Preparing Asparagus: Tips For Beginners

Updated on 27. Dec. 2018
Asparagus Prep: 10 Tips
Asparagus Prep: 10 Tips

It is finally asparagus season! But before we can dive in, we should answer some questions first. How long do you cook asparagus? Can you microwave it? Are there any secret tricks? Don’t worry! EAT SMARTER will teach you all the important tricks for buying, storing and cooking asparagus.

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Asparagus Preparation: Keeping It Fresh

This noble vegetable tastes the best when it is fresh from the field. If you want to store fresh asparagus in the fridge for short periods it is best to fold the unpeeled asparagus in a clean, cold moist cloth and leave it in the vegetable crisper. You shouldn’t store if for more than 2 days though. After this the asparagus starts to lose its aroma.

Asparagus Preparation: Clever Peeling

White asparagus has a thin solid shell. If you want to prepare this kind of asparagus the fibrous shell needs to be removed carefully so they do not detract from the enjoyment later. If you cook the asparagus, hold it in the palm of your hand, put a peeler or knife below the head and peel towards the end. Green asparagus, on the other hand, is soft and it is enough to peel the bottom third. It is best to peel it from the bottom to the top. This way it is easiest to tell where the shell ends. Whether you are peeling white or green asparagus, you know it has been peeled well when a sharp knife can easily slide through the rod from the end.

Asparagus Preparation: Perfect Cooking

Some like the fine veggies soft, others are more al dente. How long you cook your asparagus is matter of taste. As a rule of thumb, 10-20 minutes for white asparagus and 12 minutes for green asparagus. If you are steaming or frying the vegetable a quick 12 minutes for white and 8 minutes for green is enough. You have to be the most patient if you want to cook your asparagus in the oven. Here it can take around 45 minutes for white and 30 minutes for green.

Asparagus Preparation: Location Matters

Whether you cook your asparagus standing up or lying down is a question of your kitchen equipment. For tall asparagus, only the lower half is submerged in water. The top half is steamed so that the delicate asparagus head does not become soggy. This kind of pot is not suitable for single portions though because it needs a lot of asparagus to properly fill it. Lying down you can cook asparagus in almost any pot, as long as it is long enough to fit. Whether you cook it standing up or lying down, cooking portions of it bundled together can make it easier to take out of the pot when done.

Asparagus Preparation: What Is In The Water?

Salt, sugar, lemon or butter: chefs all have their own philosophies for when they prepare asparagus. The most important, however, is to add a pinch of salt to the water. The salt also keeps the asparagus from losing valuable vitamins and minerals while cooking. White asparagus is especially good when you add a few drops of lemon into the water. The acidity lightens the vegetable and gives it a fresh taste. When you prepare heartier green asparagus it is often recommended to add a little bit of sugar in order to neutralize any bitter substances.

Asparagus Preparation: Wok, Pan Or Oven

For those of you who want to cook your asparagus, you should follow the motto: short, hot and little water. This helps the vegetable retain its nutrients and vitamins. This is why steaming asparagus is so great. With a little bit of fluid and fat you can also cook asparagus in a wok. Even a pan is suitable: cut the asparagus into thin slices or quarters to roast. Cooked in the oven, asparagus tastes particularly aromatic. Here's how: put salt, pepper, a little butter or olive oil on a piece of aluminum foil and wrap the asparagus in it and bake it.

Asparagus Preparation: Microwave It!

You can also cook asparagus in the microwave. This works especially well with little steamer bags. Drizzle some lemon juice or wine on the asparagus and place it in the bag. After about five minutes it should be cooked. This is a vitamin and aroma rich variety for those short on time.

Asparagus Preparation: Let It Rest

Asparagus needs to dry briefly before you put it on the plate. This is particularly important if you want to have a traditional asparagus meal. Otherwise it will lose it’s liquid and dilute the sauce later on. 

Asparagus Preparation: Use It All!

If you washed the asparagus before peeling it, you can use all of it. The ends and shells can be boiled and strained. Similarly you can use the water in which the asparagus was cooked as a basis for asparagus soup or sauce (for die-hard asparagus fans, you could even drink it). The water holds any vitamins or minerals the asparagus lost while cooking.

Asparagus Preparation: Stock Up

Do you want to stock up on asparagus for when the season ends? You’re in luck because asparagus freezes well. All you need is fresh, high-quality vegetables. Peel the asparagus and place them next to each other raw on a tray and freeze shortly so that later they don’t stick together. Then take them out, wrap them and freeze them in portions. Do not blanche the asparagus before freezing as this causes it to lose its aroma and strength. Frozen asparagus will stay fresh for six to eight months. If you want to prepare the frozen vegetable, simply take it out of the freezer and put it directly into the water to cook.

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