How to Grill Asparagus Perfectly Every Time
Grill and Outdoor Kitchen Expert Travis Hill gives easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions for a delicious, must-try grilled asparagus recipe!
Asparagus is both one of the most underutilized and overutilized vegetables. It can be seen at restaurants and family cookouts—either underseasoned, overcooked, or both. This marvelous vegetable is simple to acquire and cook right, yet it is also easy to overcook and ruin.
This is not without rationalization; asparagus takes a few extra steps to prep and cook— making it somewhat time-consuming. Asparagus can also be a bit more pricey than some other everyday vegetables, so there can be a weird pressure to get this process right. On the bright side, properly grilled asparagus in season (spring, by the way) can elevate your dinner setting to another level.
There is a reason so many grilled asparagus recipes are all over Pinterest and Facebook, highlighting the different ways to cook it and the various, trendy play-on sauces that can enrich its colors and tastes. Because asparagus is a highly versatile and delicious staple—nutrient-rich and loaded with fiber—it can be a substitute for other meat options as well.
Asparagus is especially great for grilling because of its thick stalks. These hold in more moisture to help cook and break down the asparagus from the inside. With inner and outer cooking occuring at the same time, it will make the asparagus more tender than crispy when grilled. Packed with nutrition and flavor, asparagus makes a healthy accompaniment to any course.
Here is the complete process to amazing asparagus every time with a few tips and tricks to elevate this quick dish.
For total prep and cooking time, estimate about 16 minutes: 10 minutes to prep for the grill, and another six minutes on the grill.
Look for about 1/4-inch-thick asparagus spears with closed tops. Check and ensure that the bundle of asparagus stalks has been stored in a container with a damp bottom. Stay away from weathered, wrinkled stalks. As they degrade, the flavor degrades as well.
Once back home, there are a few steps as far as prep goes to get the most flavor from your asparagus. A cutting board and any type of cutting apparatus are necessary (I prefer an 8–10-inch chef's knife). Make sure to rinse the asparagus before getting started.
The bottom of the asparagus usually has around a one-inch portion where the color fades whiter. These are the woody ends; it’s very important to cut them off. They tend to be a bit more chewy and fibrous, which is not tasty at all.
Expert Tip: There are usually two rubber bands that the asparagus is sold with to hold it together. Remove the bottom rubber band from the bottom and keep the top one on to keep the bundle bunched as you cut and remove the woody ends.
For the perfect grilled asparagus, the ingredients you are going to need are:
- Olive oil
- Black pepper
- One lemon (juice and zest)
This asparagus recipe is one of my favorites, and all the ingredients really bring out the flavor. As long as you use an oil or fat that can coat and adhere to the asparagus, the sky's the limit with seasonings, spices, and sauces.
Start by giving a light drizzle (one to two tablespoons) of olive oil once over the asparagus, then use your hands to roll them to ensure each stem is evenly coated.
Sprinkle salt and pepper, grate lemon zest from the lemon, and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Roll in your hands once more to evenly coat each stalk.
You can also toss these ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and give it a few tosses to achieve the same effect (I personally like to have my hands in everything I cook). Then, it's out to the grill!
That Beautiful Char
Having your grill pre-heated and ready to go is best. You want to shoot for medium-high heat (375–400℉). Any type of grill—charcoal, gas, or electric—will give you a great cook on your asparagus, but I prefer a charcoal grill. The smell of premium-lump charcoal and preseasoned cast iron gets me all in my feels.
Place the asparagus perpendicular to the grill grates, and don't run off; they are already almost done. You are looking for the asparagus to turn a vibrant green. Be on the lookout if the stalks start to shrivel up; this is bad, and take them off immediately. This can occur if the asparagus is left on the grill too long.
Then here comes the char! Don't be afraid of the char: love the char, embrace the char. Around three to four minutes in you should start seeing char marks; once you see them, move the stalks around for another two to three minutes until fork tender and then take off and serve.
Expert Tip: Toss the lemon from your prep area onto the grill, facing the grill grate. The little bit of char reacts well to the lemon, and giving one last squeeze before serving will take that flavor up a notch.
Foiled Your Pans
As a preferential caveat, there are a few different ways to grill great asparagus. If you get a hold of a stainless steel grilling basket or grill pan, you can achieve that outdoor grill flavor with a lighter, less intense char.
A very popular way to get your asparagus to tender and with just the right seasoning is to wrap them up in a foil packet or boat—leaving a small opening in the top of the foil. This allows you to grill and steam at the same time.
One thing I love about these grill methods is that you can create different, intense flavors, textures, and mouthfeels. Shaping a foil boat and tossing in asparagus tips, bacon lardons, and thinly sliced onions (the thinner, the better) creates a tender, savory side dish that will completely wow your family and guests.
Common Mistakes and Fixes
One thing to keep in mind is to not settle for subpar asparagus by cooking it early. As mentioned before, take your time to identify freshness. This means passing on asparagus that looks shriveled or dried out. Freshness holds the key to great asparagus; for everybody's sake, stay away from canned asparagus when grilling it.
One last thing before we dig in: if you fear that you have overcooked the asparagus, or if you’re just a worrier, have a bowl of ice water close at hand and toss the asparagus into the ice bath. This will “shock” the asparagus and stall the cooking process.
Served! Let's Eat!
Now that your asparagus is grilled to perfection, it's time to eat. There are so many other add-ons that can elevate your green dish. I love topping mine with parmesan cheese or feta; these two add a bit more boldness to the dish.
Asparagus is a fantastic vegetable that will go with pretty much anything or stand-alone perfectly on its own. As you can see, there are many points during this process where things can go totally wrong.
However, you now have all the knowledge you need to become a master at grilling asparagus. If you ever need recommendations on other tailored recipes or want to take your grilling to the next level, we Grill Experts here at Curated have the right grills, recipes, and the know-how. Come check it out!