How to Cook Asparagus on the Stove

Karen Frazier
asparagus in a steamer basket

Asparagus makes a tasty side dish, and it's easy to prepare. With some simple equipment, there are multiple ways to cook asparagus on the stove.

Steaming

To steam asparagus, you need a steamer basket and a saucepan with a lid. Steaming will preserve the nutrients in the asparagus and yield a tender, but not soggy, spear. To steam:

  1. Trim your asparagus.
  2. Put one inch of water in the bottom of a saucepan. Bring it to a simmer on medium-high heat.
  3. Fit the steamer basket in the saucepan and add the asparagus. Cover with the lid.
  4. Steam for three to five minutes for thin asparagus or six to eight minutes for thick asparagus.

Blanching

Blanching is a good way to cook asparagus for cold foods, such as in a salad or on a veggie tray. With blanching, the asparagus will retain its bright green color and be mostly crisp as if it was raw, blanching it also tenderizes. To blanch, you will need a large pot of water, a large bowl of ice water, and a colander.

  1. Fill a large pot 3/4 full with water and bring it to a boil on high heat.
  2. As you bring the water to a boil, trim the asparagus.
  3. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the asparagus. Return the water to a boil and cook until tender, about three minutes.
  4. Remove the asparagus from the boiling water with tongs and plunge it into the ice water for one minute to stop cooking.
  5. Drain the asparagus in a colander.
  6. Season after draining, if desired.
    Chilling blanched asparagus in ince water

Boiling

You can boil asparagus. The result is a softer vegetable, and some of the nutrients will be lost in the water. However, for some people, this is the preferred method. The salt in the water seasons the asparagus as it boils. You will need a large pot, some salt, and a colander.

  1. Fill a pot about 3/4 full with water.
  2. Bring it to a rolling boil on high heat and add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt.
  3. As you wait for the water to a boil, trim your asparagus.
  4. Add the asparagus to the water. Return the water to a boil and boil until soft, about seven minutes.
  5. Drain in a colander before serving.
    boiling asparagus in a large pot

Pan-Fry

Pan-frying asparagus yields crisp/tender results. It's also a great way to incorporate asparagus into other foods, such as risotto, pasta, or stir-fries. To pan-fry, you will need a large skillet, tongs, oil, and seasonings of your choice, such as salt, pepper, and garlic.

  1. Trim your asparagus.
  2. Heat one or two tablespoons of oil in a large skillet on medium-high until it shimmers, swirling to coat the pan.
  3. Add the asparagus in a single layer to the pan and season as desired. Cook, turning the asparagus with tongs occasionally, until the asparagus is soft, about 10 minutes.
  4. If desired, squeeze in a little citrus juice, such as lemon, at the end to add brightness.
    Asparagus and lemon in skillet

Grill Pan

If you love grilled asparagus, then a grill pan will allow you to grill it on the stovetop. To make grilled asparagus on your stove, you'll need trimmed asparagus, oil, salt, pepper, a large bowl, tongs, and a grill pan.

  1. Preheat your grill pan on the stove on medium-high.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the asparagus with one or two tablespoons of oil and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Put the spears in a single layer in the preheated grill pan with the grill marks running perpendicular to the asparagus spears.
  4. Cook, turning the asparagus occasionally, until it is crisp-tender, eight to 10 minutes.
asparagus cooking in grill pan

Soup

You can also cook asparagus on your stove in a soup. Try some delicious options like a cream of asparagus soup, asparagus soup with lemon and parmesan, or asparagus ends soup.

Trimming Asparagus

When cooking with asparagus, you want to use the tender part of the vegetable for best results. Therefore, it's always best to trim away the fibrous ends before using it. You can do this by cutting off the thick, woody ends with a sharp knife, or you can allow the asparagus to show you where it needs to be trimmed by holding the asparagus between the thumb and forefinger of both hands about a quarter of the way from each end of the spear and gently bending it until it snaps. Discard the fibrous ends or save them for another use.

Quick on the Stove

It's easy to cook asparagus on the stove top, and all cooking methods are relatively quick. This makes it a great vegetable to serve as a side dish with any meal.

How to Cook Asparagus on the Stove