Relax, It's Just an Artichoke

Whether you're serving them hot or at room temperature, here's how to prepare artichokes for eating whole.
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How to Trim, Steam & Serve

There is more than one way to cook an artichoke. Some recipes require removing all the leaves and paring down to the core, or heart, before use. Cooking it whole is a more basic and accessible method that requires less extreme trimming. Here we'll show you how to prepare and steam whole artichokes.

Photography by Laura Agra

Get the Recipe: Steamed Artichokes with Harissa Mayonnaise Dipping Sauce

Trimming the Top

Start by holding the artichoke firmly on its side, with your hand covering the stem end; slice off the top 1/2 inch or so.

Preventing Browning

Raw artichokes oxidize, or brown, very quickly. To prevent this, rub a lemon half against the cut surface.

Trimming the Base

Cut off the artichoke stem close to the base to allow it to sit upright. Remove the smaller tough leaves around the base, and rinse the artichoke under cool running water, separating the leaves as you do this.

Trimming the Leaves

It's not necessary, but to add some polish to your presentation, use kitchen shears to cut the tips off the leaves. This not only makes the artichoke look more manicured, but also removes the tiny sharp thorns at the tip of each leaf. Again, rub the cut edges with lemon if desired. 

Seasoning the Cooking Water

Fill a pot large enough to hold the artichokes in a single layer (they can be touching) with about 2 inches of water; season well with salt. You can also flavor the artichokes further by adding aromatics to the cooking liquid. These might include wine or broth in place of some of the water, as well as peppercorns, fresh or dried herbs such as thyme, rosemary, parsley or bay leaves, and slices of lemon.

Steaming the Artichokes

You can use a steaming basket, or just put the artichokes into the water, cut-side up or down (they can be squished a bit). Cover the pot, bring the water to a simmer over high heat, then lower the heat and continue to simmer the artichokes for 25 to 40 minutes, or until a knife slides easily into the stem end or a leaf pulled from the artichoke comes out easily. The time really depends on the size of the artichokes, which can range from 3 to 6 inches (baby artichokes, which are even smaller, will steam in 15 to 20 minutes).

Serving the Artichokes

Serve the artichokes hot, warm or cold and sitting on their stem ends. There are some pretty artichoke plates intended just for this purpose, with a little well in the middle to hold the artichoke and a surrounding circle for the leaves to be discarded. Serve the artichokes with melted butter mixed with some lemon juice, mayonnaise (flavored or plain) or another dipping sauce.

Eating the Artichokes

To eat an artichoke, pull off each leaf, then place the part that was attached to the heart between your teeth and pull it out, scraping the tender bottom of the artichoke off into your mouth. 

Getting to the Heart of It

When all of the leaves have been removed and eaten, you will be left with the heart and the choke. Use a butter knife or a spoon to scrape off the bristly hairs, and discard. Now you're left with the artichoke heart, the very best part. This entire part can be eaten, though there might be a bit of tough outer stem left at the bottom that you’ll want to cut away. Slice it, dip it, and eat it — you deserve it!

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