We have to salute the first person to eat an artichoke. The bristly vegetables, actually the flower buds of a large type of thistle, seem totally inedible at first glance. But once you learn how to prepare them, artichokes steal the spotlight of any meal.
We’ll walk you through trimming artichokes to get to the good stuff, plus a few easy cooking methods.
Step 1: Clean and Trim
This is perhaps the most intimidating part of cooking an artichoke. Just take it step by step, and you’ll get the hang of it.
Fill a bowl with water and a healthy splash of lemon juice or vinegar. The acidic bath helps preserve the pale green color of the leaves. You’ll use this water bath as you finish cutting each artichoke.
Now, to cut: Remove the tough outer leaves by pulling them downward and snapping them off at the base. When you reveal lighter-colored leaves that look tender, you’re done. (Don’t try to scrimp here; the dark outer leaves will always be tough and fibrous, no matter how long you cook them.)
Trim the base of the stem. If any rough patches or thorns remain around the base of the artichoke, scrape them away with a paring knife or peeler. Good knives help for this—here’s how to keep yours sharp.
Cut off the top third of the artichoke, revealing the layers of leaves inside. Then, cut the artichoke in quarters. You will see a fuzzy center, called the “choke.” Cut this part out.
Repeat with all of your artichokes, tossing sliced veg into the lemon water as you go.
Test Kitchen tip: Use a stainless steel knife when cutting artichokes, because iron or aluminum will cause discoloration. Likewise, don’t cook or wrap them directly in aluminum foil.
Step 2: Cook the Artichokes
Once they’re trimmed, you’re set to cook them in a few easy ways:
How to Steam Artichokes
The classic method for cooking artichokes, steaming showcases flavor and acknowledges the fact that artichokes are best used as a vehicle for butter. Place artichokes in a steaming basket over boiling water. Cover tightly. Begin testing for doneness after 20 minutes: You pierce the bottom of the artichoke, by the stem, which will take the longest to cook. When tender, they’re ready. Serve with melted butter, mayonnaise or aioli. Here’s our favorite recipe for homemade mayonnaise.
To eat steamed artichokes, pull off one leaf at a time. Dip into butter or sauce. Pull the leaf between your teeth, and the meat will slide out. Set aside the empty leaves.
Test Kitchen tip: Even though you can buy them all year, artichokes are in season in spring (March to April) and fall (September to October). Smaller baby artichokes are especially delicious steamed.
How to Braise Artichokes
The next level up from steaming, braising artichokes leaves them silky-tender but with added flavor from the cooking pot.
- Olive oil
- Herbs like garlic, chives, lemon zest, herbs like thyme, tarragon or bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup water
Warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add aromatics such as chopped garlic or minced thyme. Cook until they release fragrance. Then, add your prepared artichokes to the pan. Season with salt and pepper
Add the wine and water, cover and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes, until tender when pierced with a knife.
Test Kitchen tip: When shopping for artichokes, look for vegetables that are heavy for their size, with tightly closed leaves that squeak when squeezed. Avoid shriveled stems. To store, dampen the tops with water and store in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer for up to a week.
Learn to love more whole foods with these family-approved veggie sides.