They may seem scary, but prepping whole artichokes is easy with this simple technique.

By Stacey Ballis
June 28, 2019
Stacey Ballis

During artichoke season, I am a total obsessive. They are one of my favorite foods, and I will make between six and eight a week for myself and my husband. We love to eat them for dinner, enjoy them as midday snacks, or serve them as an impressive appetizer for guests. I know that for a lot of people, artichokes are a little intimidating, but once you know this simple technique, you’ll make them all the time!

WATCH: How to Make Spinach Artichoke Dip

First off, this is about steaming whole artichokes for eating as-is. Once steamed, the hearts can be used in any number of other dishes, or they can be halved and grilled. But because my absolute favorite way to eat them is whole, that is what this technique supports.

A note on buying artichokes

You want to look for large artichokes that are heavy for their size, with tight compact heads that squeak a little if you squeeze them. I prefer the rounder globe shaped chokes myself, but go for what looks the freshest at your market.

Prepping the artichokes

Have a lemon halved and ready before you begin prepping your artichokes. (This is a great place to use up a slightly sad lemon on its last legs!)

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Take a large stockpot with a steamer basket or steaming insert and a lid and put two inches of water in the bottom. Place the steamer basket or insert into the pan.

Rinse all of your artichokes under cold running water and set aside to dry. 

Stacey Ballis

With a sharp, serrated kitchen knife, trim the stem end flesh with the bottom of the artichoke, being careful not to cut off any of the heart. Rest the artichoke on its side and using your serrated knife, slice on an angle all the way around the artichoke bottom, revealing the heart and taking the tough outer leaves off. Once the heart is revealed, snap off any last tough outer leaves, and slice an inch off the top of the artichoke, through all of the leaves.

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With the cut side of the lemon, rub the bottom and top and any cut edges and place the artichoke bottom side up in the steamer basket or insert. If the leaves are resting in the water, pour out some of the water so that the artichokes are suspended above it; otherwise, they may become waterlogged.

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Repeat with all of the artichokes, arranging them in the pot with some space between them so that the steam can fully surround each. Cover the pot and turn the heat on medium-high; cook until a fork easily pierces the bottom and the heart is tender, about 35-45 minutes depending on their size.

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Serve hot or cold with the butter or sauce of your choosing. 

To eat, pick off the leaves one by one, dip the bottom in your sauce, and scrape the bottom three quarters of an inch of flesh off the fibrous leaf with your teeth. Continue until you see the thinner papery leaves in the center, which may be purplish in color. Holding the top of this cone of central leaves with the fingertips of one hand, and with a large spoon in the other, slide the spoon into the side of the artichoke, right at the top edge of the heart, so that it goes underneath the choke— that fuzzy center part, which is inedible. If you do this slowly all around, you should be able to remove the whole choke in one piece.  If you don’t manage this, just use the spoon to scrape any remaining fuzzy choke out of the heart before eating it.

Stacey Ballis

Try our: Broccoli-Artichoke Casserole 

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