Common Mistakes To Avoid When Cooking Asparagus

This easy-to-cook vegetable is even easier to ruin.

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You simply can't beat asparagus. And right now, farmers' market stands and supermarkets are overflowing with fresh bundles of this springtime staple. Incorporate this versatile veggie into any meal for a dose of instant color and seasonal flavor: a quiche for breakfast, salad for lunch, or pasta for dinner. You can also dress it up or down depending on the occasion—simply steamed for an easy appetizer or gussied up for Easter lunch. You can even use it to create a show-stopping flower arrangement. There are many methods for cooking asparagus—sautéing, roasting, grilling, etc. And there are also many ways the process can go wrong. Avoid these common mistakes the next time you're cooking asparagus, and never eat a soggy, mushy stem again.

Overcooking It

The number one mistake made when preparing asparagus is overcooking it. Take into account that the vegetable continues to cook for a few minutes after you remove it from heat or boiling water. Because it only takes a few minutes to cook, keep a close eye on it to avoid soggy, limp stems as the outcome. To avoid overcooking, take it out of the oven or off the stove a minute or so before you think it's done. Another way to prevent overcooking is to shock the asparagus in an ice bath. Once you remove asparagus from the heat, pour the veggies into a bowl of ice-cold water. The cold water will stop the cooking process as well as bring out the vegetable's naturally bright color and maintain its crisp texture.

Getting to the Farmers' Market Late

When you arrive at the later end of a Saturday morning farmers' market, most of the good stuff has already been picked, and you're left with a subpar selection. Don't buy stalks that look dried out, shriveled, or look less than fresh. Set your alarm an hour earlier to get the best pick—we promise it's worth it.

When choosing asparagus at the farmers' market, look for firm stems that don't easily bend. Choose stems that are vibrant green with closed buds or crowns and healthy, not woody, ends.

Not Prepping the Stems

Cut off any hard ends and trim feathery tips before you start cooking. That way, the asparagus will be ready to eat as soon as it's cooked.

Not Cooking It Right Away

Don't let fresh asparagus waste away in your fridge! It's best the first few days after it's purchased. It doesn't need any fancy cooking methods—a simple sauté, roast, or broil will bring out its best flavors. Try it raw by shaving it for salads or tossed with vinaigrette. Check out these asparagus recipes for inspiration.

Storing Incorrectly

If you aren't using your asparagus the day you buy it, proper storage is key. To prepare it for next-day cooking, store your asparagus wrapped in a moist paper towel in a zippered plastic bag in the refrigerator.

For use later in the week, trim one inch from the stems and store the asparagus standing up in a jar with one inch of water, like flowers in a vase. Cover the asparagus with a plastic bag and refrigerate for three to five days, replacing water when it becomes cloudy.

Buying It Canned

Don't take the shortcut while asparagus is in season. It'll take just as long to cook fresh asparagus as it does to heat up the canned stuff in the microwave. Plus, canned asparagus is always mushy.

Enjoying Your Asparagus

Now that you know how to cook perfectly crisp asparagus, toss some chopped spears into a pan with soy sauce for a tasty side dish. A creamy asparagus soup lets this seasonal vegetable shine. Dress up a plate of asparagus with cheese sauce and top with herbed breadcrumbs. Or for a quick and flavorful side, let the air fryer do the work and then sprinkle with everything bagel seasoning and goat cheese.

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