Peeling Asparagus—Is It Worth the Fuss?

By Cook's Illustrated Published March 2016

What's the best way to prepare asparagus spears for cooking?

When developing our recipe for Roasted Asparagus (see related content), we considered different ways to prep the spears. We finally settled on trimming 1 inch off the base of each spear and then peeling the lower half of each stalk to remove its woody exterior. These spears certainly looked prettier than those we trimmed using our old method—snapping each stalk at its natural breaking point—but we realized there’s another reason to trim and peel the spears: There’s less waste.

To find out exactly how much less, we divided bunches of standard and jumbo spears (we knew it wouldn’t be worth peeling pencil-thin spears) in half and snapped one group of spears and trimmed and peeled the other. We weighed the spears before and after. What did we find? Spears that were snapped lost an average of half their weight, while trimming and peeling resulted in a loss of less than 30 percent. The thicker the spear, the more pronounced the difference when snapped.

THE BOTTOM LINE: You’ll throw away more asparagus if you snap off the ends, and the spears won't look as long and elegant. For many reasons, we think trimming and peeling is worth the effort.

SNAPPED: Snapping the natural breaking point means losing half the weight of almost every spear.

PEELED: Trimming 1 inch and then peeling the woody exterior results in a heftier spear.