How to Cook Asparagus 8 Ways: Our Test Kitchen's Easy Methods

Learn how to cook asparagus that's tender and crisp—just like your favorite restaurant serves it. And, yes, you can make this vegetable in the microwave.

Asparagus is one of the best vegetables you can make at home. With our Test Kitchen's expert tips and tricks, you'll learn how to season asparagus and prep and cook it in no time. Gone are the mushy, shapeless spears no one wants to eat—from now on, expect only crisp-tender asparagus, the perfectly firm kind you can sink your teeth into. So whether you're cooking on the grill, stovetop, in the oven—or even in the microwave—master all the techniques for making this veggie. Then try our best asparagus recipes to impress your guests with a show-stealing side that'll banish fries for good (or at least until burger night).

How to Buy and Store Asparagus

Asparagus hits its peak season from March through June, but you'll find it in stores year-round. Look for firm, bright-green spears with compact, closed tips that aren't mushy. Spear size ranges from fat to pencil-thin, with thickness indicating the vegetable's age.

This variety of sizes prompts one of the most common questions we get: Should I choose thick or thin asparagus spears? Fortunately, there's no wrong answer—it's all about personal preference. Thin asparagus is tender with a slightly crisp center; thick asparagus has a meatier center meaning more crunch and texture. Just make sure to select uniformly sized spears for even cooking. If you choose thick asparagus spears, peel off the woody outer part (about 2 inches up the stem end) with a vegetable peeler.

Plan to cook asparagus the day you purchase it. If this isn't possible, store asparagus in a damp paper towel, place it in a plastic bag, and refrigerate for up to three 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.

Wondering how much asparagus to buy for your next meal? One pound of asparagus equals 18 to 24 spears, about four servings.

How to Prepare Asparagus

Peeling Asparagus stalks
Jason Donnelly

Asparagus grows in sandy soil, so it needs to be thoroughly washed (especially at the tips) with cold water. To snap off the woody base, bend each spear a few times to find a place where it breaks easily. This is usually around the bottom third of the stalk, where the woody part starts to turn tender. Or simply line up the stem ends and trim off an inch or so. If desired, scrape off the scales on the spears using a vegetable peeler. This gives the veggie a smooth, clean look and improves the texture of tough or fat spears. You can also cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces for cooking.

How to Roast Asparagus

The key to roasting asparagus is a high oven temperature. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Place asparagus on a baking sheet or in a baking dish, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of 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.

Test Kitchen Tip

Use tongs to grab asparagus spears for easier tossing during roasting.

How to Grill Asparagus

Grilled Asparagus in Dill Butter
Andy Lyons

Cooking asparagus on the grill gives it a slightly smoky flavor. Here's how to crisp it perfectly:

  1. Generously brush asparagus with olive oil, melted butter, or margarine. This keeps the spears from sticking to the grill rack.
  2. For a gas grill, preheat the grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place asparagus on a piece of heavy foil or directly on the grill rack, perpendicular to the grates on the rack. Grill, covered, for 7 to 10 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning occasionally.
  3. For a charcoal grill, place asparagus directly over the coals. Grill, uncovered, for 7 to 10 minutes or until crisp-tender, turning occasionally.

How to Steam Asparagus

steaming asparagus
Blaine Moats

The best way to cook asparagus without adding fat is by steaming it. All it takes is water, which makes this method one of our favorite ways to cook asparagus. Place a steamer basket ($23, OXO) in a saucepan. Add water to just below the bottom of the basket. Bring water to a boil. Add asparagus to the steamer basket, then cover and reduce heat. Steam for 3 to 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.

How to Cook Asparagus on the Stove

Creamy Asparagus
Blaine Moats

When you cook asparagus on the stove, it's best to salt the water lightly, which is how to season asparagus as it cooks. Place the spears in a large skillet and cover them with 1 inch of water. Lightly salt the water and heat until simmering. Cook, covered, for 3 to 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.

How to Sauté Asparagus

Sautéing is one of the fastest ways to prepare asparagus in a flash. To sauté your spears, cut cleaned asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet (or heat 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat). Add cut-up asparagus and cook 3 to 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.

How to Blanch Asparagus

Asparagus blanching
Andy Lyons

Blanching is the way to go if you plan to can or freeze asparagus since the spears maintain their bright green color and come out crisp. This method is also excellent for asparagus salads, appetizers, and sides. To blanch asparagus, cook in lightly salted boiling water for 4 to 6 minutes until bright green and crisp-tender. Quickly add cooked asparagus to a bowl filled with ice water (known as shocking) to stop the cooking.

If you want to skip the shocking, place asparagus in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Cover with about 2 cups of salted boiling water. Let stand for 10 to 12 minutes or until bright green and crisp-tender. Drain and serve warm.

How to Cook Asparagus in the Microwave

This is the easiest—and quickest—method for preparing asparagus. Simply place asparagus in a microwave-safe dish or casserole with 2 tablespoons of water. Microwave, covered, for 2 to 4 minutes or until crisp-tender.

How to Cook Asparagus in the Air Fryer

If you like crispy-yet-tender asparagus, turn to the air fryer. Air-fried asparagus is crunchy and golden but tender on the inside.

  1. Preheat the air fryer to 375°F and line the basket with parchment paper. This will help keep the asparagus from sticking.
  2. Place the asparagus spears on the parchment-lined basket and spray or drizzle with olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Air fry until the spears become golden and crisp, about 6-9 minutes, depending on the size of the spears. Flip halfway for even cooking.

Now that you have all the techniques for cooking asparagus, it's time to hit the kitchen! Roast asparagus with garlic or roll your spears in panko breadcrumbs for easy side dishes. Serve a creamy asparagus soup for a starter, or add asparagus to your one-pan skillet supper. No matter which method you choose, you can count on your asparagus being cooked to non-mushy perfection.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles