My last post may have been about getting excited for summer but we are, in fact, still in spring. There’re tons of great fruits and veggies that are in season right now. Beets, carrots, cherries, fennel, grapefruit, kale; I could go on and on!
But one of my favorites that I cook with almost weekly is asparagus.
Hopefully you’re a fan of asparagus like me, but I can see why some people tend to stay away from it. If you aren’t adventurous with your veggies it can look a little odd, the texture can be stringy if not cooked right and, probably the most well-known fact about it, it can give your urine an odor.
So what is the best way to cook asparagus to make it more enjoyable?
Keep reading and let’s find out!
I hope you enjoy learning about the recommended products! Each were independently selected by me, Haley, for Haley’s Kitchen. Just so you know, as an Amazon affiliate, I will earn from qualifying purchases. Oh, and items are in stock as of time of publication unless noted otherwise!
Benefits of Asparagus
Some asparagus that you’ll find in your local grocery store is grown in the US. You will see it peak in spring with usually really good deals and discounts but the reason you’re able to buy it year round is because of international importers that have the climate to consistently farm it. Before we jump into the different variations of how asparagus can be cooked, I wanted to fill you in on all the benefits that asparagus holds within its stalks.
Asparagus is packed with nutrients, is really low in fat, its free of sodium and cholesterol and has many known benefits.
There are also folklore beliefs that it cures anything from toothaches to reproductive complications.
The Mayo Clinic highly suggests incorporating more asparagus in low fat diets because of its low calorie count and because it is a water based vegetable.
Because its filled with antioxidants, its been ranked one of the top vegetables to help with anti-aging and can reduce inflammation. Another factor to its anti-aging benefits are that it could help to strengthen your brain by fighting our natural cognitive decline.
It’s also been known to help cure hangovers and reduce liver damage due to the amount of amino acids and minerals found in asparagus. So if you’ve tried any options from my previous article, How to Remove Sulfites from Wine, to help your hangovers and didn’t find success, try eating more asparagus!
How to Prep Asparagus
There’s not much to be done in prepping asparagus, but you’ll want to remember to prep it before cooking it, no matter your preferred cooking method.
First off, give them a quick rinse and be sure to pat them dry with a paper towel to remove any excess water. You’ll want to make sure they’re good and dry especially if you are roasting or sautéing them so that they don’t steam and will instead, brown.
Like Anne Burrell says, “brown food tastes good.”
Next, you’ll want to get rid of the bottom of the stem that’s known as the tough part. The tough part is usually white or purple and if you’ve ever eaten this part, it is not an appetizing texture.
To remove this part, you can do 1 of 3 things.
Cut them off with a knife or pair of kitchen shears.
Peel the outer skin off with a vegetable peeler.
Or my favorite way, snap them. I prefer this method because it gives you the change to get to know your asparagus a little better and its precise.
Simply take each stalk one-by-one and place it horizontally in your hands.
Did you ever snap wooden pencils in half in grade school? If so, this is exactly how you will hold your asparagus, only towards the end of the stalk!
Pressing away with your thumbs, you’ll notice the asparagus stalk starting to bend and with enough pressure, it will naturally break where the tough part meets the rest of the stalk.
Toss the tough part in the trash and your asparagus stalk is ready to cook!
Boiled, or blanched, asparagus is the fastest way to cook asparagus besides eating it raw. Boiling vegetables can sometimes cause them to lose their color and nobody wants to eat gray vegetables. By briefly boiling the asparagus and then placing it immediately in iced water, will help the asparagus to keep their green by stopping the cooking process. This is called blanching, also known as shocking the asparagus.
It’s important to keep an eye on your boiling asparagus since it will only need to cook from 1 to 4 minutes. Over boiling your asparagus can cause it to not only lose color but lose texture and become mushy and also lose all of its amazing nutrients!
Let the asparagus cool for 1 to 2 minutes and then remove from the ice bath. Place on a platter with a vinaigrette drizzle or with lemon wedges. You can also chop it up to add to a cold pasta salad!
Steaming asparagus is a very similar process to boiling. The only difference in the cooking method is that you will place the asparagus in a steam basket instead of fully submerging them into boiling water. With the steam basket, you can either steam the full stalk or you can go ahead and cut them into smaller pieces and steam them that way.
One difference I found with steamed vs boiled is that you lose more nutrients by boiling the vegetable. So to me, steaming seems the more beneficial way to cook asparagus with water!
You will still blanch the asparagus if you choose to steam it so that it can stay green and keep its dignity. Serve it much like how you would serve it boiled or shake it up a bit and have it for breakfast with poached eggs!
Sautéed asparagus is probably my most used method when it comes to cooking asparagus. I often heat my Dutch oven on medium-high to high heat with olive oil and toss in my chopped asparagus with other vegetables like mushrooms, chickpeas and peppers.
Sautéing asparagus keeps it fresh while also bringing out a great roasty, nutty flavor to it.
If I’m going to sauté whole stalks, then I’ll toss them in olive oil on a plate while I heat my cast iron on high and then toss them into the cast iron and flip them frequently with a pair of tongs so that they brown but not burn.
Serve your stir fry over rice or mix it in with a nice sauce and noodles! To serve them whole, I love squeezing fresh lemon juice on the stalks and serving it with salmon or tuna steaks.
Shaving fresh parmesan is a nice touch too!
Roasted asparagus is my second most used method. I call it my lazy method, but really its just easy and low maintenance.
Simply preheat your oven, toss your asparagus in oil and seasonings, transfer to a baking sheet and pop them in for a few minutes! You’ll want the tips to be browned and the stalks to be tender.
With roasting, you can also find recipes for bacon wrapped asparagus, Parmesan asparagus or roast them in a balsamic glaze.
For broiling, you’ll receive pretty much the same results! Instead of preheating your oven, just turn on your broiler setting. Prepare the asparagus the same way and place them on a sheet pan. Just make sure if your oven rack is close to the top of the oven that your asparagus is at least 6 inches from the broiler.
Both of these methods also gives you the opportunity to get creative with your seasonings. I usually go for salt and pepper but feel free to play with different spices!
Grilling asparagus is a super fun way to cook this vegetable. But to be honest, grilling in general is a really fun method of cooking anything!
If you’ve got quite of bit of food to grill, I’d suggest saving your asparagus close to last. It should only take 5-10 minutes to grill on high heat and is delicious when served warm. Like roasting asparagus, you’ll just want to toss it in oil with salt and pepper and place them across the grates so that they don’t fall in.
Another way to avoid them falling into the grill is buying thick stalks vs thin stalks.
Grilling brings out the beautiful grassy notes of asparagus and enhances them with a smokey flavor. Be sure to turn them so that they char evenly. When they’re done, simply plate them and squeeze on a bit of lemon juice!
There are also tons of grilling accessories to make grilling vegetables easier and tastier. Visit my previous article here to check them out!