How to Cook Artichokes

At first appearance, a globe artichoke looks tough and inedible, but the real goodness is buried beneath the rugged surface. Learn how to easily trim, boil, and eat artichokes, and try three stir-together dipping sauces.


1. Purchasing Globe Artichokes

The reason for the globe artichoke's tough exterior is that this vegetable is actually the flower bud of a plant in the thistle family.

While artichokes are available year-round, they are at their peak in spring. Look for artichokes that are heavy and firm with tightly packed leaves. Because of the many varieties, the color may vary from deep green to purple. Use artichokes the day you purchase them or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days. Larger artichokes have larger hearts and are great for serving whole with a dipping sauce. Plan on one artichoke per person or cut a cooked artichoke in half lengthwise to serve two. Very small artichokes are more tender and can be eaten whole (leaves and all), either raw or cooked.

  • Tip: Don't confuse Jerusalem artichokes, also called sunchokes, with globe artichokes. They are actually a tuber from a type of sunflower plant.

2. Prepping Large Artichokes (about 10 ounces each)

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  • Rinse the artichokes with cold water.
  • Using kitchen shears, trim the stem of each artichoke even with the base so it will stand up. Use the shears to remove any loose outer leaves, cut 1 inch off the top of each artichoke, and snip off the sharp leaf tips.
  • Brush the cut edges and the base with lemon juice to keep them from turning dark.

3. Cooking Large Artichokes

  • Boil: Fill a large saucepan or Dutch oven with a large amount of water. You will want enough water to cover the artichokes completely when added. Add a teaspoon of salt and bring the water to boiling. Add the artichokes to the water and return the water to boiling. Reduce heat so the water remains at a steady simmer. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Steam: Fill a large saucepan or pot with about 1 inch water. Place a steamer basket in the saucepan or pot, then bring the water to boiling. Add artichokes, stem end down, to the steamer basket using tongs or a slotted spoon. Reduce the heat to simmering; cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes.
  • Microwave: Place two artichokes in a microwave-safe casserole with 2 tablespoons water. Cover with waxed paper, vented plastic wrap, or the lid of the casserole. Microwave, covered, on 100 percent power (high) for 7 to 9 minutes, rearranging artichokes once during cooking.
  • Doneness Test: Artichokes are done when you can easily pull out a leaf from the center.
  • To Drain: Layer paper towels two or three layers thick. Carefully remove the artichokes from the pan or casserole using large tongs or a slotted spoon and transfer to drain upside down on the paper towels. Serve artichokes warm, or cool, cover, and chill for up to 3 days.

4. Eating an Artichoke

Eating an artichoke is a ritual in itself, as you deconstruct it, one leaf at a time, to get to the real prize -- the crown. If you like, choose from the sauces below or serve with melted butter.

  • Pull off the leaves, one at a time. The base of each leaf has a soft, fleshy portion. Dip the leaf into desired sauce, then draw the base through your teeth, scraping off only the tender flesh. Discard the remainder of each leaf.
  • Continue removing leaves until a fuzzy choke appears in the center. This is inedible, so scoop it out with a grapefruit spoon or pull it out with your fingers. Use the spoon or a small knife to scrape any remaining choke.
  • After the choke is removed, what's left is the meaty crown. This is the real prize. To eat it, cut up the crown and dip the pieces into desired sauce.

Tip: The crown is also called the base or bottom, and sometimes the heart. The heart, however, actually refers to the crown when it still has the edible, more tender leaves attached.

Optional Sauces

Herb-Butter Sauce: Melt 1/4 cup butter. Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 teaspoon snipped fresh dill, tarragon, or oregano, or 1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed, tarragon, or oregano, crushed. Makes 2 servings.

Lemon-Mustard Mayo: In a small bowl stir together 1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing, 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard. Season to taste with ground black pepper. Serve with warm or chilled artichokes. Makes 4 servings.

Curry Dip: In a small bowl stir together 1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish, 1 teaspoon finely chopped onion, 1 teaspoon curry paste or 1 teaspoon curry powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cover and chill for 2 to 24 hours before serving with chilled artichokes. Makes 4 servings.


How to Cook Artichokes
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