Grilled Asparagus Spears Make a Tasty Side Dish

Whether cooked indoors or out, grilled asparagus spears have loads more flavor than steamed asparagus could ever hope to have. High temperature cooking lightly browns the asparagus, creating a toasty flavor that's just plain awesome!

Grilling Fresh Asparagus Spears On a Cast Iron Grill Grate

You can buy asparagus year 'round, but the best is found in the spring when the local crop is available. Because it takes less time to reach the grocery shelves, it's much fresher and packed with flavor.

Asparagus is usually boiled or steamed and served with a sauce, olive oil or melted butter. I grew up eating creamed asparagus...chopped and boiled asparagus drenched in a mild white sauce. Asparagus can also be stir fried with beef, pork or chicken. This is one versatile vegetable.

Buy Asparagus That's Super Fresh For Best Flavor

When Buying Asparagus, Look For Spears That Show No Signs Of Drying or Wilting

The first step in making great grilled asparagus is buying it. Choose the freshest you can get. It should be very firm and brightly colored. As fresh asparagus ages, color fades, the skin begins to shrivel and the stalks become limp.

Also, look closely at the tips, which should be very tight, showing no signs of softening. When asparagus goes bad, the tips are the first to go. If you're lucky, you have a few asparagus crowns in the ground out back and grow your own. Now that's fresh!

Trimming Asparagus Is Easy If You Know The Trick

If asparagus is cut from the plant early enough, the stalk is tender to the bottom. But most asparagus is allowed to grow a little longer, which means larger spears, but also tough skin near the bottom of the stalk.

The tough ends can be trimmed away with a knife. You should feel little if any resistance as the blade cuts into the spear. If it seems tough to cut, position the blade higher on the stalk.

Instead of cutting, you can simply snap the tough ends off. The stalk will naturally break where the tenderness begins.

If you want more grilled asparagus to serve, peel the tough skin from the stalk ends. It takes more time, but there's much less waste. Just use a common vegetable peeler to remove the skin from the bottom 2 or 3 inches of each asparagus stalk. Wash the trimmed asparagus in cold water, then dry before seasoning.

How to Grill Asparagus That's Full of Great Flavor

Asparagus can be grilled on your gas or charcoal grill, or even indoors on an electric countertop grill. Ribbed cast iron stovetop grill pans are also great for grilling asparagus.

A little oil brushed on the asparagus prevents drying and shriveling, and also helps it to brown. Over charcoal or on gas grills, the heat should be high enough so the asparagus is just-tender when the stalk and tips are lightly browned.

There should be no shriveling or shrinkage, and the stems should break with a soft "snap" when broken. If overcooked, the stalks become limp and mushy inside.

Grilled Asparagus Spears Make a Great Side Dish With Any Meal

After Grilling, a Light Drizzle of Olive Oil Does Wonders To The Flavor

Grilling asparagus is easy, and gives these shoots a flavor that can't be found in asparagus cooked other ways. The heat of the grill lightly browns the asparagus and gives it a great flavor.

One of my favorite ways to grill asparagus is also the most simple method. The trimmed asparagus is given a light coat of vegetable oil then seasoned with salt and pepper.

Preheat the grill to medium high, leaving a cool zone to one side. Coat the asparagus with olive oil or other vegetable oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Position the tender tips over the cooler zone, with the bases of the stalks directly over the heat.

Grill for 2 to 3 minutes, then turn and grill for another couple of minutes. Tastes vary regarding the level of doneness preferred. Some prefer asparagus cooked until soften throughout,while others like it to retain some of its crispiness.

Vary the grilling time accordingly. Melt a small pan of butter on the edge of the grill, which is drizzled on the finished asparagus when served.

Remove from the grill, then drizzle with a little melted butter and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Your grilled asparagus spears won't last long, so be sure to have plenty on hand!