There are a couple of easy ways to steam asparagus. Technically the second method is not considering steaming, since the asparagus is cooked in the water, but the results are the same.
What is Steaming in Cooking?
Steaming is cooking food through moist heat. When water becomes hot, simmering or boiling, it vaporizes, which causes steam. The difference between simmering a food and blanching or boiling is whether or not the food is immersed in the water, or suspended above it.
How to Steam Asparagus
If you have a pot with a steamer basket insert, you are all set. Simply fill the pot with an inch or two of water, fit the steaming basket on top, and bring it to a boil. Place the asparagus in the basket no more than a few layers deep, cover the pot, and steam for the desired length of time. When the asparagus is cooked to your liking, remove the asparagus from the basket and either serve warm or cool in an ice bath (see below).
If you have a steamer basket of any sort, find a pot large enough to hold the basket, and proceed as above with your homemade steamer.
Steaming Asparagus without a Steamer
This is actually a more convenient way of “steaming” or lightly cooking asparagus. You simply heat an inch or so of salted water in a large pot, big enough for the asparagus to lie flat in. If your pot isn’t large enough to fit the asparagus in a horizontal layer, that’s ok, as long as there is enough room for the asparagus to fit into the pot with the lid tightly placed on top.
Once the water has come to a boil, place the asparagus in the pot no more than a few layers deep, and cover the pot. Return the water to a simmer. When the asparagus is cooked to your liking, drain the asparagus and either serve warm or cool in an ice bath (see below). Think about finishing these with a drizzle of Easy Lemon Butter Sauce.
How to Steam Asparagus: Get perfect, bright green, tender asparagus in a matter of minutes! Crisp, crisp-tender, tender-however you like it!Tweet This
Cooling Asparagus in an Ice Bath
Whichever way you choose to steam your asparagus, if you are planning to serve them cold or at room temperature, you will want to stop the cooking so they don’t lose their green color and get too soft. This is done by draining the asparagus and plunging them into a bowl of ice water, or an ice bath. It’s also called shocking the asparagus, as the immediate dunk in ice cold water stops the cooking process and locks in the vibrant green color.
You can leave the asparagus in the ice bath for a minute or so if you are planning to serve them at room temperature, or you can leave them in there for several minutes to become totally chilled if you are planning to serve them cold, or use them in a cold preparation, like a salad.
You can also place the asparagus in a colander and run cold water over the spears to stop the cooking, but that uses up a lot of water.
Hot Steamed Asparagus
If you are planning to serve your asparagus warm then you’ll skip the ice bath. In this case you want to cook them for a shorter amount of time indicated in the chart as they will keep cooking once you drain them or remove them from the heat. Plan to take them out when they are a bit more crisp than you would like; they will soften as they finish cooking in their own heat.
How Long to Steam Asparagus
These are approximate cooking times. Again, note that the asparagus will continue to cook after you remove it from the heat, so plan accordingly if you are not going to stop the cooking in cold water.
When you poke the spears with the tip of a sharp knife you should feel barely any resistance. The color should be bright green.
|Asparagus Size||Approx. Diameter||Steaming Time|
|Thin spears||1/4-inch diameter||2 to 4 minutes|
|Medium spears||1/2-inch diameter||4 to 6 minutes|
|Large spears||¾-inch diameter||6 to 8 minutes|
|Jumbo Spears||1-inch diameter||8 to 10 minutes|
Recipes to Use Steamed Asparagus In:
- Asparagus with Herb Dipping Sauce
- Spring Cobb Salad
- Vegetarian Spring Orzo Salad
- Spring Vegetable Salad
- Spring Vegetable and Rice Salad
What to Serve with Steamed Asparagus:
- Baked Cod
- New England Baked Haddock
- Grilled Chicken Thighs
- Grilled Chicken Kebabs with Vegetables
- Tofu with Peanut Sauce
- a drizzle of Chermoula sauce
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How to Steam Asparagus
- 1 ½ pounds asparagus
- Trim the bases from the asparagus. If the asparagus are large, and/or the skin seems thick, peel the bottom few inches of skin from the stalk. Prepare a large bowl of ice water if you are going to chill the asparagus after cooking.
- Place an inch of salted water in a large pot, big enough for the asparagus to lie flat in. If your pot isn’t large enough to fit the asparagus in a horizontal layer, that’s ok, as long as there is enough room for the asparagus to fit into the pot with the lid tightly placed on top.
- Once the water has come to a boil, place the asparagus in the pot no more than a few layers deep, and cover the pot. Return the water to a simmer. When the asparagus is cooked to your liking (see chart above), drain the asparagus.
- Either serve the asparagus warm or cool in a bowl of ice water if you plan to serve the asparagus cold.
- Fill a pot with a steamer basket insert and a lid with an inch or two of water. Fit the steamer basket on top, and bring the water to a boil.
- Place the asparagus in the basket no more than a few layers deep, cover the pot tightly, and steam for the desired length of time. When the asparagus is cooked to your liking (see chart above), drain the asparagus and either serve warm or cool in a bowl of ice water if you plan to serve the asparagus cold.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.