Sunday, April 20

How to Clean, Cook, and Eat an Artichoke

It's peak artichoke season, and I don't want you to miss out. So if you've ever wondered how to select, clean, cook, or even eat an artichoke, then you've come to the right place.

artichoke with Meyer lemons

Virtually 100% of US artichokes are produced in California. The vast majority of artichokes for sale at supermarkets are Globe artichokes which are conical in shape with rather pointy leaves and weigh about one pound. The Big Heart artichoke is available at local farmers' markets and specialty markets such as Whole Foods. Though similar in taste to a Globe, the Big Heart weighs closer to two pounds, has rounder, thicker leaves (and a bigger heart, of course).

big heart and globe artichokes
Big Heart artichoke on left and Globe artichoke on right

Food Blogga Artichokes 101

How to select an artichoke:

  • Look for green or purple-tinged leaves that are as tight as a fist.
  • White or brown streaks indicate frost-bite or wind burn; they're edible, but not as pretty.
  • Place it in your hand; it should feel heavy for its size.
  • Squeeze it; the fresh leaves should squeak. If its spongy, put it back.
  • If the leaves or overly dry, splayed, or pitted, skip it.
How to clean an artichoke:
  • Lay the artichoke on its side on a sturdy cutting board.
cutting off the stem
  • Using a sharp, heavy knife cut off the stem right to the bottom of the artichoke.
cutting off the top
  • Then cut of the top 1/4 of the artichoke.
  • Pluck off any discolored or damaged leaves.
trimming the leaves with scissors
  • Using kitchen shears, trim the tips of all of the leaves until they are straight.
separating the leaves
  • Using your thumbs, gently pull the leaves apart until the center is exposed.
cleaning the cavity
  • Using your hands pull out the prickly, purple tipped leaves and discard.
removing the fuzzy choke
  • Using a small spoon, scoop out the fuzzy choke and discard.
clean artichoke cavity
  • The cavity should be smooth now.
a good lemon rub
  • Rub the entire artichoke with a lemon half to prevent it from oxidizing, or turning brown, and squeeze some juice into the cavity of the artichoke.
a good lemon squeeze

  • If using the stems (they're wonderful in stuffing), then remove the fibrous outer part.

trimming the stem
  • Slice into strips of equal length.
dicing the stem
  • Dice and then sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown.
How to cook an artichoke:
  • If stuffing, then fill the cavity half way with stuffing. Using your hands, fill each leaf with about 1/2-1 teaspoon stuffing, starting at the outermost leaves and working towards the center. Recipe: Mom's Italian Stuffed Artichokes
  • I prefer to steam artichokes in a large pot of water seasoned with lemon and olive oil for 45 - 75 minutes (stuffed) or 30 -45 minutes (unstuffed), or until leaves are tender. Steaming renders the artichoke moist and tender.
  • Artichokes can be roasted or grilled, though I have found them to be less tender and moist. It's a good idea to par-boil them first before roasting or grilling which helps them retain more moisture.
  • Artichokes are cooked when you can easily pull out a leaf (too much tugging means it needs more cooking). You can also get a long, think knife and insert it into the center of the artichoke; it should easily go through to the heart.
  • Remember that the larger the artichoke (like the Big Heart variety), the longer the cooking time.
How to eat an artichoke:

artichoke plucking
  • Pluck a leaf from the artichoke.
lifting the leaf
  • Grip it with two hands, and place it flesh side down against your bottom teeth.
Mmmmm...this is good
  • Scrape the artichoke "meat" off. If it doesn't come off easily, then it needs to be cooked more. No amount of chewing will help. Trust me.
  • Place the eaten leaf in a bowl.
an eaten leaf

  • Work your way toward the tender inner leaves.
Slicing an artichoke heart
  • Thinly slice the artichoke heart, then eat it, patiently, savoring every buttery mouthful.

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Emily said...

Loved your tutorial! Brilliant.

Peter M said...

First off, the artichoke is huge and beautiful and you're my kinda gal...screw eating untensils...dig in!

glamah16 said...

Now I never knew that about the stems!Those are beautiful artichokes.You look so elegant eating them. I always fera I'll have melted butter running down my chin.

indosungod said...

I have passed by many an artichoke without picking it up for the simple reason, I was not sure how to clean it and cook it. This is an extremely useful and handy tutorial. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Susan, you rock!

Anonymous said...

I wish I saw artichokes that fresh here! It cracks me up that you say use 2 hands when eating ;)I use only one because I have good artichoke eating muscles in my hands :)

Sarah said...

I bought both one Globe and one Big Heart artichoke this weekend and planned on enjoying them this week for dinner! Thank you for the tutorial (and, if I may, I'd love to link it to my menu plan this week! :) Thank you!


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Great tutorial. This is absolutely my favorite way to eat an artichoke. Unfortunately they are expensive here, and often not overly fresh by the time they've made the trek across the country. So when we do get good ones, it's a real treat.

Manggy said...

Susan, thanks for this tutorial. I'll remember it for when... I ever see a real artichoke :P (I do love them, though, even canned.) Jamie Oliver likes to submerge his finished flowers in acidulated water :)

Suganya said...

For a long time, I didn't know which part of artichoke was edible. Thanks for the post, Susan.

cmoore said...

Yummmm, this was one of my favorite dinners growing up. We'd serve them with melted butter and lemon juice, and a nice loaf of sourdough bread. In recent months I've been wanting to know how to braise artichokes, but my attempts thus far have fallen pretty flat. Any insight?

Kelly @ Love Well said...

I still remember my first artichoke. It was heaven.

Do you have any good recipes for stuffed artichokes, Susan? I'm always looking for a recipe that would mimic the lightly seasoned artichokes they used to serve at Chart House.

Anh said...

This is great!!! I have used artichokes but preparing them is still something I am afraid of. Your photo guide is excellent and Susan, you are a beautiful woman!

Nina Timm said...

Thank you so much, I am now informed and have no more excuses not to cook artichokes.

Anonymous said...

I love artichokes, never knew they could/should be gutted before cooking. Thanks!

Linda said...

I never take out the hairy center part. I cook the artichoke as you do then work my way to the middle dipping the leaves in either melted butter or vinagarette and when I reach the heart, I just scrape off the inedible part and eat that fabulous center. Not as pretty but I never have the patience to do what you did. I should though-looks prettier.

Unknown said...

i've never tried artichokes....and those would look nice in a vase too! (i am torn between trying to eat them or trying to use them as major decorative element in my dining room) lol

Pille said...

Great tutorial! We were in Spain recently, and ate lots of artichokes here. However, the Spanish ones (European ones in general?) were much smaller, so the process of eating was somewhat different (no need to scoop and discard the choke, for instance).

Alanna Kellogg said...

Yay rah, someone who really knows her artichokes! I'm a neophyte but last week had great results cooking artichokes in the microwave. A reader suggested the stem tip, too.

GREAT post, Susan. You're looking lovely, m'dear!

Anonymous said...

Your way of prepping is beautiful. We grew up eating them untrimmed with the stems cut into slices and tossed into the pot. Either way, gotta love an artichoke for dinner!

Anonymous said...

This is such a great tutorial! Much better than my 40 yr old Betty Crocker. We often drive through the artichoke groves in Monterey County. There is a song ( my son learned in kindergarten that we still make him sing when we first sight those huge, leafy bushes. Thank you for this post!

Also, Susan, I hope you don't mind that I tagged you for a blog award. You deserve it!

xoxox Amy

RecipeGirl said...

Great step by step! We're having great big artichokes for dinner tonight. We steam them the way you mentioned, but we don't bother with stuffing them. I prefer mine dipped in just a small amount of mayo or butter.

Veron said...

The hubby loves artichoke, I need to bookmark this to show it to him so he can prep his own. Thanks for the tutorial!

NĂºria said...

What a didactic post, Susan! I'm so used eating artichokes that seeing your step by step instructions makes me giggle a little. However, I never take those hairs in the middle, most of the times our artichokes don't have that, they only show when they get old.
Another big difference is the size!!! Yours are tremendous!!!! Ours are like half size.
I love them boiled in water and oil and salt... the easiest, the tastiest! Salud!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

emiline-Thanks a bunch!


coco-The stems add intense artichoke flavor to stuffings. And thanks! (you didn't see all the napkins in my lap.)

indosungod-Well, go and buy some! :)

anonymous-Yay! :)

maryann-I love your comments.

sarah-Well sure, thanks!

lydia-I know what you mean.

mark-It keeps them fresh.

suganya-Yay! Now you know. :)

cmoore-I haven't tried it myself, but I would think artichokes would braise well. I would suggest cutting them into quarters first and removing the fuzzy choke so they cook thoroughly. Braising them in a mixture of butter and olive oil to brown them would bring out their flavor. Then you could add water, lemon juice, and perhaps some white wine; then simmer until cooked. I'll have to try it myself. Please let me know how it goes!

kelly-Oh, yes I do! The recipe for my mom's stuffed artichokes is coming up soon! Talk about heaven. Oh, my.

anh-You are too kind. :)

nina-Good luck! Please let me know if you have any questions.

susan-It makes them so much easier to eat.

rita-You've gotta eat them, then get a couple extra on sale for decorations. :)

pille-Those sound like what we call baby artichokes here. Very low maintenance.

alnna-Oh, thanks!

ann-It's one of my all-time favorite dinners.

amy-I don't know the song, but it must be fun. And I'm flattered that you tagged me for an award. I'll be checking it out in a minute!

lore-Steamed with lemon-butter is so simple and delicious.

veron-That's the idea!

nuria-Yeah, the smaller they are the less fuzzy choke there is inside--like our baby artichokes.

Katy said...

yum -- absolutely delicious. my mom used to make artichokes like this during the summer when i was younger -- they were so good!

Judy said...

Those photos are worth a thousand words each! I agree as well that the stems are a good addition. One of my favorite restaurants features artichokes with dipping sauces that are divine.

Anonymous said...

I can't get all the photos to load. Dag! I want to see the picture of the big heart artichoke and torture myself with the fact that I'll never get one here.

cindy said...

i started my life on an artichoke ranch in "the artichoke capital of the world", castroville, california. i do love artichokes! i miss them, they are really expensive up here in washington!

Anonymous said...

I had the lifetime chance to go to Italy a couple years ago, had an artichoke--stem intact, was way smaller than the one you so elegantly preped and enjoyed, thank goodness, I'd have had no idea how to disect a large one...

Elizabeth said...

Wow, it would never occur to me to take the chokes out before cooking the artichokes! I love the way you savour the heart!

I don't think I've ever seen artichokes that size ever. But I'm very much looking forward to the little artichokes that will be coming soon to our vegetable stores. (I suspect they'll start appearing in May.)


Deborah Dowd said...

I loved your tutorial, but your step by step how to eat, made me really wish I had an artichoke in my fridge.

Swati said...

Amazing photos Susan.. A great learning.. loved seeing you too ...!!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Susan, Beautiful step by step! I could see this in a magazine! Hey some times you just got a get a good grip on those leaves to make sure you scrape every bit off! I've been known to use 2 hands myself!! :)

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Excellent guide! There is nothing like the flavor of a fresh artichoke. (And your photos are gorgeous!)

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

That's some artichoke! As soon as I get my kitchen back, I'm on it...

daphne said...

what great effort. This will benefit many for sure (including myself!).

Anonymous said...

Never knew you could eat the stem too, thanks for the tip!

Anonymous said...

great tutorial. someone came to my blog post on a roasted artichoke and mentioned wishing she read it before she had dinner at a friends house. supposedly she did not know how to eat an artichoke and ended up chewing on the leaves. she kept chewing and just swallowing b/c she wanted to appear gracious. poor lady. their ain't no amount of niceness in this world to make me chew on one of those tough leaves!

great pics.

Anonymous said...

That seems like a lot of work to eat something that's not a steak. Isn't there some Ron Popeil invention that does all that for you? Artichoke in one end and artichoke cubes come out the other?

Deborah said...

Loved this!! I had actually never had a fresh artichoke until my husband introduced them to me. Now we have them all of the time!

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

I love the full set of instructions right down to eat it...or was that just to make me jealous that we don't have those here?

Annie said...

Great step by step instructions- love it. And love artichoke hearts although I have never cooked them this way. I can't wait for your mom's stuffed artichoke recipe!

I have seen this cleaning technique on the food channel a few times, but they also discard some of the other leaves. Is that unnecessary?

Anonymous said...

Ive never eaten an artichoke like that. All the artichokes Ive ever eaten have been in a hot artichoke chip dip!

Anonymous said...

the town near Santa Cruz, CA is one of the producers, isn't it? it's Castroville right? i like artichokes but seldom cook it because no one else like it in my family :(

Tracy said...

Yum yum. One of my favorites.

My mom always did it a simpler way. Do the plucking of the discolored leaves and trimming with kitchen shears. But then she cooked it whole. We ate the outside leaves. Then when we got to the choke part, she just used a spoon to scoop the choke from the heart. Then we ate the heart.

Not as elegant as your instructions but it works for a family meal.

Anonymous said...

hehehe..This is a great tutorial!
I'm always amazed at how many people don't know what to do with artichokes. No more excuses now! :-)

cmoore said...

Yum! That all sounds delicious -- do you think you need to take off most of the leaves? I think that's where I failed last time...I hate feeling like I'm wasting food...

Renee said...

Your tutorial is actually a really great idea. Until very recently I was too intimidated by fresh artichokes to try eating them...and they are amazing! Also, I didn't even know you could eat the stems...learn something new every day!

K Allrich said...

That is one gorgeous artichoke! And fab *how to*. I love trying different sauces for dipping. Thank goddess spring is here!

Elle said...

This is the best rendition of how to cook and eat an artichoke I've ever seen...I especially like your reminder that cooking more is the only thing to do when the 'meat' won't pull off the leaf. I could almost see you chewing and chewing...and nothing happening. Great post and beautiful photos!

Cakelaw said...

Thanks for posting this info Susan - if it's one thing I am scared of and haven't a clue (until now) how to prepare, it's an artichoke.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

katy-Now, you've gotta make them!

judy-I'm so glad you found them helpful. It's much clearer than words.

julie-Come out to CA then!

cinderelly-Then you must be a lucky person, indeed!

c'tina-Apparently like lots of American things, even are artichokes are "super-sized." ;)

ejm-It's a lot of work to do it first, but then it's worth eat when you eat it.

deborah-I have four and would gladly give you one. ;)

swati-Thanks a lot!

marie-Especially when they're from colossal artichokes like the one I made.

TW-I'm so glad you liked them.


daphne-Then my effort was worth it. :)

linda-No problem!

weareneverfull-Oh, no. Unfortunately, that's not the first time I have heard of that.

FatB-Good one. Very good one.

deborah-Good man, your husband.

judy-Nope, I just want to make sure some poor people out there don't try to eat the whole leave (see we are never full's comment above!).

annie-It depends on the recipe, I suppose. But if you're just eating the whole artichoke, then they can remain.

mrs darling-Well, darlin', it's time to make some. :)

eliza-Catroville is the self-proclaimed "Artichoke capital of the world."

Susan from Food Blogga said...

tracy-That's probably a lot easier.

zenchef-And I want everyone to experience the joys of artichoke eating!

cmoore-No, I think just some of the damaged, split outer leaves should be removed and the inedible prickly ones one the inside. Esp. if you're stuffing it, you want to leaves as many leaves intact as possible.

nan-Now, you should feel totally comfortable with them. :)

karina-Great! I'm so glad you found it helpful.

elle-Wow! Many thanks. Yeah, you can chew and tug all you want, but nothin's gonna come off if it isn't cooked thoroughly. :)

cakelaw-Yay! Now you do! :)

Anonymous said...

We have been cooking Globe Chokes in the pressure cooker since 1950. Cuts the cooking time to about 30 minutes. Our stuffing is garlic, salt, oregano touch of basil & drizzled with olive oil. Family recipe from a small town near Naples, Italy.

Pixie said...

Wonderfully photographed and I can never get enough of artichokes.

Susan, I've sent an entry your way for your event-just wanted to let you know in case it got 'lost' somehow!

Lori Lynn said...

Terrific step-by-step.
I like to steam them, then finish on the grill for a smokey flavor.

Anonymous said...

I used to save my allowance money to buy artichokes....I even told my kids they had to be eighteen years old to eat the heart. One day my mother called and scolded me for telling the kids such a rotten lie, I told her she's just mad because she didn't think of it first!

Jaime said...

how fun! i've never cooked an artichoke but my mom would cook them for me when i was a kid. she made artichoke "juice" from the water it was cooked in. we'd eat the artichoke leaves by dipping them in a lemon juice/salt/pepper mixture...

Cookie baker Lynn said...

You have made me really hungry for artichokes! Thanks for the great tips and techniques.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I tried to work with an artichoke once a few years ago for the first time and was baffled. I kept peeling away at the leaves, thinking there would be some clear center. In the end, I think I peeled away the entire artichoke and left myself with nothing, lol. I was not pleased. Perhaps it is time for me to revisit this wiley vegetable...

Jeanne said...

What a beautiful tutorial! Nick and I love artichokes (although I must admit that he's the one who introduced me to them). He, typically male, just chucks them in a pot to boil untrimmed and then eats them pretty much as you pictured, with his hands and a bowl of vinaigrette to dip the leaves in - but they are much nicer if they are trimmed beforehand!

Amy said...

Mmm I love artichoke. Now I'll need to go to Whole Foods and find me a Big Heart one.

kay said...

What a wonderful tutorial! I cook artichokes often but the "stalk" trick was new for me, so thank you very much. The photos are excellent!

Nic said...

I only just saw this post!
Can I say that it's quite brilliant and very informative. We love artichokes!

Anonymous said...

i really think that this explanation is superb. I would definitely cook artichoke now!!!!!

Anonymous said...


Until this morning I didn't know anything about artichokes! They were mystfying in the market and I would always go with canned, I have a quick question arti's freeze well? I was gifted with a case of them and I don't think I can cook them all in one day? Any ideas?



John said...

Very simply put, your the best! Thanks for helping me enjoy artichokes even more than I already did!

ikarla said...

Thank you for this awesomness!!! I have always been scared to try this. And though I've looked up how to clean and prep them before on the internet, your directions are the first that really made it look easy, fun, and not wasteful! Thank you so much. I can't wait to be done with work, so I can go to the store and get one!