Sauteing or Boiling Asparagus

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Select asparagus with closed tips for the best taste.
Select asparagus with closed tips for the best taste. (Image: Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Asparagus is a springtime vegetable with a light flavor and crisp texture. Rich in potassium and fiber, the green stalks are naturally fat free and low in calories. The spears pair well with everything from lemon to butter to hollandaise sauce. For the best results, select spears that are firm and consistent in color. Avoid stalks with blemishes or ones that are wilted. Always cut the woody ends from the asparagus before cooking.

Texture

Fresh asparagus is crisp and juicy with firm stalks. Sauteing the vegetable lightly slightly softens the outside, while maintaining the crisp inside. Boiling the asparagus lightly softens the outside and slightly softens the inside. Heavily sauteing or boiling asparagus leaves the vegetable limp and bland in texture.

Flavor

Sauteing asparagus helps bring out the delicate flavor of the green veggie. However, it also adds the flavor of whatever you use to lubricate the pan for sauteing, such as butter, to the finished dish. Boiling asparagus briefly, known as parboiling, can help bring out the taste of asparagus without adding any other flavors. Boiling the asparagus any more than briefly starts to boil the flavor away. This can be a useful tactic if you’re trying to lighten the overall asparagus taste.

Color

Both sauteing and boiling asparagus helps bring out the vegetables deep green color. Sauteing may also add a slight shimmer of gold due to the browning of flesh that can occur during the oil-based cooking process.

Nutrition

Sauteing requires the use of fat to lubricate the asparagus and the pan. Oil or butter, this light amount of lubricant does add calories to the overall finished dish. However, you lose very little in the way of nutrients if you lightly saute the stalks. Boiling the asparagus only requires hot water, so it adds zero calories to the finished product. However, boiling the asparagus can rob nutrients from the vegetable. So your nutritional choice can be a toss up between adding calories and losing nutrients.

Convenience

Boiling asparagus is as easy as dropping the spears into boiling water. Sauteing the stalks means paying attention so you properly stir the vegetables while they cook. While boiling may take more time overall, due to the time waiting for the water to heat up, it takes far less attentive time than sauteing. So if a quicker overall time is better, than sauteing is more convenient. If less attentive time is better, boiling is more convenient.

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