Artichoke

The Best Way to Cook Artichokes Is Also the Easiest

And tastiest, too.

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May  4, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin

We're partnering with Miele to help you Cook Smarter with simple yet delicious recipes where the technique makes all the difference. Here, we're sharing the simplest method for making the most of artichoke season: steaming!

Growing up, there were only a few dishes that really said “special occasion” to me. Angel food cake, which my mom would stuff with mint chocolate chip ice cream for birthdays and anniversaries, was definitely one of them. Lobsters were another, because cooking and breaking them down felt like such an event. And would you be surprised to hear that the third was a steamed vegetable—artichokes, no less?

While steamed broccoli or green beans were practically a nightly affair, my mom only steamed artichokes a few times a year, during the spring and summer months when they were abundant at the market and it was warm enough to sit outside on the deck. My sister and I would gleefully tear ours apart, dipping each leaf in butter and scraping the meat off with our teeth, while my dad grilled up the rest of our dinner.

I remember my parents being vaguely surprised by how much we liked them, with their imposing thorny blossoms and somewhat sophisticated flavor profile. But with instructions that included “use your hands and dip it in the butter,” how could we not be excited to dig in?

For years, I probably made artichokes about as often as my mom did—if that. And whenever I did, it was usually a dish that involved painstakingly trimming each artichoke down to the heart, which would leave me swearing them off for another year. But this spring and summer, I'm changing things up. I’ve reacquainted myself with the steamed artichoke, and decided to make this couldn’t-be-easier dish my go-to dinner party appetizer for the season...or even my go-to lazy dinner for one, alongside a simple salad or some leftover roast chicken.

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Top Comment:
“You don't really need to trim off the prickly part of the leaf; it gets soft as the artichokes steam. I slice a few cloves of garlic and nestle in some of the leaves. (If I have parsley I will finely chop it and mix it with the garlic slices and a small drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt, then stuff the mixture into some of the leaves.) When I add the artichokes to the steamer, I squeeze a little lemon over and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with clarified butter (or ghee) or with aioli. The recipe on this site seems simple enough, but Kenji Lopez-Alt's recipe for 2 minute aioli is even easier! And I have a good-natured quibble with the term "garlic aioli," since "ail" is the french word for garlic. It's like saying garlic garlic sauce. . . . :-)”
— Marion B.
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If, like me, you normally think of artichokes as fussy to prepare, or maybe have never steamed them before, allow me to shed some light on how simple the process is for steaming:

First, trim the stem slightly. I like to leave them a bit long for presentation, but if you want yours to sit upright for serving trim them to about 1/2 inch. Then, tear off the hard, woody outermost leaves from the base.

Next up, cut the top quarter of the artichoke completely off with a very sharp knife. After that, trim the thorns off each remaining leaf with kitchen shears. Some people like to cut the artichokes in half at this stage and remove the fuzzy choke by scraping it out with a melon baller or a spoon, which you can totally do if you like; I might suggest this if you’re serving a big meal and expect each person to only want half of an artichoke instead of a whole one. But in an effort to keep things on the simpler side, I prefer to leave them whole and let folks deal with the choke when they get there.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Finally—this step is important!—rub each cut surface with a halved lemon or squeeze the whole thing with lemon juice to be safe. This will keep the artichoke from darkening due to oxidation. (You might see some recipes call for keeping your trimmed artichokes in lemon water; this does the exact same thing.) To minimize browning, I’ll squeeze each artichoke with lemon as I go instead of waiting until they’re all trimmed.

When you’re ready to steam, you can prepare a steamer basket in a large pot with a few inches of water, hack a steamer with some handy household items, or use the settings on your steam oven for an even easier route (if you happen to be one of the lucky ducks to have a combi-steam oven at home).

Instead of just simple melted butter, I up the special occasion-feel for this childhood favorite by preparing a few homemade dipping sauces. At the moment, classic garlic aioli is the reigning favorite, but all kinds of sauces work great, like compound herb butters, vinaigrettes, or pesto mayonnaise.

But for those lazy nights when it’s just me, good ol' Hellmann’s plus a squeeze of lemon and a grated clove of garlic (or three, since I’m by myself) is just as good.

What's your favorite way to serve artichokes? Tell us in the comments below!

We've partnered with Miele to highlight our new go-to dinner party appetizer for summer: steamed artichokes with a garlicky lemon aioli. Ready to make getting them on the table even faster and easier? Miele's combi-steam ovens can do it all for you with the touch of a button. And for expertly steamed results every time, don't forget to use their handy perforated tray. Convenient and easy to use, Miele's steam technology and perforated tray team up for fuss-free cooking so simple, you might just ditch your pots and pans.

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Cory Baldwin

Written by: Cory Baldwin

Food52's director of partner content Cory Baldwin has been an editor at food, travel, and fashion publications including Saveur, Departures and Racked.

11 Comments

Michele K. May 9, 2019
I don't cut off quite as much on the top, and I like to steam them by sprinkling them with salt & pepper, and with about a tablespoon of olive oil in the pot (no idea why). My family is Italian, and it seemed to me that we had artichokes every other week. My Nana stuffed them with breadcrumbs, and I ate them that way so often I thought it was part of the vegetable.
 
Marion B. May 5, 2019
I trim and steam them pretty much as shown in the recipe. Except that I season the water in the steamer with a few whole peppercorns, a bay leaf, and a quarter of a lemon. You don't really need to trim off the prickly part of the leaf; it gets soft as the artichokes steam. I slice a few cloves of garlic and nestle in some of the leaves. (If I have parsley I will finely chop it and mix it with the garlic slices and a small drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt, then stuff the mixture into some of the leaves.) When I add the artichokes to the steamer, I squeeze a little lemon over and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with clarified butter (or ghee) or with aioli. The recipe on this site seems simple enough, but Kenji Lopez-Alt's recipe for 2 minute aioli is even easier! And I have a good-natured quibble with the term "garlic aioli," since "ail" is the french word for garlic. It's like saying garlic garlic sauce. . . . :-)
 
isw May 5, 2019
Trim 'em as shown, put in a microwave-safe container with about 3/4" of acidulated water (roll the artichokes around to wet the cut edges to prevent browning), cover with plastic wrap, and nuke until done. Quicker and easier than steaming and way less water-logged than boiling. Been doing it that way for years.
 
tia May 5, 2019
I skip the trimming and microwave mine. 5 minutes, rest for 5, 5 more minutes (more or less, depending on how big it is) . Just long enough to grill up some protein and call the whole thing dinner.
 
Mark A. May 4, 2019
Leave the outer leaves on, they protect the inner leaves while steaming, don't bother trimming (this also negates the need to rub them down with lemon).
KISS 😀
I was so pleased to read this recipe as it was the first time in my 46 years that I have ever heard mention of this staple favourite of my upbringing.
For the uninitiated, the petals as you remove them will gradually have a greater proportion of the petal 'edible'. Finally when almost at the heart the entire petal is edible.
The best part is the inner stem, peeled and dipped in butter.
 
Michele K. May 9, 2019
The stem part is HEAVENLY.
 
rbrock1225 May 4, 2019
I trim trim the artichokes as shown in the article but cook them differently. I add them to a large pot of water; add the juice of a quartered lemon; add the squeezed lemon quarters to the pot; then invert my steamer tray and wedge it over the top to hold the artichokes underwater. Depending on the number of artichokes, I’ll rest some metal spoons on the top to keep the artichokes fully submerged. DO NOT put a lid on the pan.

The lemon, finds and all, help flavor the water and artichokes. The lemon peel adds a small amount of oil — not enough to leave the chokes feeling oily, just a nice shine.

Keeping them submerged, they cook evenly and not covering them allows some gas to escape so they stay a dark green.

Wish I could claim that this was a family secret learned from my grandmothers who lived in Monterey County in the early and mid- 1900’s, but that’s not the case. It was from an Alton Brown Good Eats.
 
witloof May 4, 2019
I just trim the stem a little and toss them in the steamer. I never bother prepping them!
 
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Cory B. May 4, 2019
I like your style!
 
Patricia P. May 4, 2019
I serve them room temperature with some shallot vinagrete or stuffed with bread crumbs, grated cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil then squeeze lemon juice over the artichokes. Oven until cheese bubbles. OMG!!!
 
Nicole G. May 4, 2019
I have to share how I cook these because it's so easy and delicious:

-Cut enough of the stem so the artichoke can sit upright on a plate. Don't cut the top as that is the utensil you use to eat it!

-Completely submerge and boil your artichokes in a large pot for 45min-1.5 hours depending on size or how "ripe" it is. You can tell when it's done by removing the artichoke @ 45 minutes, if you can easily pull out a leaf about 4 layers in and scrape the meat off, it's ready!
-Dip dip in mayo or butter and don't feel bad about it because those fats are what helps yours body absorb all the nutrients and enjoy. Once you run out of leaves use a spoon to scrape out the hairy stuff and devour the heart.