Step 1Bring the water to a simmer in a large pot with the salt, lemon juice, butter and sugar.
Step 2Meanwhile, trim about 1/2 inch from the ends of the asparagus. Lay the spears on a work surface and peel them with a sharp vegetable peeler, starting about 1 1/2 inches from the top and running evenly down the length of each spear. (Spears are brittle and can snap when peeled in midair.) Gather the spears into 2 to 4 bundles and tie them loosely with kitchen string, then lower them into the simmering water.
Step 3Cook, increasing the heat to maintain a simmer, if necessary, until the asparagus is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, anywhere between 8 and 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears. Lift the bundles from the water with kitchen tongs and drain them on paper towels.