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What Are the Best Tips for Making Steamed Asparagus?

Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards

Firm healthy asparagus should be chosen for steaming, and the woody bottom parts of the spears should first be snapped off before cooking. One of the easiest ways to make steamed asparagus is to snap it into bite-size pieces and place it in a steamer basket. To steam whole spears, they can be tied into small bundles and steamed upright. For extra flavor, ingredients like butter or spices can be sprinkled onto the vegetables or added to the water prior to cooking.

Choosing the right asparagus is typically the first step when making perfect steamed asparagus. Asparagus spears should be firm without any blemishes. The tips of the spears should also be tightly closed. Spears are generally sold in bundles, and it is usually a good idea to pull one or two spears from the center of the bundle to check for any blemishes.


Most of the time, asparagus spears must be prepared properly before making steamed asparagus. This usually entails snapping off the bottom 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) or so of each spear, which is woody and tough to chew. Bending the bottom part of a spear should result in this tough part snapping off easily, leaving the more tender part of the stalk and the tip.

Steamed asparagus.
Steamed asparagus.

A steamer basket can usually be used to make steamed asparagus. This is usually a metal basket with feet on the bottom, which will keep it off the bottom of the pan. The small holes in the basket allow steam to rise up and around the asparagus that is placed in the basket.

To make steamed asparagus in a steamer basket, a small amount of water should first be brought to a boil in a pan large enough to hold the basket. Around 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of water should be enough. The water level in the pan should hit just below the bottom of the steamer basket.

Cutting or snapping asparagus spears into bite-size pieces can make it easier to fit them into a steamer basket. The basket can then be placed into the pan, which should be covered with a vented lid. If the water begins to get low before the steamed asparagus is done, more water should be added.

Asparagus can also be steamed without a steamer basket. To make steamed asparagus without a basket, a pot or pan tall enough to accommodate the upright spears is needed. The spears should then be tied into bundles. Roughly five spears can be in a bundle when steaming thicker asparagus, but bundles of thinner spears may include as many as 10. Roughly 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) of water can the be brought to a boil in the tall pan, and the bundles of asparagus can be placed upright in the pan.

Steamed asparagus usually takes between five to 15 minutes to cook, depending on the thickness of the spears. Obviously, thicker spears will usually take longer to cook than thinner spears. A good way to tell when asparagus is done cooking is to look for it to turn bright green. It will usually be somewhat tender at this point, but also a bit crisp.

Extra flavor can also be added to steamed asparagus while it cooks. Melted butter can be drizzled over the asparagus before steaming it. Garlic powder or Parmesan cheese can also be sprinkled onto the asparagus prior to cooking. Spices can also be added to the water used to make steamed asparagus for a more subtle flavor.

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