm from the flame.
Broil the spears for about 8–10 minutes until tender and about to char. If using very thick asparagus spears, it’s advisable to blanche them prior to broiling. Otherwise you risk charring the outsides without cooking them in middle.
Grilled (barbecued) asparagus
If it’s a nice day and you’d rather cook your asparagus outside, then good news: This method is very similar to the two above and just as easy.
Fire up your barbecue and then coat your asparagus with olive oil, salt, and pepper. They should only take about 5–8 minutes on the grill before tender and ready to eat. Of course, you can choose to char them a little longer if desired.
As with broiling, you may want to blanche your spears in advance if they’re particularly thick.
Cut your asparagus spears into pieces about 2 inches / 5 cms long. Then heat a small amount of oil and butter in a pan. (You can also do this in a wok if you want to stir fry the asparagus.)
Throw the asparagus pieces into the pan, being careful not to crowd it. Saute for 3–5 minutes depending on thickness, tossing in the pan occasionally to cook the pieces evenly. Then season with salt and pepper and serve.
Heat olive and butter in a frying pan over a medium-high heat and then add the asparagus spears. Cover the pan and leave the spears to crisp for 3 minutes.
Then remove the cover and turn the heat up high. Season the asparagus spears with salt and pepper and sear them in the pan for 3–5 minutes, regularly turning until well browned.
Of course, these cooking methods are focused on cooking asparagus as a lone item. There are many other ways to cook this delectable vegetable as part of a grander meal. Click here for 7 great asparagus recipes.