Look for: Sturdy spears with tight heads; the cut ends should not look desiccated or woody. Fresh asparagus should snap when bent.
Prep: Trim off stem ends; shave down any woody bits with a vegetable peeler.
Braise: Place a large skillet over high heat. Add asparagus, 1⁄2 cup water and a slice of lemon. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.
Grill: Preheat grill; lightly oil rack. Place asparagus over direct, medium heat; cook until browned, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes.
Microwave: Place asparagus on a glass platter or pie pan; add 1⁄4 cup water, drizzle with 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, and cover tightly. Microwave on High until tender, about 3 minutes.
Roast: Preheat oven to 500°F. Spread asparagus on a baking sheet or in a pan large enough to hold it in a single layer. Coat with 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil. Roast, turning once halfway through cooking, until wilted and browned, about 10 minutes.