Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Looking down on roasted whole asparagus on a gray plate with crispy Prosciutto scattered about.

How to Cook Asparagus

  • Author: Christina
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15-20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 4-5 servings 1x
  • Category: Recipes
  • Method: Roasting
  • Cuisine: French
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Asparagus is a versatile vegetable fit for a modest pasta salad or the grandest of dinners! For more complex flavors, roast or sauté ripe spears. To preserve the nutritional value of your bunch, steam or briefly boil and blanch your asparagus.

If you plan to use your asparagus in a baked egg dish or pasta, blanching is a great technique to make sure the asparagus is the right tenderness in the finished dish. If your spears are destined for a batter or casserole, undercook your asparagus slightly. 

One cooking method I don't recommend for asparagus is broiling. Many home oven broilers heat unevenly and are unreliable. The space between the coils or gas heat source can lead to uneven results unless you continuously move and stir the vegetables.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 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!)

Instructions

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 of the asparagus, if you like. If cooking white asparagus, peeling is highly recommended.

Steam

  1. Bring three to four inches of water to a simmer over medium-high heat in a large pot (or the pot that works with your steaming tool or basket).
  2. Spread the asparagus out as much as possible in the basket or even a colander that fits inside the pot (but stays above the water).
  3. Cover, if possible, and steam the asparagus until they are fork-tender. Begin checking thinner asparagus after four or five minutes for doneness.
  4. Remove steamed asparagus once tender and serve.

Boil

  1. To boil asparagus, bring a medium or large pot of water to boil.
  2. Then add several pinches of salt, and your prepared asparagus.
  3. Boil until the spears are fork-tender. For super skinny stalks, begin checking after two to three minutes. For thicker spears, begin checking after four minutes.
  4. To check if boiled asparagus is cooked, remove one, run it under cold water, and bite into it. If the bite is tender and makes you happy, drain the asparagus.
  5. Season warm asparagus with butter or olive oil and salt, and serve.

Blanch

  1. Prepare an ice bath in a medium-to-large bowl, depending on if you cut your asparagus or left the spears whole.
  2. Boil the asparagus to your desired tenderness. If the asparagus is going in a salad, cook them to fork-tender. If they will be cooked more in a quiche or hot dish, boil just until they begin to soften. The only way to know if the asparagus is the correct tenderness for your purpose is to remove one from the pot and taste it! 
  3. Immediately transfer the hot spears to the ice bath using tongs, or drain with a colander then drop them in. A brief stint in the ice bath is all that's needed. Too long of a swim and you risk a water-logged side dish.
  4. Reheat blanched asparagus briefly in a sauté pan over medium heat with a bit of butter or healthy oil, then season and serve.

Roast

  1. Preheat your oven to 400° F (although you can go up to 450° F for quicker cooking). Line a large baking pan with parchment paper or greased foil for easy clean-up.
  2. Toss your trimmed asparagus in a high-heat oil like avocado and season with salt, and any dried herbs and/or spices you like.
  3. Spread the seasoned asparagus evenly on the baking pan and place it on a rack in the middle of the oven, if possible.
  4. 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.
  5. After about 10 minutes, sneak a spear out and taste it. Roast until they are tender enough to pierce easily with a fork, and a deep golden brown all around. Continue checking for doneness every few minutes. For average-size asparagus, cooking times in the oven will fall anywhere from 12 to 20 minutes.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and garnish the asparagus with fresh, chopped herbs and a drizzle of olive oil, melted butter, or a vinaigrette of choice. 

Pan-Roasting or Sautéing

  1. Peel, trim, and slice skinnier asparagus cross-wise into one- or two-inch pieces. Begin slicing from the tops down to preserve the delicate tips. I like to visualize the entire length in thirds or fourths, then slice accordingly. For smaller pieces fit for a pasta dish or casserole, trim the whole spear into fourths.
  2. Preheat oil or ghee (clarified butter) in a large sauté pan over medium heat.
  3. Add the sliced asparagus and spread the pieces out evenly. Don't touch the asparagus for the first several minutes of cooking.
  4. After the pieces begin to brown on the bottoms, shake the pan or use tongs to flip and move the asparagus around. This will help them cook and crisp evenly. After you stir, let the pieces cook undisturbed again for a few minutes. Repeat this process until the thickest pieces are tender (taste throughout the process to know!).
  5. If the spears are browning but the insides are still tough to the bit, splash a little bit of water or stock in the pan. This will force steam through the asparagus and accelerate the cooking process.

Air Frying

  1. Preheat your air fryer to 400° F. Grease the fryer basket with a high-heat cooking spray oil.
  2. Trim, peel and coat the asparagus in oil. It can be helpful to trim the asparagus to slightly shorter than the width of the fryer basket. Season with salt and any ground spices.
  3. Place the spears in the fryer basket, leaving at least a tiny space between the spears (you may need to fry in batches). Begin checking thinner spears after ten or twelve minutes for doneness. Thick ones will take up to 15 minutes to become nice and fork-tender.

Grilling

  1. Trim the woody stems off of the bottom of your asparagus. Coat the stalks with avocado or canola oil, and season generously, but not excessively, with salt.
  2. Preheat your gas grill on high, or prepare your coals to be as hot as possible (but no longer flaming excessively).
  3. Scrape the grill grates clean with a grill brush, and rub on a high-heat oil like avocado with a dish rag.
  4. Grill the asparagus until evenly charred and tender to the bite (taste one to know!). Flip the spears over once halfway through cooking, once the first side is deeply charred. Medium-thick stalks take about ten minutes to cook on a blazing hot grill.
  5. Serve drizzled with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, or drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Notes

Cleaning & Storing

To keep asparagus as fresh as possible, trim a half of an inch to an inch off of the bottoms. You can even leave the spears tied when you do this to make cutting easier. Then stand the asparagus upright in shallow water like flowers in a vase. A jar or large cup takes up minimal real estate in the refrigerator. Aim for a water level that comes no more than a quarter of the way up the stems. You can also wrap asparagus in damp paper towels and seal them in a plastic bag or plastic wrap.

You can clean asparagus right when you bring it home, or right before you cook it. Simply rinse asparagus under cold, running water to remove any lingering soil and pat it dry.

Trimming

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.

Peeling

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.

On "baking" asparagus... While the term baking typically refers to lower oven temperatures and homogenous mixtures like cake batter, you can certainly cook asparagus at 325° F or 350° F (about 160° C). This is a great technique if you don't like asparagus too crispy or caramelized but want to use your oven. The cooking time at 350° F will be longer than roasting at higher temperatures. And the asparagus will still brown, just not as much.

Nutrition Information

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.

Keywords: how to cook asparagus, roasted asparagus, how long to cook asparagus at 350° F, steamed asparagus, blanching, how to clean asparagus