(Guest post by Darren Wayland)
If you’re a fan of asparagus, you’ll love the way it tastes when it’s prepared over a piping-hot grill. Unlike steaming, which can give the stalks an unpleasant stringy texture (especially when overcooked), grilling asparagus results in a tender-crisp texture that’s easy to perfect.
It’s a fast, simple, and versatile way to add veggies to your plate. Best of all, because the stalks are in plain view throughout the cooking process, you can tell when they’re approaching doneness. If you have a gas grill made by a reputable manufacturer, the dish can be ready in minutes.
Here’s our guide to grilling asparagus the right way. These flavors pair well with grilled meat and are especially heavenly with seafood. You can even use the dish as a showcase for a full vegetarian meal.
Basic Grilled Asparagus
1 pound fresh asparagus spears
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt (we prefer kosher for this recipe, but coarse sea salt flakes will also work)
A few grinds of fresh black pepper
- Set a gas grill to “High,” or 450 degrees.
- Snap the woody ends off the asparagus. The stalks should break naturally in the correct spot when gentle pressure is applied, but if you’re worried about too much waste, you can trim the ends with a knife.
- Rinse the trimmed stalks well under cold running water, then let drain. If necessary, you can blot them gently dry with paper towels, being careful not to damage the delicate ends.
- Put the spears in a large nonreactive mixing bowl or a sealable plastic bag. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then toss to combine.
- Place the prepared asparagus directly on the grill, keeping the stalks perpendicular to the grill grates. This will help keep them from falling through the grate and onto the heating elements.
- Grill for approximately 5-10 minutes, rotating the spears frequently until they reach your desired state of doneness. Thin spears may be done in as few as three minutes, while the thicker ones can take up to 10-12 minutes.
- Taste and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve hot with lemon wedges on the side.
—After tossing the asparagus in the olive oil and seasonings, wrap the spears in thin slices of prosciutto. Thinner spears can be gathered in bundles of three or four, with the prosciutto acting as a sort of adhesive to bind them together. Once the asparagus is cooked, top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
—Sprinkle the cooked spears with chopped hard-cooked egg.
—Add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to the olive oil and seasonings.
—Top with diced Italian croutons and shaved Parmesan cheese, and drizzle with creamy Caesar dressing for a unique version of a classic salad.
—Toss cooked asparagus with a medley of diced roasted red peppers, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and crumbled feta cheese. This version is excellent served over steamed rice or couscous for a light summer meal.
—For a sweet-and-savory variation, top the cooked spears with blackberry ginger sauce and serve alongside a mild white fish, such as halibut.
Other Methods For Grilling Asparagus
If you’re nervous about the stalks falling through the grate (it’s happened to the best of us!), consider using a grill basket. You won’t need to rotate the stalks as frequently, but you should keep a close eye on them to make sure they’re cooking evenly.
Another way to keep the stalks from turning into charcoal? Lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the grill grate just before cooking. Because the asparagus doesn’t come into direct contact with the flame, you won’t get that same charred effect, but that can be a good thing if you’re dealing with picky eaters.
As a side note, some people prefer to wrap the asparagus up in the foil to create a packet. While this method is carefree, be forewarned that it results in a moister texture—more like what you’d get if you steamed the stalks instead.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of making asparagus on the grill, you may never go back to preparing it any other way. The flavor and texture of the grilled stalks just might have you planning meals around your side vegetable, instead of the other way around.
(Thanks to Darren Wayland for this guest post)