Guide to Perfectly Grilled Asparagus

Guide to Perfectly Grilled Asparagus

Photo by Katie Seldon for MLive.com.

Step-by-step instructions to grilling asparagus perfectly.

Asparagus is a wonderful side for grilled meats, and grilling great grilled asparagus is simple if you know the secret: a mixture of lemon juice and olive oil. This, plus a little salt, a hot fire and a solution for keeping the asparagus on the grate, are all you need.

Asparagus will take on a dramatically different flavor profile when cooked over an open flame than it does when cooked with moisture (steaming or boiling). While steamed asparagus is flavored with grassy notes, grilled asparagus takes on a delicious, meaty flavor profile. That is why we love to grill asparagus.

Step One: Setting up for Grilling

If you have a Kalamazoo grill, preheat the grill with a custom vegetable grilling surface in place.

If you don't have a vegetable surface, there are a few options you can go with:

  • Choose thicker asparagus spears (only available later in the growing season), and carefully keep them aligned across the bars of your grill grate so they don't fall through.
  • Choose medium to thick asparagus spears and skewer them cross-wise in flat groups to hold them together as "asparagus rafts."
  • Use a heavy, perforated grill pan to hold the asparagus. The pan needs to be heavy in order to conduct enough heat to create some grill marking, and it needs to be preheated with the grill.

Prepare for direct grilling over a hot fire of at least 500°F.

Step Two: Preparing the Asparagus

Break off or cut off the tough base of each spear.

Whisk together equal parts lemon juice and olive oil in a large bowl (1 tablespoon of each will suffice for 1 bunch of asparagus). Toss the asparagus in the bowl to coat.

Step Three: Grilling the Asparagus

Transfer the asparagus to the hot grill grate or grill pan, discarding the lemon juice and olive oil mixture. Season the asparagus liberally with fine sea salt immediately after placing it on the grill.

Turn the asparagus occasionally with chef-style tongs (typical "grill tongs" do not give enough control), cooking until marked on each side and thoroughly heated through, but not wilting. High heat helps to mark the asparagus without over-cooking it. Work quickly, and remove the asparagus as soon as it is done.

Thin asparagus spears (the early spring growth) are tender and delicious, but the must be cooked very quickly — typically for less than 3 minutes.

Larger asparagus spears have great flavor but require more precision when cooking. Asparagus the diameter of your pinky finger typically require about 6 minutes of grilling. Asparagus the diameter of a your thumb should be avoided. It is much more challenging to grill.

With larger asparagus, many people like to use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer skin for more tender asparagus, but we recommend using asparagus that is slightly thinner and skipping the peeler.


 

Grilling Asparagus on a Kalamazoo Hybrid Grill

The dry heat of a charcoal fire emphasizes the "meaty" flavor profile of grilled asparagus. Asparagus does not need to cook for very long, so you don't need a mature fire or much fuel to do the job.

Install a Kalamazoo vegetable grilling surface in one zone of the grill. Place a thin load of charcoal in the  Hybrid Fire Grilling Drawer. Fire up the Dragon Burners below the drawer and preheat the grill while starting the charcoal fire. Wait until the coals are glowing, and then turn the burners down to LOW. Follow the instructions (at left)  to grill the asparagus.