Asparagus is a delicious spring vegetable with fleeting availability, so it's important to make the most of each bunch. The key to a perfectly cooked batch of asparagus starts with how you choose and prep them. Assuming you aren't cooking a single spear, the most important factor in even cooking for a batch of asparagus is uniform thickness. Every spear needs to be roughly the same size for them to cook at the same rate. Larger, thicker spears take longer to cook than smaller, thinner spears. Consequently, if you cook them all together, the smaller spears will overcook, becoming mushy or burnt in the time it takes the larger spears to finish.
When buying asparagus, try to pick a bunch in which the spears have the same girth. If a bunch of asparagus has varied girths, separate the spears by size, cooking thin and thick groups separately. When preparing to cook them, you can further ensure uniform sizing by trimming each spear so that they also have the same length. When you trim the woody ends off asparagus stalks, using a knife is a safer bet than snapping the stalks with your hands. Simply line up all of the stalks on a cutting board so that the conical tips match up, and cut the woody stems off each stalk to achieve uniform length.
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More Cooking And Preparation Tips For Asparagus
Uniform sizing will ensure even cooking rates, but other important factors include coloring and firmness. Asparagus stalks should have a vibrant green or purple hue and they should be very hard and smooth with no dips or ridges. Thin and thick asparagus stalks have unique textures and flavors; thinner stalks have a more concentrated savory flavor and a tougher, firmer texture, while fatter spears are tender, juicy, and mild.
Furthermore, you can accentuate the best qualities of each size of asparagus with certain cooking methods. Fatter asparagus spears lend well to roasting, grilling, broiling, and searing, as they won't dry out under intense heat. They'll remain tender with wonderfully caramelized or charred edges for depth of flavor and a crisp texture. Fatter stalks give you more surface area to work with and thus more leeway to create novel textures. For example, you could use a vegetable peeler to trim the vertical strips off the stalks for a more exciting contrast of crisp and tender.
Thinner stalks are perfect for stir-frying, sauteing, blanching, and steaming. Since they're more fibrous than fat spears, wet cooking methods like blanching and steaming will tenderize them while still upholding their shape. Sauteing and stir-frying will allow you to complement their flavor with oil, seasonings, or sauces. Either way, thin stalks require vigilance as they take mere minutes to cook.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.