Looking to up your veggie game in the kitchen? Now is the time to banish overcooked asparagus forever.
The dean of one of America's top cooking schools shared his top tips with TODAY Food for how to cook asparagus perfectly every time.
"First, it's very important to prep the asparagus by cutting off about one inch of the tough and fibrous white part at the bottom and then peeling just a little bit of the outer layer of the bottom," Brendan Walsh, dean of the School of Culinary Arts at The Culinary Institute of America, told TODAY.
Then, head for the heat, whether it's at a stove, an oven, a grill or even a microwave.
According to Walsh, these are the absolute best ways to cook amazing asparagus.
How to cook asparagus
- 1. Blanched asparagus
In a large sauce pan, add the asparagus and as little water as possible to just cover them. Cook over high heat for about 4-5 minutes, until the rapidly boiling water is reduced to about a tablespoon. Add some butter, salt, pepper and fresh thyme or dill. "The goal is to literally boil out the excess water and then use the small amount of remaining water to create a sauce," said Walsh. "This way all the nutrients from the asparagus water are in the sauce instead of down the sink."
- 2. Boiled asparagus
In a large pot filled with lightly salted boiling water, add 10 asparagus stalks and cook them for 3 minutes, until they are bright green. Remove the boiled asparagus from the pot and cool them immediately by running them under cold water or dropping them into a bowl filled with ice water — but don't leave them in there for a long time. Pat dry and serve cold or at room temperature. The boiled asparagus can also be quickly grilled, sauteed or stir-fried.
- 3. Steamed asparagus
Place the asparagus flat in a bamboo steamer. For medium asparagus, steam for about 6 1/2 to 7 minutes, until the vegetable becomes vibrantly colored. For thinner asparagus, steam for 4-5 minutes. Remove the asparagus from the steamer and serve them right away.
If the plan is to serve the steamed asparagus later, shock them by placing in an ice bath so they cool quickly. Reheat them in a pan with some butter or oil and seasoning, like shallots and fresh dill.
- 4. Sauteed asparagus
Trim the asparagus so they will fit inside a large pan. Preheat the pan until it is very hot — this is key, said Walsh. Add the trimmed asparagus and 1/2 cup water, and cook for about 4 1/2 to 5 minutes. You'll hear a little hiss when you add the water, and that's a good thing. The water will immediately come to a boil and will semi-steam and boil the asparagus in the same moment. When the water has almost evaporated, add a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a little bit of salt and pepper — and some fresh herbs and shallots, if you're in the mood.
- 5. Stir-fried asparagus
In a large, very hot pan, add 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil and very thin, whole asparagus stalks. Using very thin asparagus is key for this cooking method, said Walsh. Toss the asparagus six times to sear them evenly. Add 2 tablespoons of water and toss the veggies six more times until the water evaporates. Season with salt and pepper and serve right away.
- 6. Roasted asparagus
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Toss the asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the center of the oven for about 10 minutes, until the asparagus is tender and charred in spots.
- 7. Grilled asparagus
For thin asparagus, preheat the grill to 550 degrees. For medium or thicker asparagus, preheat the grill to 425 degrees. Coat the asparagus with olive oil to keep them from sticking to the grill, and season with salt and pepper. For one pound of asparagus, use less than 1/2 teaspoon.
Place the asparagus on the grill. For thin asparagus, cook for 3 minutes before turning, then for another 3 minutes. For medium or thicker asparagus, cook for 4 minutes before turning, then for another 4 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle them with extra-virgin olive oil or butter and fresh herbs and/or salt.
- 8. Microwaved asparagus
Cut the asparagus in pieces that will fit in a microwave-safe bowl. Place the asparagus in the bowl and add half an inch of water. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes.
Now that that's covered, it's time to get cooking with these delicious recipes featuring asparagus!
Wrap quickly-blanched stalks with ribbons of prosciutto, then drizzle with melted butter for an easy and delicious appetizer or side dish.
Fill up a thawed sheet of frozen puff pastry with asparagus and lots of delicious Gruyere cheese for this easy dish that's perfect for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.
This quick and easy recipe has hints of garlic and nuttiness, but lets the full, fresh flavor of the asparagus shine through.
Make these mini asparagus and cheddar frittatas in advance and enjoy them all week long for on-the-go breakfasts.