How to Choose and Cook Asparagus

Four Parts:Choosing AsparagusCleaning and Storing AsparagusPreparing Asparagus for CookingCooking Asparagus

Asparagus is a low calorie vegetable rich in many important vitamins including folate, vitamin C and vitamin A. The prime seasons for fresh asparagus are February through June and September through December. Asparagus is a versatile vegetable that lends itself to many different cooking methods.

Part 1
Choosing Asparagus

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    Inspect the tips of the asparagus spears. Look for spears with tightly closed buds. Avoid asparagus with open or seedy tips.
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    Choose asparagus with firm stalks. Wilted or limp asparagus is most likely old or has been mishandled.
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    Check asparagus stalk shape. Stalks should be round, not flat or ridged.
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    Look at stalk ends. Choose another bunch if the ends are woody or they appear dry.
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    Sniff the asparagus. Fresh asparagus will be odorless.
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    Choose asparagus size. Younger asparagus will have thinner stalks that don't require peeling. Sometimes more mature asparagus with thick stalks requires special preparation.

Part 2
Cleaning and Storing Asparagus

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    Clean asparagus when you are ready to cook it. Don't wash before storing as it hastens decay.
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    Wash in cold water paying special attention to the tips which are often sandy.
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    Store asparagus up to 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. You can wrap the ends of the stalks in a wet paper towel and place in a plastic bag to help keep your vegetables fresh.

Part 3
Preparing Asparagus for Cooking

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    Break off the woody ends of the stalks. Grab a stalk and apply pressure at the bottom. It will naturally snap where the woody part ends. Alternately, you can lay out the asparagus in your bunch and cut all ends to the same length.
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    Peel your asparagus. You can cook young asparagus without peeling it, but more mature stalks may require peeling.
    • Use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to slice off the stiff outer layer of the stalk. A paring knife will allow you more control. The tough skin will be thicker at the bottom of the stalk and become thinner as you reach the tip.
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    Check that the asparagus in your bunch is all around the same width. You want to cook stalks of approximately the same size together. If you mix different sizes, they may not cook evenly.

Part 4
Cooking Asparagus

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    Cook by boiling.
    • Tie your asparagus into a bundle using cooking twine. Gather 6 to 8 stalks and place a 30 inch (76.2 cm) piece of twine under the bundle and cross each half of the twine over to the opposite side. Continue wrapping the twine and tie off at the end of the stalks. Make sure to start wrapping below the tips.
    • Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add asparagus. Wait until the water comes back to a boil and start timing-asparagus should cook in 5 to 8 minutes.
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    Cook by steaming. Tying your asparagus in a bundle is also a good practice when you steam it as it protects the fragile tips from breakage. Steam approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
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    Cook by roasting.
    • Heat oven to 450 to 500 degrees F (232.3 to 260 degrees C).
    • Brush a cookie sheet or other pan with olive oil or use a vegetable oil spray. Lay asparagus out on the pan.
    • Brush vegetables with oil, or spray again with vegetable oil. Add salt, pepper, or other seasonings and cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until spears are slightly browned.
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    Cook by grilling.
    • Coat asparagus with oil.
    • Use direct, medium heat when you cook asparagus over the grill. You can either place the spears directly on the grill or use a grill basket or skillet to help protect the tender tips.
    • Grill approximately 6 minutes.
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    Cook in the microwave.
    • Place asparagus in a microwave save bowl or container. For 1 lb. (.45 kg) asparagus, add 1/4 cup (59 ml) of water. Cover with plastic wrap.
    • Cook at full power for 4 to 7 minutes for asparagus spears and 3 to 5 minutes for cut pieces. Turn asparagus halfway through the cooking time.
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    Cook in a stir-fry.
    • Cut asparagus into 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) pieces.
    • Heat some oil or butter in a frying pan. Add asparagus and cook over medium high heat until tender, usually 3 to 5 minutes.
    • If wished, you can also add egg for additional flavor and texture.

Tips

  • You can also store asparagus upright in your refrigerator in 2 inches (5.08 cm) of cold water.
  • Peeling mature asparagus is important, not only for taste and texture, but because it ensures even cooking of the stalks and tips.
  • Keep asparagus 6 inches (15.2 cm) above the coals if you cook it using a charcoal grill.

Warnings

  • Cook asparagus in a non-reactive pot/pan to avoid discoloration.

Article Info

Categories: Food Preparation