How To

How to cook asparagus

Here are three easy ways to get asparagus on your plate. Plus we tackle this conundrum - to snap or not to snap those fibrous ends?
Asparagus with hollandaise sauce

Classic dish ... asparagus with hollandaise sauce.

How to select asparagus

Select bright, smooth spears with closed compact tips. Inspect the bases they shouldn’t be discoloured or too dried looking, and the stems should be firm and not bendy. Size is not an indicator of quality, thin spears are just as tender as thick.

Storing

Wrap asparagus in a damp paper towel or a tea towel, then place in a plastic bag and refrigerate them in the vegie crisper, or stand them upright in the fridge in a container with about a centimetre of water, like cut flowers and place a plastic bag over the top.

How to prepare asparagus for cooking

Some cooks say to snap the ends off, however in the Test Kitchen we aren’t fans of this method as it wastes more of the spears. Instead, we suggest trimming about 2cm from the bottom of each spear to remove the tough fibrous ends.

Peeling is unnecessary for green asparagus but benefits white asparagus should you chance on these.

How to cook asparagus

When cooking asparagus, try one of these three easy methods.

Boiling

Add asparagus to a saucepan of boiling salted water; cook for 2-3 minutes (depending on the thickness of the spears) or until just tender (you want the asparagus to retain some crispness). Drain and refresh in iced water; then drain again. (if using immediately, skip refreshing).

Sauté

Cut asparagus into thirds. Heat a little olive or butter in a frying pan over low-medium heat; cook the bottom two thirds of the asparagus for 1-2 minutes, then add the tips, cook, tossing gently for a further 2-3 minutes or until just tender.

Chargrill

This will impart a wonderful smoky flavour. Thicker spears work best for this method. Heat a ridged grill plate. Toss asparagus with a little olive oil and cook for 3-4 minutes, rotating until lightly charred and just tender. You can also cook on a barbecue flat plate. If cooking on the barbecue grill, a handy trick is to run two soaked bamboo skewers through the top and bottom thirds of the asparagus spears; this will prevent them falling through the grill and means that they can be turned as a group.

Asparagus goes with…

Melted butter, extra virgin olive oil, citrus, nuts (roasted hazelnuts, almonds, macadamias), soft cream cheese (goat’s cheese, fetta, brie, camembert), semi-firm cheese (parmesan, pecorino, gruyere, haloumi), soft herbs (dill, chives, flat-leaf parsley, basil, mint), cured meat, eggs, lamb, fish, prawns, scallops, leafy greens, other spring vegetables (peas, beans, broad beans)

Asparagus cooking ideas:

  • Sauté asparagus stems with green onion for a frittata and add spears towards the end.

  • Make a soup, with leek and crème fraiche.

  • Make a simple pasta, while the pasta is cooking sauté an onion and garlic and finely chopped asparagus stems until soft, adding the stems towards the end with a handful of frozen peas. Toss through pasta with a generous amount of finely grated parmesan.

  • Chargrilled asparagus loves a sauce. Try romesco, pesto or salsa verde. Or crown a salad with a few spears.

Looking for asparagus recipes? Check our our asparagus recipe collection for loads of delicious ways to cook with this spring vegetable.

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