How To Cook Asparagus
Read our tips on how to buy, store and cook asparagus, including simple, step-by-step directions for making basic steamed and roasted asparagus.
Although available year-round, spring and early summer is the best time to find an abundance of fresh asparagus at your local supermarket.
Like garlic and onions, asparagus is an edible member of the lily family, prized for its great flavor and nutritional value.
Fact: Green and white asparagus are actually the same variety. The difference is that white asparagus is grown in darkness, and consequently has no green pigment (aka chlorophyll).
Buying and storing asparagus
When shopping for asparagus, look for smooth stalks with tightly closed buds. Avoid any asparagus that look shriveled or wrinkled.
As soon as you bring asparagus home from the store, trim about half an inch from the bottom of the spears and place them upright in a container with an inch or two of water in the bottom. Just like a bouquet of flowers, asparagus can wilt if it goes without moisture for too long.
One pound of asparagus is equal to approximately 12 to 18 large spears, 19 to 24 medium spears, 25 to 30 thin spears, or about 3 cups of 1-inch pieces.
It is best to cook your asparagus the same day you buy it, but it can be stored for up to three days if necessary. Just loosely cover the container with a plastic bag and refrigerate it.
You can also wrap the bottom of the trimmed spears with wet paper towels and seal them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, although the previous storage method yields better results.
Preparing asparagus for cooking
Before cooking, trim off any woody ends. We don’t recommend using the “snapping” method, as it often results in too much waste.
Unless your spears are thin (less than 3/8-inch in diameter), use a paring knife to strip away a bit of the outer skin toward the bottom of the stalk. This ensures tenderness and even cooking.
Asparagus is low in calories (only about 5 per spear), rich in folate and contains moderate amounts of vitamins C, A and E, potassium and dietary fiber.
How to oven-roast asparagus
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and trim 1 pound of asparagus spears as described above.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of butter (or heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil) on a large, rimmed baking sheet.
- Add the asparagus and use tongs to toss until they’re thoroughly coated with the butter (or oil), then season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating the pan once about midway through the cooking time. The exact time will depend on the thickness of the spears.
- Check for tenderness by piercing the thickest part of the spear with the tip of a knife, and watch that you don’t overcook the delicate tips.
How to steam asparagus
- Bring 1-inch of water to a boil in the bottom of a pot large enough to accommodate a steaming rack.
- Arrange the asparagus spears in the rack, sprinkle with a little salt and lower it into the pot.
- Cover and steam for 6 to 9 minutes, or until the spears are bright green and the thickest part of the stalk is tender when pierced with a knife.