How to Prepare Asparagus, Spring's Best Vegetable
The secret to perfect asparagus? It's all in the preparation.
By Kelsey Mueller, Senior Digital Editor; Peggy Woodward and Gina Nistico, Food Editors
When asparagus appears in grocery stores, spring has arrived. The slender green vegetable stands like a flag against the pale beige of winter potatoes, rutabagas, and squash. Spring! No wonder it's so popular (we have over 500 asparagus recipes on our site alone!).
Bottom line is, when asparagus is in season, you should eat it as often as you can. Follow these nine tips to ensure that you make the most delicious asparagus possible.
Tip 1: Buy the freshest asparagus you can find
The snappy texture of asparagus can go limp rather quickly. The more locally grown your asparagus, the less time it's been in storage. Regardless, make sure to eat asparagus within a few days of purchase.
Tip 2: Know which type you like best
Many people prefer thin asparagus stalks for their tender texture. Thin asparagus is indeed delicious at its prime, tender and sweet. It can also be more fragile.
Fatter asparagus has a more robust asparagus flavor, and a meatier texture. It isn't necessarily stringy (more on that in a bit).
And what's up with white asparagus? This vegetable, popular in Germany, is actually grown underground, so the spears don't produce chlorophyll and are white. White asparagus is delicately flavored and tasty. Be sure to peel it, though, as the stalk's outer layers can be bitter.
Tip 3: Store asparagus properly
Asparagus bunches tend to come tightly belted by a rubber band. As soon as you get home, snip off this constrictive belt! It can easily bruise your vegetable and can cause an unpleasant rubbery texture. Keep the loose asparagus in a produce bag in the fridge until you use it.
Tip 4: Wash it well
Fine grit can lurk in asparagus tips. To get rid of it, fill a bowl with cold water and soak the asparagus for a few minutes, then rinse off. That should rid the stems of any unpleasant sandiness.
Tip 5: Break off the woody ends with an easy trick
Unsure how much of the end to trim off? Let the stalk tell you. Gently bend the asparagus. You'll be able to feel where it wants to break. Snap off the stalk end as far down as it will easily break.
If you don't want to go one by one, you can also use a chef's knife to slice off the tough, white-ish ends. Aim for about an inch, maybe a bit more.
Tip 6: Peel fatter stems
If your stalks are large, peel them to reduce the risk of a stringy texture. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the tough area of the stalk, from the end to just below the tip. (Never peel the tips, obviously!) You can also scrape off the scales with a knife.
Tip 7: Cut it up to mask imperfections
If you know your asparagus has gone a bit bendy, or if you're serving it to texture critics like children, do yourself a favor and chop up the asparagus. Aim for slices between 1 and 2 inches long, like little asparagus batons. These will cook quite quickly, so keep a close eye on them. In smaller bites, any stringiness is hardly noticeable.
Tip 8: Don't overcook it!
If you only obey one rule, let it be this one. Overcooked asparagus is a sad, mushy experience. Whether you're steaming or roasting, cook it until it's just tender. Test it frequently during cooking. You can pierce it with a fork, or sample a spear. (We won't tell anyone if you have to sample several spears, just to be really sure.)
Tip 9: Play with flavors
Asparagus is straight-up delicious with just butter or oil and salt. But it actually pairs well with a surprising range of ingredients. Try it topped with pesto, sprinkled with nuts, decked out in cheese, showered with herbs...you get the picture. Find some of our favorite asparagus recipes here.