Asparagus, like all green vegetables, is loaded with vitamins and minerals that your body needs. However many people won’t eat this vegetable because they don’t know how to cook it to avoid that woody texture and taste. This article will peel back the mystery on how to cook asparagus to avoid that woody texture and taste that most people dislike.
Preparing Asparagus for Cooking
What You'll Be Needing:
In most cases, the woody texture and taste some people experience when eating asparagus is not due to the cooking method used, but rather is due to what occurs when buying and preparing the asparagus before cooking.
The first step in avoiding woody asparagus is to buy young, tender, and fresh stalks of this vegetable. Of course, if you grow asparagus in your garden, this is not a problem you’ll encounter.
Keep in mind that the diameter of the stalk of asparagus has nothing to do with the freshness or age of the vegetable. Fresh asparagus will have a firm feel, a dark green tip, and moist and plump ends.
Peeling the asparagus stalk and trimming off the end of each stalk of your asparagus will go a long way in removing the woody asparagus texture. However, if the asparagus is young and fresh, peeling may not be necessary.
How To Cook Fresh Asparagus
There is no one way to cook asparagus. How you cook asparagus is going to depend on the amount of time and effort you want to spend preparing it, your dietary needs, and your own preferred cooking method.
Here are the 6 most common ways of cooking asparagus.
1. How to steam asparagus
Steaming requires placing the asparagus in a basket that sits over a pan of boiling water and covered by a lid. The water itself does not touch it. Instead, the steam created by the boiling water cooks the asparagus. Steaming asparagus keeps the calories low and is great for those on a vegan diet.
It normally takes 5 to 15 minutes to steam asparagus depending on how thick the stalks are.
Make sure that the stalks are tender before removing them from the steamer basket. Once your asparagus is done, you can flavor it with salt and pepper or any other family favorite.
2. How to cook asparagus by boiling
Instead of using a steamer basket, the asparagus is cooked by putting the vegetable directly in the water and cooking it until tender.
The best way to boil asparagus is to use a sauté pan. Place asparagus in the bottom, cover with water (about ½ inch over the vegetable) and add salt. Bring to boil and cook between 4 and 7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the stalk.
Check to ensure that the asparagus is tender before removing the pan from the stove. Once removed, drain off the water and add a bit more salt and pepper. Adding some butter will make it tastier. Serve hot.
Keep in mind that boiling asparagus can remove a good deal of its flavor. so use as little water as possible.
3. How to microwave asparagus
Wonder how to cook asparagus in the microwave? It’s easy: all you need is a dish that is microwave safe.
Place the asparagus in the dish (cutting in half if needed) and add 2 or 3 tablespoons of water. Or, you can just cover the dish with plastic wrap and not add any water (I prefer this method). Cook on high for about 3 minutes and then remove from the microwave and check for doneness. If needed, place back in the microwave for another minute or two. If asparagus is tender remove, drain and season.
To add a bit more flavor to microwaved asparagus try squeezing the juice from a lemon wedge over it before serving.
4. How to roast asparagus
Oven-roasted asparagus is one of the most flavorful ways of preparing this vegetable.
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is heating to temperature, place the asparagus into a bowl and sprinkle with olive oil. Toss to make sure all the spears are lightly covered with the oil. Place on a flat cooking sheet and roast in the oven from 12 to 15 minutes or until the spears are tender.
To add even more flavor, sprinkle with salt and lemon pepper seasoning. You can also sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before roasting. YUM!
For a lovely change, you might also want to try roasting this vegetable with mushroom and carrots from the garden.
5. How to sautee asparagus
Another way of cooking asparagus is to sauté this vegetable. In a large frying pan heat oil or butter. Add asparagus and sauté until the vegetable is tender-crisp. This will take anywhere from 3 to 7 minutes depending on the thickness of the stalks. For added flavor, you can add some onions to your frying pan.
6. How to cook asparagus on the grill
Grilling is one of the quickest ways to cook asparagus and it gives it a nice smoky flavor.
You can grill asparagus right on the grill grate, or use a grilling pan. Before grilling, place the asparagus spears in a baking pan and coat with olive oil, salt, and pepper. You will also want to brush the grate with olive oil if you are grilling directly on the grate.
Cook on high heat for 3 or 4 minutes turning each spear occasionally. When done, your asparagus should be tender and slightly charred.
Grilled asparagus goes with any meat, but is particularly tasty when served with grill fish or steak.
7. How to cook white asparagus
While white asparagus can be cooked the same way as green asparagus, it needs a different preparation before cooking. White asparagus has a tougher, more fibrous stem that needs peeling: otherwise, the asparagus will be bitter and unpalatable.
FAQ about asparagus
What is the difference between green, purple and white asparagus?
While green and purple asparagus are grown with lots of sunlight, white asparagus is grown underground or under a dark cover.
The way in which the different types of asparagus are grown results in different tastes as well. While green asparagus has a slightly grassy taste, white asparagus is milder, with a slightly bitter taste. And the purple asparagus (which is actually green inside) has a slightly nutty and sweeter taste.
How to choose the freshest asparagus from the supermarket?
Growing your own asparagus is the best way to ensure that it is at its freshest.
However, if you are buying asparagus at your local store and want to make sure it is fresh there is an easy way to do. Make sure that the stalks are firm to touch and there is no sign of wilting. Next, look at the tips of the asparagus: they should be tightly closed if the asparagus is fresh and dark green in color (some have a purple tinge).
The other end of the asparagus should be moist and look plump.
How do you peel and trim asparagus to prepare it for cooking?
Trimming your asparagus removes the woodiest part of the stalk and helps you create spears that are all equal length. Line the asparagus up on a cutting board so that the tips are equal and then cut off the bottom ½ to 1 inch of the bottom of the spears so they are all the same length.
Once trimmed you can then use a swivel peeler, vegetable peeler, or sharp paring knife to peel the asparagus. Make sure the asparagus is lying on the cutting board when peeling to help prevent the breakage of individual stalks. Peel one stalk at a time.
Can you cook white and green asparagus together?
While you can serve green and white asparagus together, it is best to cook them separately because white asparagus normally needs to be cooked longer than green asparagus.
Can you broil asparagus
Yes, broiling asparagus is easy. Simply lay the asparagus flat in a sheet pan, sprinkle with salt (and pepper is you wish), and drizzle some olive oil.
Broil for 5 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan halfway through. The asparagus should end up tender and slightly charred. Here’s my tray of broiled asparagus. It’s absolutely delicious!
Can you eat asparagus raw?
While most people like their asparagus cooked, you can eat it raw. Make sure to shave the tough skin and slice it up in thin slivers. Add some salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon and enjoy.
Or, do what my husband does: pick a few from the garden and eat them straight up!
Can asparagus be cooked in a crock-pot or slow cooker?
Yes, you can cook asparagus in a crockpot or slow cooker. I personally wouldn’t, unless it was in a dish with other vegetables. Otherwise, it would take way too long. And broiling or microwaving is so much faster!
But, if you want to use your slow cooker to cook asparagus, place it in with a small amount of water or vegetable stock (doesn’t have to cover the vegetable), a pat of butter and a little garlic. Mix well and allow to cook on low for about 6 hours until tender.
Can you preserve asparagus for cooking later?
Yes, there are several ways you can preserve asparagus blanching and freezing is one of the best ways to preserve it. You can also make vegetable stock using the ends.