How to Clean Leeks: A Step-by-Step Guide

Leeks are grown in sandy soil, so they need a good cleaning before you use them in recipes.

June 05, 2024

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How to Clean Leeks
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Leeks are a member of the onion family with delicate, sweet onion flavor. They're an absolute treat no matter how you cook them, but if you don't wash them well enough, gritty dirt will crunch between your teeth and your dish will be ruined. Because leeks have so many layers, it can be confusing to figure out how to wash them. We lay it out below.

Method #1: Clean the Leeks Before Cutting Them

This technique is ideal for when you want to preserve the long shape of leeks and keep all of their layers neatly nested.

Step 1: Trim the Roots

Although they have their own unique flavor, leeks are a lot like onions or scallions in that they have many layers and an inedible root end. First, slice off and discard the root end.

Step 2: Slice Off the Dark Green Tops

Slice off the dark green tops of the leeks, which you typically won't use for cooking. But here's a secret: you can toss them into stocks instead of onions. Stash them in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer for later. Here's another secret: Food Network staffers have discovered that you can saute the dark green tops if you slice them very, very thinly. Slicing them thinly breaks up their fibrous texture. If you throw them in a pan with hot oil, they become beautifully crispy and are fantastic for tossing into grains, salads and more.

Step 3: Cut Into Sections

Cut the light green and white portion of the leeks into sections about 4 inches long. Portioning the leeks in this manner makes them easier to wash.

Step 4: Cut In Half

Slice the leeks sections in half lengthwise.

Step 5: Rinse

Fill a baking dish or bowl with water and add the halved leek sections. A baking dish works well because it's flat. The leeks will float and the dirt will fall to the bottom. Check the layers for any hidden dirt.

Step 6: Slice the Clean Leeks

Slice the leeks according to the recipe.

Method #2: Clean the Leeks After You Cut Them

You can also clean the leeks after you cut them, a perfect technique for when you're going to slice up the leeks anyway. Simply slice or dice the leeks, add them to a bowl of water, swish them around vigorously so dirt falls away and left them out with a slotted spoon onto paper towels to drain. Or, add them to the bowl of a salad spinner and swish them around, then spin them dry.

Store the Leeks and Cook with the Leeks

Tip: You can store leeks in a damp paper towel in the fridge for two or three days. Now they're ready to add their subtle flavor to your braise, saute or roast.

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