No matter the season, asparagus is a hearty vegetable that adds elegance to any meal. When cooked properly, it’s tender, mild, and holds up well to grilling. Before you toss your next few spears on the fire, consider these tips for just-right flavor and texture.
If you’ve been buying asparagus from your grocery store, you may have seen one or two varieties, typically the green ones. Asparagus stalks come in a variety of colors, including a deep purple and yellow. You’ll get a good result from any of the varieties, but pay attention to size and age to get the best.
Look for spears that are as big around as your index finger. Smaller spears will cook faster and could end up overdone and mushy. If anything, look for spears of the same diameter so that they cook evenly. You can always adjust the cooking time.
While it’s hard to know how old asparagus bundles are in the store, look for spears with tightly closed heads that aren’t wilty. If you see the tips starting to turn dark or mushy, or that have a strange odor, it means the spears are getting old. Grocers that store asparagus in water within the refrigerator section will typically offer better quality bunches.
If you harvested the asparagus from your garden, you probably snapped them off just above the woody parts of the stem. You can rinse them in water and set them aside for cooking.
If you don’t have the luxury of your own asparagus patch, your farmer’s market or grocery store will have cut the spears for you, but you may need to soak them to get the fine grit out of the small layers in the tips of the spears. A simple soak in a bowl of cool water, for no more than five minutes, should do. Then rinse in a colander under running water to wash away any loose particles.
Spears from the store will have a section at the bottom that’s too tough to consume. You’ll need to trim this bottom part before eating.
Snapping asparagus is the easiest way to tell where the woody, stringy part of the spear ends and the tender edible part begins. Flex the spear with your hands, and wait for it to snap.
If you have many spears to trim at once, you can always use a knife. Test one or two spears for where they easily bend, make a note of that location, then cut along that same imaginary line for the entire bunch at once. While this method is faster, it’s not as precise. You may end up with a few spears that have slightly woody ends.
You might want to trim off any mushy tips, as well. Sometimes, the older asparagus gets too moist sitting on the grocer’s shelf. Cut off anything that appears past its prime.
Asparagus has a wonderful flavor on its own, so there’s no need to be heavy-handed with seasoning, sauces, or spices.
The best way to flavor the spears is with a basic salt and pepper blend, which you can sprinkle on after brushing each spear with some olive oil. You may also enjoy grilled asparagus with garlic oil, chili oil, or sesame oil.
With the asparagus prepared, grilling is a simple task. Start by setting the Traeger’s temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and preheat for 15 minutes with the lid closed. Place the asparagus spears directly on the grill grates and close the lid. Cook for five minutes on one side before turning and cooking for an additional 2 to 3 minutes on the other side.
You’ll know the asparagus is done when the color turns bright green (or purple or yellow), and it’s fork-tender. You want it to have some firmness, so don’t overcook.
Foil isn't necessary for cooking asparagus unless you are using up small spears that will fall through the grill grates. In that case, you can create small foil packets that wrap up the spears and keep them from falling out. Turn the entire packet when cooking the second side. Grilled asparagus in foil may have more moisture than asparagus without foil.
Sometimes, you’ll cut away perfectly good asparagus sections to create more uniform lengths of asparagus. Foil packets or a baking sheet are also a good way to use these small pieces on the grate. If you don't want to waste any of the veggies, toss the crisp, edible odds and ends into a piece of foil with some garlic, onions, and spices.
Generally, grilling without foil is best, as you’ll get those nice grill marks and caramelization that make asparagus so uniquely flavored. For picture-perfect asparagus with excellent plate presentation, go with the bigger spears that can be put directly on the grill grates.
Asparagus makes an ideal side dish for any piece of fish, chicken, or meat. Serve it alongside another grilled main dish if you’re in the mood for even more smoky flavors.
The best grilled asparagus meals are those that make use of the firm texture and crunch of the spears. Feel free to incorporate asparagus into other dishes after you grill it. Grilled asparagus salads, casseroles, and soups seem a bit more special when you substitute the standard boiled or steamed asparagus. Not only does it have an elevated flavor, but the char marks also offer an appealing presentation.
Need more ideas for how to work asparagus into your main meal? Try some of our favorite recipes.
Grilled Rainbow Trout With Grilled Asparagus and Charred Lemon Vinaigrette – Crispy whole rainbow trout and a touch of fennel pollen bring the “wow” factor to this dish.
Caribbean Curry Grilled Lobsters With Garlic Lime Asparagus – Skip the standard lobster in butter and bring a zesty curried fish dish with asparagus to your table.
Smoked Asparagus Soup – This creamy classic blends lightly grilled asparagus with heavy cream and savory chicken stock. Pair it with crusty bread for a hearty summer meal.
Roasted Venison Steaks – You won’t believe that the secret ingredient in this venison dish is lemon-lime soda, and it works well alongside simple grilled asparagus for a lean and low-carb menu.
Asparagus and Spinach Salad – Grilled asparagus, spinach leaves, candy pecans, and feta cheese make a delicious combination for your next summertime event.
Looking for tasty ways to use and enjoy grilled asparagus? This list has a little something for everyone. Use it to inspire your next batch of seasonal asparagus fresh from the garden or from the store.
This Grilled Asparagus With Wild Mushrooms and Fried Shallots recipe is a beautiful treat that incorporates local wild mushrooms like morels to bring an earthy note and incredible texture.
Are you hoping to really impress your guests? Grilled asparagus gets the special treatment in Asparagus With Hollandaise that tops the charred beauties with a velvety sauce.
Just about everyone loves bacon, and this Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus recipe benefits from a crispy, salty pork layer that’s sure to please the crowd.
A hint of sweetness takes this Grilled Asparagus and Honey-Glazed Carrots recipe to another level. Be sure to plan ahead for the longer cooking time of the carrots.
What’s better than bacon? It may be prosciutto. This Grilled Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus dish is prepared on a baking sheet, making it perfect for using up those smaller asparagus spears.
These are only some of the ways you can incorporate the one-of-a-kind flavor that you get with fresh asparagus spears. With so many ideas for grilling, you can probably come up with more than a few unique twists to make your next meal something very special.
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