How To Cook Asparagus in a Pan Perfectly Every Time
by HexClad Cookware
Asparagus is a common side dish for all sorts of meals and can be used as a component inside certain dishes as well. Many of us can’t get enough of the delightful crispy texture of roasted asparagus or sautéed asparagus, and we appreciate the relatively low cook time it takes to make them.
Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of this vegetable usually, chances are that you are fond of its many health benefits. Asparagus is low in calories while being high in potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and more, and it may even help support healthy levels of cholesterol.
Once you discover the joy of eating some crisp-tender asparagus spears, the nutrition information won’t be the only thing that keeps you coming back for more. With only a few ingredients, you can make fantastic pan-fried asparagus that will have people of all ages begging to eat their veggies.
How Can You Make Perfect Asparagus Every Time?
Mastering the art of perfect asparagus allows you to unlock one of the tastiest side dishes that pairs well with a wide range of main courses. From roasted chicken to salmon to steak, asparagus is a delicious companion to a variety of meats and seafood — but only if you make it just right.
Now that you know all the ways asparagus can rock your world, let’s get into how you can turn it into something special.
The key to any delicious dish is using seasoning to enhance its natural flavors, and fresh asparagus is no exception. Any good asparagus recipe should start with thorough seasoning. That way, even those who are not yet sold on this vegetable will get to love asparagus. Take some time to figure out how you want to season these veggies. Kosher salt and black pepper are a must, but beyond that, you can take some liberties.
Consider what you’re serving the asparagus with and what tastes would complement it. You can also prepare garlic cloves to cook with it. Either minced garlic or full cloves could work, depending on what you want the final result to be. If you don’t find a variation on asparagus that you like, you can even create new recipes and seasoning combinations until you stumble upon something right for you.
The good news is that this is essentially the only step that will take any real prep time. After you finish seasoning your asparagus spears properly, you’re ready to get them in the pan.
Preheat Your Pan
Now that your asparagus is well seasoned, it’s time to address the stovetop. Place a high-quality non-stick pan onto the range and turn it on medium-high heat. You want the surface of the pan to be piping hot since this is what will give you the most delicious result.
This is often when recipes would recommend adding your choice of oil or fat, but we’re going to do things a little bit differently. You can splash a tiny bit of water into the pan. If it immediately simmers and evaporates, you know that your pan is sufficiently hot.
Toast Your Asparagus in a Dry Pan
You read that right. Without putting any oil in beforehand, add asparagus to the bottom of the pan. This might feel counterproductive, especially since we have been trained to add oil before pan-frying pretty much every other ingredient.
However, using a unique preparation will allow you to get a uniquelydelectable final product. Put the asparagus down in the pan in an even layer so that none are on top of the other. Depending on the amount of asparagus you’re cooking, you might need to do this either in a few different batches or in a larger pan.
Keep in mind that if you’re using a large skillet, it will need a bit more time to heat up completely. If you’re using a HexClad Hybrid Pan, the heat retention will be powerful enough to cook your ingredients perfectly. Be sure not to leave the asparagus on its own in the empty pan for too long since you don’t want to burn it. The whole point of this step is to dry roast the spears, not toast them.
After a short while, the asparagus will start to smoke slightly. Once you notice this, start to jostle the pan around. This will cause the asparagus to move and roast evenly on all sides.
Add Olive Oil When Pan Begins To Smoke
Once your asparagus spears have been moved around and the pan is smoking a little bit, you can finally add the oil. The skin has already been primed to blister since it’s so hot. The oil facilitates a pan-frying reaction rather than just a dry roasting one, creating a contrast of textures and helping the asparagus cook further.
We recommend using extra virgin olive oil for this part of the process, but you could use a few other kinds of oil if that’s what you prefer. Keep in mind that different oils and fats have their own individual smoke points, which will impact how they cook the asparagus.
Cook for 45 Seconds on Each Side
Once you have added your olive oil, you can have a very brief moment to rest and watch the spoils of your effort in front of your very eyes. The asparagus will continue to simmer and cook in the high heat.
In this case, what you’re really looking for is the skin to blister. After about 45 seconds, flip the asparagus onto its other side so that it can be evenly cooked all around. The total time you should cook the asparagus with oil at such a high heat will be about a minute and a half, which isn’t long at all. That’s all you need to get the asparagus to the point where it’s mostly done. From here on out, it’s just about adding a depth of flavor — and some finishing touches, of course.
Reduce Heat and Add Butter
After cooking on such medium-heat for this long, we think it’s about time to give the asparagus a break. Turn the heat down to medium or medium-low so that it doesn’t overcook.
At that point, add just a little bit of butter to make it glossy and add flavor. Allow the butter to melt and coat all of the asparagus spears. You may have to move them around a bit to accomplish this.
Garnish With Grated Parmesan and Lemon Zest
Once the butter is all the way melted, you’ll now add some crucial final elements. It’s no secret that everything tastes better with cheese, so adding some grated parmesan to the mix feels like a no-brainer. You can use pre-shredded or pre-grated parmesan cheese, but it always tastes better when it’s freshly grated.
Last but certainly not least, grate just a bit of lemon zest or add some lemon juice to the pan on top of the asparagus and cheese. The contrast between the citrus and the cheesiness of the parmesan is a great mixture that is utilized in all sorts of dishes.
What Is the Best Type of Pan for Asparagus?
Cooking asparagus is reliant on blazingly high heat, and you need a pan that can keep up. This might cause some people to reach for a cast iron pan, but that isn’t ideal, considering that you add the asparagus without any oil at first. Instead, you need a nonstick pan with incredible heat retention abilities so you can move the asparagus around with ease.
Perfect Asparagus Every Time With HexClad
If you’re in the market for a pan that can provide you with all of the above and so much more, look no further than HexClad Hybrid Pans. Hybrid technology makes them aces at sautéeing, frying, roasting, and more. Whether you’re cooking asparagus or just about anything else, reach for a HexClad pan.