Indoor grilling cannot impart the smoky flavor of outdoor grills, but it is the next best option for grilling asparagus when outdoor grilling is not possible. Unlike boiling and steaming that do nothing for flavor, grilling caramelizes the asparagus, adding sweetness to this tasty spring vegetable.
Indoor Grill Options
Indoor grill types vary in size and pricing, providing options no matter how small the storage space or how big the budget. Inexpensive contact grills that close two grilling surfaces on the asparagus can usually be found thanks to the booming success of the style at the turn of the 21st century. A newer concept is the open countertop grill, an electric appliance with a single, large, grilling surface. A stovetop grill surface on a gas range is usually restricted only to high-end stoves and offers the closest results to an outdoor grill. A simple grill pan is a perfectly acceptable option for grilling asparagus indoors — no special gadgets or high-end appliances needed. Many professional chefs would argue that a well-seasoned cast-iron grill pan is preferable to a Teflon-coated grilling gadget.
Asparagus spears push their way up through soil, collecting dirt and sand along the way. Wash the asparagus thoroughly before grilling to avoid the gritty texture. Squeeze along the base to find the point where the tough woody part of the stem ends and tender spears begin. Cut off the woody ends with a sharp knife or bend the spears to snap off the unwanted portion. The best asparagus for grilling should be no more than the width of your index finger. Choose straight, sturdy asparagus spears. A bold green color along the shaft with some purple color toward the spear tip suggests good flavor.
A simple marinade of olive oil and lemon juice brightens up the earthy flavor of asparagus, but is optional. Another option is seasoning with salt, pepper, garlic and melted butter. At the very least, apply a light layer of cooking oil or butter to keep the asparagus from sticking to the grill. Preheat the grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Place the asparagus spears on the grill perpendicular to the lines in the grill or grill pan. Grill the asparagus uncovered for 5 to 8 minutes per side or until tender, with the exception of contact grills which must be closed. A contact grill cooks both sides simultaneously, requiring half the cooking time as other indoor grill options.
Pan roasting and broiling produce flavor similar to grilling without the need for specialty grilling appliances, pans or a built-in grill on the range. Toss the asparagus with melted butter or olive oil and your choice of spices and spread the spears or pieces in an even layer on a baking sheet. The coating of butter or oil prevents sticking and helps encourage browning — the desired caramelization that occurs when grilling. Roast the asparagus at 375 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes, turning once. When broiling asparagus, keep the pan at least 6 inches from the heating element to avoid burning. Broil for about 5 minutes per side or until lightly caramelized on each side.
References and ResourcesMen's Fitness: Overnight Expert: How To Grill Indoors
Foreman Grill Recipes: Grilled Asparagus
RecipeTips.com: Grilling Asparagus
Slate: Indoor Grill Master
My Recipes: Grilled Asparagus
Weber: Grilling Asparagus