- one bunch of asparagus (16-18 individual spears)
- olive oil, avocado oil, butter, or ghee (clarified butter), depending on the cooking method
- about ½ teaspoon of kosher or flake salt
- olive oil, for garnish
- fresh herbs, optional
- lemon wedges, optional
- bacon, pancetta, or Prosciutto, optional (but delicious!)
Before cooking asparagus with any of the methods below, wash the stems to remove any lingering soil and pat dry with a towel. Trim at least an inch off of the bottoms of the stems. And peel the skin off of the lower half, if you like. If cooking white asparagus, I strongly recommend peeling.
- Prepare your steamer. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a large pot over medium-high heat. Set your steaming basket inside of it, taking care the water level is below it.
- Lay the asparagus in a single layer. Spread the trimmed asparagus out as much as possible in the basket or even a colander that fits inside the pot (but stays above the water).
- Steam until fork tender. Cover the pot if you can, and steam the asparagus until they are fork-tender. Begin checking thinner asparagus after four or five minutes for doneness by biting into one. Thicker stalks can take up to 10 or even 15 minutes.
- Boil the water. To boil asparagus, bring a large pot full of water to boil over high heat. Water will boil faster if you cover the pot.
- Salt the water well. Add a least two or three healthy pinches of salt to the boiling water. This is your only chance to season the inside of the spears. The salt will dissolve in the water, which passes through the asparagus as it cooks.
- Boil until the spears are tender to the bite. For super skinny stalks, begin checking after a couple of minutes. For thicker spears, begin checking after four minutes.
- Check for doneness and drain. To check if boiled asparagus is cooked, remove one, run it under cold water, and bite into it. If the bite makes you happy, drain the asparagus using a colander or remove the spears with tongs and pat dry.
- Set up the ice bath. Prepare an ice bath in a medium to large mixing bowl. Use plenty of ice, and add enough water just to cover it.
- Boil for one to three minutes. Boil the asparagus to your preferred tenderness. Thin asparagus only need a minute or two. Taste a couple of spears to know. Blanched asparagus destined for another dish is typically cooked to slightly less than done.
- Transfer the asparagus to the ice bath. After boiling, immediately transfer the hot spears to the ice bath using tongs (or drain them with a colander then drop them in). You can set a strainer inside the ice bath so you don't have to go fishing out every single stalk.
- Chill them for no more than five minutes. A brief stint in the ice bath is all that's needed. Remove the cold asparagus, pat them dry with a towel, and store them chilled until you are ready to use them.
- Preheat and prepare. I like a 400° F to 425° F oven. Line a large baking pan with parchment or greased foil for easy clean-up.
- Season and oil the asparagus. Toss your trimmed asparagus in a high-heat tolerant oil like avocado and season with plenty of salt. Spread the seasoned asparagus in one layer on the baking pan.
- Roast until tender. Roast the asparagus until caramelized and tender, between 12 to 20 minutes. Shake the pan or toss the asparagus with tongs occasionally to encourage even cooking. Cover the pan with foil if the spears threaten to over-brown before the thickest part of the stems is tender. After about 10 minutes, sneak a spear out and taste it for tenderness. Continue checking for doneness every few minutes. All ovens heat differently, and no bunch of asparagus is the same. Cooking times will vary.
- Serve immediately. Roasted asparagus is best served immediately.
To Sauté (Pan-Roasting)
- Peel and trim the asparagus. For pan-roasting, you definitely want to peel away the more fibrous skin and trim the woody bottoms. Then slice them crosswise into one-inch or two-inch pieces. Begin slicing from the top down to preserve the delicate tips.
- Heat the oil. Preheat your favorite cooking oil or ghee (clarified butter) in a large sauté pan over medium heat.
- Cook in a single layer. Add the sliced asparagus and spread the pieces out evenly. Don't touch the asparagus for the first several minutes of cooking.
- Toss and cook until tender. After the pieces brown on the first side, shake the pan or use tongs to flip them. After you stir, let the pieces cook undisturbed again for a few minutes. Repeat this process until the thickest pieces are tender and the asparagus are caramelized.
- Add water or stock, if necessary. If the spears are nicely browned but not tender, splash a quarter of a cup of water or cooking stock in the pan. This will steam the asparagus as it evaporates and help them soften.
- Add aromatics and seasonings. If you like, add a couple of tablespoons of minced shallots, onion, or garlic right at the end of cooking. Then sauté just until the aromatics begin to soften and turn brown. Like roasted asparagus, sautéed spears are best served immediately.
- Preheat the air fryer to 400° F.
- Season and oil the asparagus. Coat the asparagus in olive, avocado, or your favorite cooking oil. It can be helpful to trim the asparagus to slightly shorter than the width of the fryer basket. Season the spears with salt before you air fry them.
- Air fry in a single layer. Place the spears in the fryer basket, leaving at least a tiny space between the spears (you may need to fry them in batches). Begin checking thinner spears after eight or ten minutes for doneness. Very thick stalks can take up to 15 minutes to become nice and fork-tender. Always taste one to know if they're done.
- Prepare your grill. Preheat your gas grill on high, or prepare your coals to be as hot as possible (but no longer flaming steadily).
- Trim the asparagus. Coat the stalks with avocado or canola oil, and season generously, but not excessively, with salt.
- Clean and oil the grates. Scrape the grill grates clean with a grill brush. And rub on a high-heat oil like avocado with a dish rag (or use spray oil).
- Grill until charred and tender. Grill the asparagus until evenly charred and tender to the bite. Flip the spears over once halfway through cooking, after the first side is deeply charred. Medium-thick stalks take about ten minutes to cook on a blazing hot grill.
Cleaning & Storing
To keep asparagus as fresh as possible, trim a half of an inch to an inch off of the bottoms. Then stand the asparagus upright in shallow water like flowers in a vase. A jar or large cup works great, aim for a water level that comes no more than a quarter of the way up the stems.
Unless you are cooking asparagus spears as thin as pencils, trimming the woody ends is a good idea. Even with slimmer spears, I slice an inch or so off of the bottoms. To trim a thicker bunch, I like the natural snap method. Hold one spear at the very bottom and a couple of inches below the tip. Then bend it in half until it snaps naturally. Last, line up the snapped asparagus next to the rest, and cut them all to the same length.
With really thick shoots, I take a few moments to peel away the skin from at least the bottom third or half. For clients, I peel two-thirds of the way up from the bottom regardless of thickness. In your home kitchen, I say you decide.
The Nutrition Information below is based on roasting one bunch of asparagus drizzled with a tablespoon of avocado oil and half of a teaspoon of kosher salt.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
- Category: How To
- Method: Boiling, Blanching, Steaming, Roasting, Sautéing, Grilling, Air Frying
- Cuisine: French
- Diet: Vegetarian
Keywords: how to cook asparagus, roasted asparagus, how long to cook asparagus, steamed asparagus, blanched asparagus