Select asparagus of a size appropriate to the recipe you will use (or select a recipe appropriate to the size asparagus you can get). For green asparagus the common sizes are "thick" and "pencil thin". The "pencil thin" size has a more intense flavor but is also more fibrous and cannot be peeled.
Buy as close to need as possible to avoid flavor loss.
Storage: When you have the asparagus home immediately remove any rubber bands, cut off the bottom 1/4 inch and stand the spears in a bowl with an inch of water in it. Let them refresh for at least an hour. Then put them in a plastic bag longer than the spears by at least an inch but open at the top to avoid tip rot. Refrigerated, the spears will keep for up to a week but they steadily lose flavor so should be used as soon as possible.Serving Notes
The big problem with cooking asparagus is the spears are not uniform from end to end. The tender tips cook quickly while the rest of the spear needs more time the farther down you go.
IF you will not be peeling the asparagus, snap the tough base end off at the lowest point where it'll actually snap cleanly.
Peeling: Cut the tough base off right at the point where it starts to turn purple, then white. That should be at least an inch below the snap point. Use a sharp vegetable peeler and start just above half way down the spear and peel right off the base end. You definitely lose diameter by peeling, but you partially make up for it by being able to use at least another inch at the bottom.
White asparagus needs to be cut at about the snap point because it's very fibrous at the base. You also need to peel it from relatively high up the stem.
Note: asparagus ends and peelings are often simmered in water to extract their flavor. The water is then used to make asparagus soup or for some similar use.Asparagus Steamer Method
This method is for unpeeled asparagus and works best with fairly thin spears but is OK for moderately thick ones. Yes, I know, my asparagus steamer is not "gourmet", but it holds a satisfying 1-3/4 pounds of spears - about what you'd get snapping 2 pounds, and works just fine. I made it from a tomato can by punching a lot of holes in it using a hole punch. You can get shiny expensive ones, even ones with their own special pot, from any gourmet outlet.
1. Select a pot tall enough to take the prepared asparagus
spears standing upright with the lid fit on tight - measure in advance.
Use a sufficiently large sauté pan. Bring plenty of water to a rolling boil. Drop the spears in, cover and bring back to a boil as quickly as possible. Keep the water at a gentle boil for 6 to 7 minutes depending on thickness. Test a spear for doneness. Remove the spears with tongs or a strainer ladle.
White asparagus needs a little more time, 7 to 8 minutes for "Standard" size, more for larger.
You can also steam peeled asparagus instead of boiling it. Generally this will be in a wok with a steamer grid and tight cover because most vegetable steamers are nowhere near large enough for full length asparagus. For moderately thick asparagus steam covered for 9 to 10 minutes.Cooking Unpeeled Asparagus
"Pencil Thin" Asparagus: Snap off tough bottoms and use the same method as for Peeled Asparagus above, cooking for 3-1/2 to 4-1/2 minutes depending on thickness. "Wire Thin" is done in 3 to 4 minutes. The spears will be a bit fibrous, nothing you can do about that but overcooking makes it worse. If you steam instead of boil the time should be 7-1/2 to 8-1/2 minutes for pencil thin.
Thick Asparagus: Cut the spears in thirds keeping the different sections separate. Bring plenty of water to a rolling boil in a pot or sauté pan. First put in the base ends and let boil for 1 minute. Then put in the midsections and boil for 45 seconds. Finally put in the tip ends and boil until total time is 7 to 8 minutes depending on thickness.
You can also steam unpeeled asparagus instead of boiling it. Steam the bottom end segments for 2 minutes, then add the middle segments and steam for 1-1/2 minutes, and finally add the tips. Total steaming time should be 10 to 11 minutes depending on thickness.Grilling and Broiling Asparagus
Here is a place you will want rather thin asparagus so it's reasonably uniform from end to end and sturdy enough to take the handling.
1. Preheat the broiler or prepare the grill.