Asparagus, you know it’s good for you. You know it’s yummy when prepared right. But occasionally your asparagus turns out woody and stringy. You wonder if it’s the thickness of the asparagus or how to trim the asparagus that can make a difference?
Well, wonder no more. I’m sharing with you the secrets for how to pick asparagus and how to trim it so each bite is tender and delicious. Let’s start with picking asparagus first.
Now when I say picking I don’t mean picking it out of the garden, I mean picking it at the store. When you stand in front of the asparagus, you might have thin and thick spears in front of you. Some might look a little droopy and some might look shriveled at the base. And you might wonder…
Should I pick thick or thin asparagus? Or does it really matter?
It doesn’t really matter whether you buy thick or thin asparagus, really.
Thin asparagus spears can be trimmed and cooked, no peeling needed. Thinner asparagus is great for pan cooking or placing in casseroles to bake.
Thicker asparagus spears can have more woody areas at the bottom and need to be peeled to remove the outer stringy skin. But thicker spears have more to them and do really well with roasting which is a favor way to prepare them.
The most important thing to remember when picking out asparagus isn’t the size, it’s more about the freshness.
The older the asparagus, the more woody and fibrous it will be.
How to Pick Fresh Asparagus
When examining your asparagus, look for stalks that are full. Avoid spears that have shriveled at the base.
When looking at the flower end of the spears the flowers should be tight and compact. Avoid spears where the flowers have spread.
Now that you know how to pick asparagus, let’s get to how to trim asparagus for your recipe.
How to Trim Asparagus, there is more than one way
There are three main ways to trim asparagus. One way wastes the most asparagus but is the easiest. But easier doesn’t always mean better or better for your grocery dollars.
Another way to save wasting asparagus but can deliver mixed results with how tender your asparagus spears will be when cooked.
Finally, the third way takes more time but not much more and is the best of both worlds. You get yummy tender spears of asparagus to enjoy, but without all the waste that can happen when you are breaking the end off.
But first let’s talk about each way you can to trim asparagus first.
How to Trim Asparagus 3 Ways
There are three main ways to trim asparagus. They all have pros and cons. And you may opt to use one method over another depending on the time you have and how concerned you are about wasting a little food.
Let’s get into each method
1. Break the End of the Asparagus Off
Let’s talk about, why do you break off the ends of asparagus?
When you break off the ends of the asparagus spears it removes the woody end. The woody end of asparagus is stringy and unappealing to eat.
So breaking off the ends removes that woody part making the asparagus more tender to eat.
The breaking method is by far the easiest way to trim asparagus. But can be the most costly in loss of edible portions.
Many people say to grab each end of the asparagus spear and bend until it breaks. The spear is supposed to break where the woody part ends and the tender part begins.
But when you break the ends of the asparagus off you lose almost 50% of the stalk and that’s a lot of waste.
And I’m sure you’re like me, you don’t want to throw away all that waste when you don’t have to.
That’s where the 2nd method is great for those of us that don’t want to throw away half of the asparagus we bought into the trash.
2. Cut the End of Asparagus Off
This second method is to cut the woody ends off. But you might be wondering..
What part of the asparagus do you cut off?
The part of the asparagus you want to cut off is the woody end. It’s hard and stringy and needs to go.
How much do you cut off asparagus?
How much asparagus end do you cut off is hard to say. But a good gauge is to cut one inch off the bottom of a thicker asparagus spear. And a quarter of an inch off the thinner spears of asparagus.
On most spears that will remove the bad part but on some you might have stringy ends left.
Which are not appealing at all. But there is a better way.
This cutting technique trims the ends of the asparagus off. This technique wastes less, which is great for us that are money conscious. It’s quick to do, but cutting the asparagus this way might not take all the woody, stringy ends off.
This method means less waste than breaking the asparagus but more possibilities of hard to chew woody pieces remaining.
Who wants to bite into an end portion and feel like you are chewing on bamboo? Few people, that’s why the 3rd way is the best way to trim asparagus.
3. The Best Way to Trim Asparagus
I believe this is the best way to trim asparagus. Because it minimizes waste and it maximizes taste and texture. But as with most good things, it is little more time consuming than the other two methods.
But if you are money conscious and are concerned about taste and quality of the cooked asparagus, the few extra minutes it takes to trim the asparagus this way is minimal.
And so worth the extra effort especially when asparagus is $3-4 a pound. Conserving on waste is important with a vegetable that is that expensive.
How to Trim Asparagus, the Best Method
I’ve made quick video to walk you through this method, but if watching a video isn’t for you keep on scrolling for the written directions below.
Step 1 The Best Way to trim asparagus
Wash and line up your clean asparagus on a cutting board. And cut 1 inch off the ends of the asparagus spears.
Step 2 Peel to Perfection
Now that you have the woody ends off, don’t stop there. Grab your peeler and peel that outer portion of the ends of the stalks. This will remove any remaining, woody stringy outer coating on the asparagus.
And leave the tender inner portion of the asparagus to enjoy.
Step 3 Cook
One you’ve trimmed and peeled the spears, they are ready for any recipe you are making.
The woody, stringy ends are gone and each bit of the spear is tender and delicious.
More Asparagus Tips for You
Do you have to peel asparagus before cooking?
The thinner asparagus spears shouldn’t need to be peeled at all. The skin on the outside is likely to be less stringy and there is no need to peel it. And trying to peel a tiny thin stalk of asparagus might end in breakage and waste.
How do you peel thick asparagus?
On some thick asparagus spears the skin can be a little tough. To ensure that each stalk is tender and delicious, it good to peel them. To peel thick asparagus, hold the stalk at the top end or flower end and then peel most of the way down the stalk.
Just one or two passes will remove the outer tough skin. Revealing the tender asparagus core.