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Best Way to Cook Asparagus

For Better Asparagus, Ditch the Water

Ever noticed how asparagus has a more robust, nutty flavor when you roast it in the oven with olive oil than when you blanch or steam it? I'd always assumed that was just because, well, roasting makes everything taste better, but it turns out there's actually a scientific explanation behind the difference.

According to Fat Duck chef Heston Blumenthal, the flavor molecules in asparagus are water soluble. When you blanch the spears in boiling water, the flavor "leaks" out of the asparagus and into the water. When you cook it in fat, the molecules remain intact and stay where you want them — in your asparagus. So, instead of blanching your next batch of asparagus, cook it in a little olive oil or butter for a more flavorful result.

Since learning this fun fact from Blumenthal's The Fat Duck Cookbook, I haven't cooked asparagus any other way, and he's right! The flavor and texture are miles better. But don't get too carried away with this technique: although veggies like asparagus and carrots have water-soluble flavor molecules, the molecules in others, like broccoli and green beans, are oil-soluble and should be cooked in water for optimal flavor.

Image Source: Flickr user calliope
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