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How to Cook Asparagus

By Cook's Illustrated Published September 2008

Asparagus side dishes often don't get much attention and taste rather dull. How do you build flavor with a minimum of work?

Shopping Notes

Pencil-thin asparagus are easily overcooked and thick spears are woody; choose asparagus 1/2 to 5/8 inch thick.


Trim tough ends.

Basic Cooking Methods

There are many options for how to cook asparagus; however, the following methods are what we believe to be best. Broiling and pan-roasting concentrate flavors in delicate asparagus. Toss 2 pounds trimmed asparagus with 1 tablespoon olive oil on baking sheet and broil, shaking pan once, for 8 to 10 minutes. Or heat 1 tablespoon each vegetable oil and butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet. Add 2 pounds trimmed asparagus, with half of tips pointing in one direction and other half pointing in opposite direction. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Uncover and cook over high heat until tender and browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

To trim asparagus: with one hand, hold the asparagus about halfway down stalk; with thumb and index finger of other hand, hold spear about an inch from bottom. Bend stalk until it snaps.