Make Restaurant-Style Asparagus With Our Test Kitchen's Tips

Learn how to cook asparagus that's super tender but not soggy—just like your favorite restaurant serves it. And, yes, you can make this vegetable in the microwave.

Tucked among a long list of fried side dishes on restaurant menus, asparagus stands out: For starters, it's green. It's delicious with just a little salt and pepper. And you can easily make it at home. With our Test Kitchen's expert tips and tricks, you'll be able to whip up restaurant-style asparagus in no time. Gone are the mushy, shapeless spears you dread—from now on, expect only crisp-tender asparagus, the perfectly firm kind that you can sink your teeth into. Whether you're cooking on the grill, stovetop, in the oven—or, yes, 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 this beloved vegetable 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 receive: Should I choose thick or thin asparagus spears? Fortunately, there is no wrong answer—it's all about personal preference. Thin asparagus is tender with a slightly crisp center; thick asparagus has a meatier center and therefore more crunch and texture. Just make sure to select uniformly sized spears for even cooking. If you do 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, which is four servings.

Peeling Asparagus stalks
Jason Donnelly

How to Prepare Asparagus

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 ($11, Target). 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.

roasted asparagus
Jay Wilde

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 ($15, Bed Bath & Beyond) to grab asparagus spears for easier tossing during roasting.

Grilled Asparagus in Dill Butter
Andy Lyons

How to Grill Asparagus

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.
steaming asparagus
Blaine Moats

How to Steam Asparagus

The best way to cook asparagus without adding fat is steaming. 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

When you cook asparagus on the stove, it's best to lightly salt the water, which will flavor the asparagus as it cooks. Place the spears in a large skillet ($50, Kohl's), and cover with 1 inch of water. Lightly salt the water and heat until simmering. Cook, covered, for 3 to 5 minutes or until crisp-tender.

Creamy Asparagus
Blaine Moats

How to Sauté Asparagus

How to cook asparagus quickly? Sautéeing is one of the fastest ways to prepare the vegetable 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.

Asparagus blanching
Andy Lyons

How to Blanch Asparagus

If you're planning to can or freeze asparagus, blanching is the way to go, 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 (aka 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.

Chicken Asparagus Skillet Supper
Blaine Moats

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.

Now that you have all the techniques handy 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.

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