Pick up a bunch of asparagus from the farmers market or grocery store, and use our cooking guide to learn the best way to prepare it. Learn how long to cook asparagus, get our top asparagus recipes, and use our step-by-step instructions for cooking asparagus.
Asparagus season is considered to be spring, but you'll find this popular vegetable in markets year-round. Look for firm, bright green spears with healthy tips that are tight and not mushy. Spear size ranges from fat -- these come from older plants -- to pencil thin. Whether you like skinny or fat spears is personal preference, but for even cooking, choose spears that are uniform in size. When possible, enjoy asparagus the day you purchase it. If that is not possible, wrap the bases in a damp paper towel, place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate for up to four days. You can also stand asparagus spears upright in a container filled with 1 inch of water. Cover the asparagus and the container with a plastic bag.
Editor's Tip: One pound of asparagus equals 18 to 24 spears or four servings.
Thick or Thin? Each type of asparagus has its fans. Thin asparagus is tender with a slightly crisp center, while thick asparagus has more of a meaty center and therefore more crunch and texture. For thick asparagus spears, peel off the woody outside part -- about 2 inches up from the stem end -- with a vegetable peeler.
Because asparagus is grown in sandy soil, rinse the spears (especially the tips) with cold water. Snap off the woody base of each spear by bending the spear a few times to find a place where it breaks easily. This is usually around the bottom third of the spear and where the woody part starts to turn tender. If desired, scrape off the scales on the spears with a vegetable peeler. This gives the spears a smooth, clean look and is especially beneficial for tough or fat spears.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place asparagus on a baking sheet or in a baking dish and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Toss lightly to coat. If desired, season with salt and black pepper. Roast, uncovered, about 15 minutes or until crisp-tender, lightly tossing twice during roasting. If desired, season with herbs and lemon.
Generously brush asparagus with olive oil or melted butter or margarine. This keeps the spears from sticking to the grill rack. Place asparagus on a piece of heavy foil or directly on grill rack, perpendicular to the wires on the rack. For a charcoal grill, place asparagus on grill rack directly over the coals. Grill, uncovered, for 7 to 10 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning occasionally. For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place asparagus on grill rack directly over heat. Grill, covered, for 7 to 10 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning occasionally.
To steam asparagus, lay the spears in a large skillet and top with 1 inch of water. Lightly salt the water and bring to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 3 to 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.
Place asparagus in a microwave-safe baking dish or casserole with 2 tablespoons water. Microwave, covered, for 2 to 4 minutes or until crisp-tender.
The classic blanching method requires boiling, then shocking the asparagus in an ice bath to stop the cooking, resulting in perfectly cooked yet cold asparagus. To make and serve warm right away without shocking, place asparagus in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Cover with about 2 cups of boiling salted water. Let stand for 10 to 12 minutes until bright green and crisp-tender. Drain; serve warm.