The Fastest Way to Clean and Prep an Artichoke

The Fastest Way to Clean and Prep an Artichoke

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Illustration: Steve Sanford

Fearlessly prep and steam a whole artichoke with our easy step-by-step guide.

5 Simple Steps

Don’t let the tight bud and prickly leaves keep you from getting at the meat of one of the tastiest vegetables of the season. With a few basic kitchen tools, you can make short work of artichoke prep.

1. Cut

Illustration: Steve Sanford

Use a serrated knife to cut off the top of the bud and trim 1⁄2 inch off the stem.

2. Snip

Illustration: Steve Sanford

Use kitchen shears to snip off the pointy thorns of the tough outer leaves. Pull off any brown leaves.

3. Peel

Illustration: Steve Sanford

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer skin on the stem and at the base of the artichoke.

4. Rub

Illustration: Steve Sanford

Rub with lemon all over to prevent browning, or submerge the artichokes in lemon water.

5. Steam

Illustration: Steve Sanford

Steam the artichokes, stem side up, covered, in a nonreactive steamer with 1 inch of water over medium heat 35 minutes or until easily pierced with a thin knife.

Learn How To Cook and Eat Artichokes

Learn how to purchase, cook, and eat fresh artichokes using these simple and very easy instructions. Artichokes might seem a little intimidating if no one has shown you how to prepare and eat them. Did you know that there is an etiquette to eating artichokes? Don’t worry, they are very easy to eat properly. Just follow my easy instructions below.

Learn about the History and Legends of Artichokes and also check out these easy to prepare and so delicious Artichoke Recipes.

When fresh artichokes are in season, I could eat them everyday. This simple preparation is my favorite way to serve them. Artichokes are beautiful to look at and also make an impressive starter for your dinner party. Instead of butter for dipping, I use an mayonnaise and mustard dip (see recipe below).

Artichoke Facts:

The artichoke is a perennial vegetable in the thistle group of the sunflower family and is believed to be a native of the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands. The “vegetable” that we eat is actually the plant’s flower bud. If allowed to flower, the blossoms measure up to seven inches in diameter and are a beautiful violet-blue color. There are more than 140 artichoke varieties but less than 40 are grown commercially. In full growth, the plant spreads to cover an area about six feet in diameter and reaches a height of three to four feet. Artichokes are available twelve months a year with the peak season in the spring and fall.

Artichoke fields are maintained in perennial culture for five to ten years. Each cropping cycle is initiated by “cutting back” the tops of the plants several inches below the soil surface to stimulate development of new shoots. The operation called “stumping,” is timed to regulate the new harvest season.

Today most artichokes grown worldwide are cultivated in France, Italy, and Spain, while California provides nearly 100 percent of the United States crop. In fact, one hundred percent of all artichokes grown commercially in the United States are grown in California.

Also learn about the History and Legends of Artichokes and also check out Artichoke Recipes.

Purchasing Artichokes:

One medium to large artichoke will yield approximately 2 ounces of edible flesh.

If the artichoke feels heavy for its size and squeaks when squeezed, you have found a fresh artichoke.

Select artichoke globes that are deep green, with a tight leaf formation, and those that feel heavy for their size. A good test of freshness is to press the leaves against each other which should produce a squeaking sound. Browning of the tips can indicate age, but can also indicate frost damage.

Frost-kissed Artichokes: Fall and winter artichokes may be darker or bronze-tipped or have a whitish, blistered appearance due to exposure to light frost. This is called “winter-kissed.” These frost-kissed artichokes are considered to be the most tender with intense flavor. Look for tender green on the inside of petals. Frost-kissed artichokes are available sporadically, when temperatures in the growing regions dip below 32 degrees. If your are a “choke” lover, you will want to snatch these babies up whenever you see them. To tell the difference between an artichoke that has been frost-kissed and one that has been just plain abused, try to peel the brownish flakes with your fingernail. If the flakes peel off, it a frost-kissed artichoke. Avoid artichokes which are wilting, drying or have mold.

Storing Artichokes: To store fresh artichokes at home, sprinkle them with a little water and refrigerate in an airtight plastic bag. Do no wash before storing. They should last a week when stored properly.

How To Prepare Artichokes:

Wash artichokes under cold, running water. Pull off lower petals and cut off bottom stems (cut flush with the base). Cut off about 1/2 inch of the pointed top of the artichoke. Trim tips of leaves with scissors to remove thorns. Dip in lemon juice to preserve color.

TIP: Always use a stainless-steel knife and a stainless-steel or glass pot. Iron or aluminum will turn artichokes an unappetizing blue or black. For the same reason, never let aluminum foil come in contact with artichokes.

Wash under cold, running water. Pull off lower petals and cut off stem.

C ut off about 1/2 inch of the pointed top of the artichoke. Trim tips of leaves with scissors to remove thorns. Dip in lemon juice to preserve color.

How to Cook Fresh Spinach

Before you start cooking spinach, you&aposll want to work with about 1 pound of spinach at a time (it should equal about 12 cups torn). It may seem like a lot, but it cooks down to a much smaller volume. Thoroughly wash and drain spinach. Remove stems and tear leaves into pieces, as desired. If you’re using baby spinach, the stems generally do not need to be removed, as they’re more tender. You also likely won’t need to tear the leaves into pieces, because they’re already smaller. If you&aposre using prewashed baby spinach, sold in bags in the produce aisle, you can skip washing. Each of the following three methods for cooking spinach makes 4 side-dish servings.

How to Sauté Spinach

Here’s how to cook spinach on the stovetop, starting with our easy saut spinach recipe.

  • Heat about 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet ($40, Bed Bath & Beyond) over medium heat. Add 8 to 12 cups packed spinach, large stems removed.
  • Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until just wilted.
  • Stir in salt, pepper, and (if desired) balsamic vinegar or other seasonings to taste. If you want to dress up the side dish, garnish with crisp, cooked bacon pieces.

How to Boil Spinach

To cook fresh spinach in boiling water, place 1 pound washed spinach, covered, in a small amount of boiling salted water. If you&aposre wondering how long to boil spinach, it should only take a few minutes. Once the steam starts to foam, begin your timer. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Try using boiled spinach in our velvet spinach recipe.

How to Steam Spinach

To steam fresh spinach on the stovetop, add water to a pot fitted with a steamer basket ($20, Target). Place 1 pound spinach on the steamer. When water boils, cook spinach for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender.

Boiled: Method #1

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil (using enough water to cover), add salt and then place artichoke in water (if making more than one, arrange them in a single layer). Weight down with a plate or pot lid to ensure it stays completely covered with water while it’s simmering.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until done (can be up to an hour depending on size and freshness).
  • Drain artichokes upside down for a few minutes before serving.

You can add a bit of sliced onion, fennel or a clove of garlic to the water to add a bit of flavor if you like. Tip: Add a bit of sugar and salt to the water (a teaspoon of each per quart of water), this will help retain the color and add a bit of sweetness. Make ’em shiny: Add a bit of olive oil to the water. Also adding lemon juice or vinegar to the water will help prevent discoloration.

What are Pecan Breadcrumbs?

Pecan breadcrumbs are simply pecans ground up and mixed with seasoning. We love them as they are totally all purpose! They’re great on Mac and Cheese, Pecan Popcorn Chicken and of course these delicious braised artichokes! They are the perfect, all-purpose, nutritious topper to so many dishes!

Pecans are The Original Supernut that is power-packed with protein and in every 1-ounce serving, you’ll get 12 grams of “good” monounsaturated fat, with zero cholesterol or sodium! A handful of pecans (about 19 halves) is a good source of fiber, thiamin, zinc, and an excellent source of copper and manganese – a mineral that’s essential for metabolism and bone health. They are a naturally sweet, buttery, flavorful, and lower carb compared to many other nuts!

  • On Baked Fish
  • On Top Of Mac & Cheese
  • Roasted Veggies
  • Chicken Cutlets
  • In/On Pasta Dishes
  • In Stuffed Mushrooms or Stuffed Tomatoes
  • Sautéed Kale with Breadcrumbs

For all the details on how to prep artichokes, the different ways to cook them, how to eat them, what to avoid and more, check out this guide.

Love artichokes? Try these other artichoke recipes:

Want more ways to cook with pecans? Try these favorites:

  1. Set the artichokes face up on a sheet pan lined with foil. Then, place a large clove of garlic in the center of each half. The garlic should fit perfectly into the spot where the prickly leaves used to be.

  1. Drizzle the artichoke with melted compound butter (I've opted for garlic and herb butter). You can either purchase compound butter or make your own. (If you don't have any on hand, that's okay—regular butter will do just as well.)

  1. Turn the artichokes over, then follow the same few steps with the outer halves (lemon rub, butter, and sea salt).

The Fastest Way to Cook Artichokes

I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with steamed artichokes. I love the taste, but given the tedious preparation they require, I really hate cooking them at home … or at least I did, until I learned this speedy method.

To be fair, there’s nothing particularly difficult or fussy about steaming artichokes on the stovetop. Although, if it’s your first time tackling these green globes, it might feel that way. Really, it just takes time and patience. Steamed artichokes aren’t traditionally the kind of snack or appetizer you can make at the last minute.

Unless, of course, you get out your pressure cooker. As with most tasks, this handy appliance drastically reduces the time it takes to prepare artichokes.

Making Steamed Artichokes in the Pressure Cooker

Whether it’s a sinewy cut of meat or tough artichoke, cooking anything with tough, fibrous layers is where the pressure cooker really shines. Laura Pazzaglia of Hip Pressure Cooking, echoes that sentiment: “Artichokes are the darlings of the pressure cooker’s repertoire it turns this seemingly unapproachable vegetable into a delightful appetizer in minutes.”

While steamed artichokes typically take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour on the stovetop or up to six hours in a slow cooker, expect them to cook in about 10 to 15 minutes in the pressure cooker. Talk about a time saver.

The total cook time will vary depending on the size of the artichokes. And this part is important to be mindful of. Just as with any other method, overcooked artichokes offer mushy, soggy, and unpleasant leaves.

We used the same pressure-cooking method that’s shared on Hip Pressure Cooking. Start by placing a steamer basket and about one cup of water in the bowl of an electric pressure cooker. Prepare the artichokes just as you would if cooking on the stovetop or in a slow cooker by trimming the stem, cutting off the top third of the artichoke, and trimming the sharp, thorny tips from the remaining leaves. Lastly, be sure to rub a cut lemon over the top and sides of the artichoke to prevent any oxidation. Add the artichokes to the pressure cooker stem-side down, and cook on high pressure for about 5 minutes for small artichokes, 10 minutes for medium, and about 15 minutes for larger ones. As is best with most vegetables, use rapid release release to bring the pressure down.

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Choosing and Preparing Your Artichoke

Before you can start cooking, you have to make sure to buy quality artichokes. When produce shopping, look for artichokes with tightly gathered leaves —the more densely packed and circular the better. Artichokes that have spread their leaves are older and less tender. Heavy artichokes are also a good sign —a lighter weight means some of the moisture has dried up. Some brown spots on the leaves are fine, but avoid any that are too brown . A slight purple tint to the leaves is normal and nothing to worry about.

Once you have your artichokes chosen out, you’re ready to start your prep work. All methods start the same way—by preparing the artichoke itself.

To prepare your artichoke:

    • Remove any brown or cracked leaves and the small, dark leaves near the base.
    • Cut off the top of the artichoke, about an inch down from the top.
    • Trim off the spikey top of all the outer leaves with kitchen shears.
    • Cut off any stem longer than half an inch from the base.
    • Wash carefully between the leaves to clear any grit.
    • Drizzle the artichoke with lemon juice to prevent browning.

    This might sound like a lot of work, but it’s quick and easy in practice. If you’re really pressed for time, all you have to do is wash the artichoke and cut the stem. Trimming the artichoke ensures no one gets poked by the sharp tip of the leaves and will make a prettier end product, but when it comes to taste and cook time, there’s no tangible difference. While I believe trimming the artichoke is absolutely worth the extra effort, in a pinch all that matters is that they’re clean.

    Now that you have your artichokes ready, it’s time to go over the different methods you can use to cook them.