How to Clean and Prepare Artichokes to Cook
Ah, artichokes. One of my favorite little treats. Good steamed and dipped in butter or mayonnaise, stuffed and baked, or grilled over an open flame, artichokes are one grocery store luxury you can’t afford not to know how to cook. And even though they’ve been eaten all over the Mediterranean for hundreds of years, I’ve found that a high percentage of people here in the U.S. don’t know what to do with this member of the thistle family. All those petals and spines can be a bit daunting I guess. But if you have a little know how and appreciate playing with your food, preparing artichokes for cooking is an enjoyable task.
Materials Needed for Preparing Artichokes
- Firm, green Globe Artichokes (look for ones that do not have black spots on the petals)
- A sturdy sharp knife, such as a chef’s knife
- Kitchen shears or scissors
- Cutting Board
- Bowl to hold 3 cups of water
- 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (bottled kind is perfect)
- A spoon (the kind you eat with)
Where to Start When Preparing an Artichoke
Look at these things. Where the hell do you even start? And what parts are even worth eating? Well, most is worth eating, all except for the inner fibrous choke, and it is best to work from the bottom to the top.
Start by pulling the lower small petals from the stem. It will vary by artichoke, but typically the first 2 or 3 rows of petals don’t have much flesh on them to eat. If they are small and feel tough, take them off.
Cut the Spines off Artichoke Petals
You will notice that each artichoke petal has a prickly spine on it. These little buggers can stab your fingers, and are definitely not something your dinner guests should have to deal with, unless of course you don’t like your guests. I’m sure that’s not the case, so cut them off with a pair of scissors. Simply lift each petal forward with your fingers and/or scissors, then cut off the top 3/4 of the petal, removing the spine with it. Try to cut straight so that all your petals line up in neat little rows. You will be cutting off the top 1/4 of the artichoke in a minute, so only worry about the petals about 3/4 of the way up.
How to Remove the Artichoke Choke
Now that you have a trimmed artichoke, you need to get into the center to remove the inedible choke. You must do this, as the choke is, well, a choking hazard. (that sounds like a really bad joke)
First, lay the artichoke on its side, then cut off the top 1/4 with a sturdy and sharp knife.
With the top removed, you will see the beautiful purple center. So pretty, so nice, so going in the garbage!
Remove those pretty purple petals with a spoon. Just run your spoon down the outer sides of them, scraping the bottoms as you go, and pop them out. You’ll need to get a firm grip on the artichoke as you do this. Aren’t you glad you cut off those spines?
Now for the most important part; the choke removal.
With the purple petals removed, you will see what looks like a bunch of white hair inside the artichoke. These “hairs” are the choke, and, if not removed, could lodge themselves in someones throat. So out they must go. Just use your spoon and scrape them out. But be careful when you do this that you do not scrape too deeply. Directly under the choke “hairs” is the artichoke heart, the meaty tender center that everyone loves. My first time diving into an artichoke, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing and ended up scraping out all of the heart! What a waste. See that you don’t do the same. Just scrape the “hairs” out until you get down to an odd looking porous flesh. That porous flesh is the heart.
Rub Lemon Juice on Artichoke to Preserve Color
Similar to avocados, artichokes turn a nasty blackish-green when cut and exposed to the air. This color change doesn’t effect the taste any, but it does make for a less appetizing appearance. To prevent this color change, simply apply some citric acid to the cut/scraped parts of the artichoke. I found it is best to do this by placing lemon juice and water in a bowl and immersing your cleaned artichoke directly into it.
Lemon juice to water ratio = 1 teaspoon per cup water
So, 3 cups of water and 1 tablespoon or so of lemon juice makes a happy little bath for your artichokes. You’ll need to scoop up some water into the artichoke cavity and swish it around, otherwise, the acid probably won’t touch your hearts and they will turn black.
I also like to trim the stems up a bit so that their ends are green from the lemon juice too.
Your Cleaned Artichoke is Ready to Cook
Congratulations! See, it only looked scary. With your prepped and cleaned artichokes, you are ready to enter a world of deliciousness. You can now cook them in many wonderful ways. Here’s a few ideas:
- Fill them with a stuffing of bread crumbs, pine nuts, and cheese and bake them at 350° for about 40 minutes
- Cut them in half, drizzle with olive oil, shallots, salt and pepper, and bake them at 400° for about 20 minutes
- Steam them whole for 20 minutes, then serve with melted butter (garlic is optional) or mayonnaise
- Cut them in half and cook them on the grill
There’s a world of artichoke deliciousness for you to enjoy. Happy eating!
The Bald Gourmet teaches how to clean and prepare artichokes, with easy to follow picture directions.
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