7 Simple Ways to Cook Asparagus

Here are the best ways to cook asparagus, whether you're at the stove, the oven, or the grill.

a plate of asparagus with spoon
Photo: Courtney West/Southern Living

Asparagus is a quintessential springtime ingredient. It can turn basic quiches into a seasonal delight. It adds green bounty to side salads. It can also be the go-to side dish for steak and chicken, or fish and grilled tofu. In short, asparagus is an ingredient of multitudes.

Asparagus is also great because it can be a bit of a chameleon. On its own, the naturally green, grassy flavors are mild enough to not overwhelm delicate fish or chicken. But it's also strong enough to stand against bold sauces and toppings, like hollandaise sauce or Parmesan cheese.

There are several ways to cook asparagus, which means you'll almost never be bored with the bundles of green stalks. But whether you're looking for a new ideas for how to cook asparagus, or you're cooking it at home for the first time, you'll need these guides to cooking asparagus.

Here, learn how to grill, sauté, roast, blanch, shave, steam, or broil asparagus.

How to Prepare Asparagus

First things first, you need to get asparagus ready to cook before you put it on the grill or on a baking tray. Right from the grocery store, asparagus does need a bit of care before it can be cooked. But these steps for prepping asparagus are easy.

water pouring over asparagus in a stainless steel colander
Courtney West / Southern Living

Wash the asparagus.

Run asparagus stalks under cool water in the sink. This can rinse out bugs or dirt. If the asparagus came bundled in a rubber band, you can leave it on, or take it off for washing. Remove any stalks that are brown or limp, or show signs of rotting. Add the band back to make the next step easier.

asparagus with ends trimmed on a wooden cutting board
Courtney West / Southern Living

Remove the woody ends.

If the asparagus is still in a rubber band or tied into a bundle, use a large chef's knife to line up all the ends. Then trim one inch off all the ends with the large knife.

Cook right away.

Don't wash and trim asparagus until you're ready to cook it. Water may make asparagus turn soft, and trimming the ends too early could dry them out.

Roasted Asparagus

Roasting caramelizes asparagus, bringing out its delicate nutty flavor. It's the best way to cook asparagus if you love the ends crisp and the stalks tender but still toothsome.

roasted asparagus

How to roast asparagus:

1. Place the trimmed asparagus on a lightly greased baking sheet.

2. Drizzle with olive oil; sprinkle with garlic (optional), salt, and pepper. Toss gently to evenly coat the spears.

3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 7 to 10 minutes, or to desired degree of tenderness, flipping once.

To get the best results, be sure not to overcrowd the baking sheet. Vegetables need room so they can cook and brown evenly, not steam and turn soggy.

Like this idea? Try our Oven-Roasted Recipe.

grilled asparagus

Grilled Asparagus

Throw some asparagus on the grill alongside burgers and steaks. While the grill grates are hot, you can give those spears a delicious caramelized flavor that's hard to replicate with any other asparagus cooking method. Plus, the grilled asparagus will be done just as the burgers and steaks are, so everything is ready together.

How to grill asparagus:

1. Combine olive oil, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish or large zip-top plastic bag; add asparagus, turning to coat.

2. Remove asparagus from oil mixture. Grill asparagus, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350 to 400 degrees F, or 175 to 205 degrees C) 3 to 5 minutes or until tender and delicately charred, turning once.

3. Remove asparagus; serve immediately.

Medium-sized asparagus is best for grilling. Pencil-thin stalks may cook too quickly and turn limp and soggy.

If you're using a grill pan, heat the grill pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, grill the asparagus 4 to 6 minutes or until tender.

sauteed asparagus

Sautéed Asparagus

Crisp-tender sautéed asparagus makes a great side dish. It's also the best method if you're cooking asparagus on the stove. The smaller you cut the asparagus, the faster it will cook, so pay attention to how tender the asparagus is in order to avoid overcooking it.

How to sauté asparagus:

1. Leave spears whole, or slice them into 2- or 3-inch pieces.

2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat.

3. Add asparagus, and sauté 3 to 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.

4. Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

We love eating sautéed asparagus in this recipe for Sesame-Soy Asparagus.

cooked asparagus in a strainer
Courtney West/Southern Living

Blanched Asparagus

Blanching preserves the bright green color and crisp texture of asparagus. Blanching asparagus is a great method when you'll be serving whole spears or large pieces, as you would in salads, cold pasta tosses, or finger sandwiches.

How to blanch asparagus:

1. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil over high.

2. Fill a large bowl with ice water.

3. Cook asparagus in a large saucepan of boiling water until tender-crisp, 30 seconds to 1 minute; drain.

4. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain and pat dry.

Try this recipe for Deviled Egg Salad and Asparagus Tartines with blanched asparagus.

shaved asparagus

Shaved Asparagus

Asparagus is delicious raw when shaved into paper-thin ribbons. The flavor is delicately sweet, and the texture is irresistibly snappy. Toss it with your favorite vinaigrette for a simple side dish or salad.

How to shave asparagus:

1. Place each spear flat on a cutting board.

2. Use a vegetable peeler to slice it lengthwise.

3. When you've reached the middle, flip over, and shave lengthwise from the other side of the spear.

Note: Choose medium-to-thick asparagus spears so you can more easily shave it. Use any leftover bits in a salad or quiche.

For a beautiful appetizer, try shaved asparagus in this Asparagus Ribbon Crostini.

steamed asparagus

Steamed Asparagus

Steamed asparagus is great on its own—toss with some salt and pepper, or lemon juice—or you can stir it into salads, soups, or pasta for a bit of tender crunch.

How to steam asparagus:

1. Place asparagus spears in a steamer basket or pot insert.

2. Fill a large bowl with ice water.

3. Add water to the pot. Be sure the water won't cover any parts of the asparagus. Bring to a boil.

4. Place the steamer basket or pot insert into the pot once the water is boiling rapidly. Cook on high, covered, 1 to 3 minutes, or until fork tender and bright green.

5. Plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain and pat dry.

broiled asparagus

Broiled Asparagus

Broiled asparagus is a lot like roasted asparagus, but you're more likely to get a bit of char or deep caramelization with broiling. Broiled asparagus makes for a fast side, and if you have the broiler on anyway to melt cheese on a casserole or toast buns for sandwiches, this is the way to go.

How to broil asparagus:

1. Turn your oven to broil. Move the oven rack to the top position, nearest the heating element.

2. Drizzle asparagus spears with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat.

3. Place asparagus in a single layer on lightly greased baking sheet.

4. Broil asparagus on high 6 to 8 minutes, or until tender and slightly charred.

Questions About Cooking Asparagus

How long do you cook asparagus?

How long you cook asparagus depends on the cooking method and how thick the asparagus spears are. The smaller the spear, the faster they will cook.

Steaming and boiling asparagus are the fastest ways to cook asparagus, but you won't get as much flavor as roasting or grilling imparts.

No matter how you plan to cook asparagus, it should average about five minutes of cooking. If it cooks longer than 10 minutes, you're likely overcooking the asparagus, and this can result in a texture that isn't ideal.

How do you cook asparagus so it's not chewy?

Chewy asparagus is overcooked. Overcooked asparagus turns stringy and gummy. It's not what you want to eat.

To keep from overcooking asparagus, keep a close eye on it as it cooks. The moment its tender and droops just a bit when held by tongs, it's done. Eat the asparagus immediately for the best flavor and texture.

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