Artichoke

The Many Ways to Prep an Artichoke

April 16, 2013

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. 

Today: The secrets to the artichoke's heart.

Artichoke

Like all things beautiful and rare, artichokes -- the greenmarket's thorny belles -- are tough to crack. To get to their heart requires patience and fearlessness -- but it's not all that hard.

We're here to show you how to get to the artichoke's heart, whether you plan to eat them with your hands -- dunking in butter or aioli as you go -- or cook and eat all that's edible, fork-and-knife style.

Either way you go, the first thing to do is squeeze some lemon juice into a bowl of water. This will be where you put your prepped artichokes; the acid will keep them from blackening.

Lemon  Lemon juice

Method 1: Eating With Your Hands

Using a sharp knife, slice off the top third of the artichoke.

Slicing 1  Slicing 2

Peel off the thickest outer leaves.

Peeling  Peeling

You'll also want to snip off those thorny tips so you don't poke yourself.

artichokes

Slice or snap off the woodiest part of the stem (like you would an asparagus), and then, using a vegetable peeler or paring knife, peel away the tough outer layers of the stem.

Peeling

Rub the cut end and stem of your artichoke with your lemon while you're working; you don't want your masterpiece to go to the dark side.

Rubbing stem  Rubbing bottom

The Choke Removal (If you're using baby artichokes, you can skip this step.)

Now, it's all about how you want to present it. You can either scoop out the choke (the hairy, sharp-looking bit inside the heart) now or remove it after cooking... 

artichoke

...or you can slice the whole thing in half to remove the choke (it will steam faster this way).

Slicing

Scooping out choke  Scooped-out choke

Now, you're ready to steam, pluck, and dunk at will.

Method 2: Eating Fork-and-Knife-Style

This is all well and good if you want to eat with your hands, but for fancier dishes with whole braised, fried, or stewed artichokes you'd eat with a fork and knife, you can't stop there. You'll need to remove all the tough, dark green leaves, too.

Keep pulling leaves till you get down to the supple, lighter colored ones, and pare away any tough spots from the stem.

turning an artichoke

And you're done! Keep your trimmed artichokes in your bowl of lemon-water until you're ready to cook them. 

Artichoke

Ready to use them? Try:

Artichoke Stew with Bonus Appetizer
Artichokes and Parsley, Preserved Lemon Pesto
Chicken with Sausage, White Wine and Artichokes

Photos by James Ransom

20 Comments

Gret April 28, 2013
Sounds great - thanks for posting - this is what we're making next weekend!
 
jdcooker April 28, 2013
I see that there is a bit of "peeling the stem" but I don't think enough was taken off to have stringless eating. To get the chokes sitting in the pan/steamer well, I cut the stem off. Then I peel the stem with a knife, taking a fat 1/16 or thin 1/8th inch off all the way around. The stem has become a favorite, everyone making sure they get their stem. Sort of like the heart. We ad a bit of olive oil, a chunk of lemon (squeezed before it goes into the pot) and a couple of cloves of garlic. Also use pan roasted garlic mayo (lightly brown an entire head of peeled garlic cloves to remove some of the garlickness, chop/blend in the blender, then either make mayo or add your favorite mayo to it, blend to mix. We use this mix on all sorts of things, even on bar b ques steak, as a pre cooking addition, and cook the steak with it smeared on.<br /><br />To remove the choke, eat the fleshy part of the outer leaves, keep eating (and enjoying) until what you are pulling off is "just not much there to bother with" leaves, grasp the peak of immature leaves and pull them off, then use a spoon to clean/scrape the choke off. The choke has a depression on the top so clean accordingly. If you miss a bit of choke, the spoon makes fast and easy removal possible. Eat up!!!
 
Gret April 22, 2013
Go on-line (google). Just type in "preparing articokes" & you'll get what you need.
 
fayehess April 22, 2013
after you cut the top off and peel off as many leaves as you like (I go down to the leaves that you can eat whole) you can gently pry the leaves open and get in there with a teaspoon; that way you don't cut the flesh as easily. Be ready with a wedge of lemon to squeeze in so that it doesn't turn black.
 
bgavin April 22, 2013
I had wished for more details on how to remove the choke, without wasting a precious morsel of the heart. Especially if you are eating them whole.
 
Rose M. April 22, 2013
Perfect timing...was just given a large bag of fresh picked artichokes and parsley preserved lemon pesto has why didn't you think of that written all over the heading.
 
Gret April 21, 2013
And my Italian friends, always keep them whole & stuff the leaves before cooking.<br />
 
ChristyBean April 20, 2013
This tutorial was a lifesaver! I felt a lot more confident making a Vignarola for the first time with this at my disposal! I fear artichokes no longer!
 
fhp April 20, 2013
ChristyBean, If you can find David Downie's Cooking the Roman Way he has a wonderful Vignarola recipe that beats all others I have tried.
 
avimom April 18, 2013
You've wasted a lot of the good stuff! I simply trip the leaves with scissors so they're not pokey and peel the stem. You eat your way down to the choke, which you trim off at the table, and then enjoy the heart.
 
fhp April 18, 2013
Just as there are many ways to trim an artichoke there are many delicious ways to eat them.<br />Italians do not eat them your way, the French way, instead they devour them whole when they are younger and smaller and more tender. However it does require some prep work. I was aghast at first to see what then I thought of as an incredible waste of leaves that up until then I would scraped off the edible part with my front teeth. But before long I was converted having eaten whole artichokes braised, fried or raw.<br />One day I hope you have the chance to try artichokes the Italian way.
 
fhp April 17, 2013
Brette, Nice going. I'd like to only suggest that if your are going to use the artichokes for braising or stewing or raw in a delicious salad it is essential to get those outer leaves that I see in the photo off the choke. My favorite technique is to hold the artichoke at its base in one hand and with the other hand trim away the tough upper part of the leaf by angling a small serrated kitchen knife almost parallel to the artichoke. Go in a spiral turning the choke starting at the top and working towards the bottom. This may seem awkward at first but after the first few times you will do it with the ease of an old Italian grandmother. Sharp knife will make all the difference. I just made a "Vignarola" (braised artichokes, favas, onions and peas) for 40 and must have cleaned 35 artichokes.
 
fayehess April 17, 2013
a few tips on buying artichokes: the stem should be stiff and the artichoke should feel heavy. The lighter and bendier it gets, the older it is.
 
pigisyummy April 17, 2013
so helpful. would be great if you could include tips for how to pick an artichoke from the market, that's another intimidating part. I never buy them because I don't know how to tell if they're right.
 
leavesofjoy April 17, 2013
The tip I learned years ago is to squeeze them gently. If the leaves squeak against each other, kind of like a balloon when rubbed, they're fresh. Our local produce lady saw me doing this one day and after looking at me like I was insane, asked me about it. Two days later, I saw her teaching someone else the trick!
 
Comeandcookwithus April 16, 2013
Great visual how-to guide. There are so many delicious ways to prepare this vegetable but they are like a high-maintenance lover that demands your time to be appreciated... We just posted on The Art of the Artichoke, too. (http://comeandcookwithus.com/2013/04/11/the-art-of-the-artichoke/)
 
fiveandspice April 16, 2013
Historically, I am an absolute artichoke mangler. It's kind of embarrassing how bad I am at prepping them. Next time I'm going to follow this step by step and see how I do!
 
Marian B. April 16, 2013
Oh, but "artichoke mangler" is such a poetic title! I like it. Just call them "rustic".
 
fiveandspice April 17, 2013
Hehe, it is one of my more sonorous titles.
 
Lisa T. April 16, 2013
Thanks - I just bought artichokes the other day! I think hollandaise will do the trick for dunking...yum.