The Simple Trick for Perfectly Grilled Asparagus Every Time
This easy hack will make it so much easier to cook asparagus on the grill, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it.
The magic of many vegetables is that they require very little handling to be fantastic. A few seasonings, a bit of heat to tenderize, and you can make just about any plant food spectacular enough to be the star of many dishes.
Asparagus is the perfect example of that rule. With a fast dose of heat and simple seasonings like salt, pepper, and a spritz of lemon, you can turn asparagus spears into a delightful side dish, or a tasty stir-in for shakshuka, stir-fry, omelets, and more.
Grilling is perhaps the best way to cook asparagus. The intense heat from the flames, coupled with the hint of smoke and char infuses the petite green stalks with more flavor than searing or roasting ever could. But unlike, for example, squash halves or grilled potatoes, you’ll need to prep the asparagus just a bit to make grilling easier, quicker, and safer.
How to Buy Asparagus
One bundle of asparagus is not equal to all others. Asparagus spears come in many sizes, and you need to buy the right one for the task. For grilling, you want to look for medium- to large-sized spears. Smaller ones will cook too quickly on the grill, which will leave you with limp, lifeless vegetables.
But you don’t want asparagus that’s too large, either. As asparagus grows, the ends turn harder and woodier. They aren’t good to eat and will likely need to be trimmed before cooking.
For grilled asparagus, look instead for spears that are about the width of your pointer finger. Don’t buy anything smaller than your pinky finger. This just-right size will cook beautifully on the grill and offer the best texture in the end. Save smaller spears for quick stir-frys, risotto, or salads.
Choose firm, bright green asparagus stalks with plump, tightly closed tips. Fading color is a sign of deterioration. Check the stem ends to make sure they look freshly cut, not shriveled or dried out.
How to Cut Asparagus
Before you plop your bunch of asparagus spears onto the grill, you need to take a few minutes to prep them. First, start by rinsing and drying the stalks. If the spears were purchased in a bundle, you can hold the whole bundle under running water. Clip any ties or bands holding them together. Spread the rinsed spears out across a towel, and pat dry.
If you aren’t familiar with how to cut asparagus, it’s important to know that the ends of asparagus spears are often woody and tough compared to the middle and tips. When cooked, these ends can be quite chewy. That’s not too appealing, so most cooks go ahead and cut off the asparagus ends before cooking.
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The easiest way to cut asparagus is to line up several spears side by side on a cutting board. Next, take a large chef’s knife and trim a half-inch to one inch from the bottom. Discard the ends. Start with five spears, then add a few more when you’re comfortable. Cutting the asparagus in groups speeds up prep time.
How to Grill Asparagus the Easy Way
After trimming asparagus ends, you’re still not ready to toss the asparagus on a hot grill just yet. Because the stems are often quite thin, you could lose a few in between grill grates if you don’t handle them properly. That could lead to flare-ups and fires, and you’ll also have fewer pieces for your dinner side dish. Both are bad.
Instead, to make grilling asparagus easier and safer, try this simple trick: skewer several pieces of asparagus together to make it easier to turn over without falling through the grate. It’s that simple. Here’s how to cook asparagus on the grill so it tastes delicious every time.
- Pierce a skewer through the asparagus about one inch up from the end of the spear. Be sure to soak wooden skewers in water at least 12 hours before using them to keep them from catching fire. If you use metal skewers, you don’t need to prep them first.
- Pierce the asparagus with a second skewer in the upper third of the piece. Don’t get too close to the tip; the skewer might break it and cause it to fall off.
- Slide the spear to the end of the skewers, leaving a bit of space between each piece. Depending on the skewer length, you may be able to fit six to eight pieces on each skewer set.
- With the skewered asparagus sets secured, lightly brush each side with oil. Then place the vegetables directly onto the pre-heated grill, above the flames and direct heat.
- Grill 2 to 3 minutes, then flip. Grill another 2 to 3 minutes, then remove from the heat.
- Sprinkle with kosher salt, black pepper, and your preferred seasoning. Use tongs or a fork to gently remove the pieces from the skewers and serve your dinner guests.
If your grill grates have narrow openings, you may not need the skewering. Large pieces could get stuck, but they may not fall through and pose a fire hazard. However, having all pieces grouped like this does make flipping and removing the vegetables easier and faster. You don’t have to worry about any spears rolling away while you’re scooping them up and overcooking either.