How to Steam an Artichoke

It's no surprise to learn that artichokes are a member of the thistle family - just touch the end of a leaf and you'll make the connection (literally!). Because they are a little challenging to manage, they can be intimidating to cook, but here's a lesson on how to steam an artichoke easily.

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The globe artichoke may be available in your grocery markets year round, but its peak season is March through May so it’s best enjoyed in the spring. When you’re choosing your artichoke, pick it up and look for one that is heavy, medium-sized and one whose leaves squeak a little when you squeeze it. Avoid artichokes that have leaves that are browning or splitting. Once you have it home, you can store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for us to 5 days before preparing it.

As you handle an artichoke, snipping the pointing stems and peeling the base, it releases a bitter fluid that may turn your hands black and give them a funny taste that will transfer to other foods you touch. To avoid this, rub your hands and the exposed artichoke with lemon juice and drop any already prepared artichokes into a bowl of lemon water to help stop them from oxidizing and turning black as well.

There are several ways you can prepare an artichoke – in the microwave (cut it in half, place it in a microwave dish, squeeze lemon juice on top, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 15 to 18 minutes until soft), or in the oven (season with salt and olive oil or butter, wrap it in foil and bake it at 425ºF for 60 to 75 minutes), but the most common method of preparation is steaming it on the stovetop. Here’s how: 

Stovetop Method

  1. Prepare the artichokes by rinsing them well. Then, cut off the top inch of the artichoke and snip the thistle-y leaf tips. Cut off the stem to create a flat base (if you want the artichoke to sit up on a plate) or trim just the rough brown end.
  2. Place a rack in a large stockpot and rest the artichokes on top of the rack. Squeeze the lemon juice all over the artichokes and drop the squeezed halves into the pot around the artichokes along with the fresh thyme sprigs. Add water to the pot and cover with a lid. Turn the heat to high and steam the artichokes for roughly 30 to 40 minutes, depending on their size until the artichoke is tender to a knifepoint in its base.
  3. Before you transfer the artichokes to a serving dish, invert them over the stockpot to allow any hot water to escape from between the leaves. 

Artichokes are classically served with Hollandaise sauce, butter, aioli or a vinaigrette. You pull each leaf off the artichoke and dip it before scraping the flesh away from the leaf with your teeth. Eating an artichoke can be fun and takes some time, but it’s when you get down to the heart that you reach the best part!


Quick Notes:

  • An artichoke is an un-blossomed flour bud of the thistle family! 
  • Globe artichoke (true artichoke) is available year-round, but peak season is March through May.
  • How to buy: firm, heavy, medium-sized; squeeze and listen for the squeak. Avoid split leaves or browning.
  • Store for up to 5 days in refrigerator in a plastic bag.
  • Cooking Methods:
    • Microwave: cut it in half, place it in a microwave dish, squeeze lemon juice on top, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 15 to 18 minutes until soft
    • Oven: season with salt and olive oil or butter, wrap it in foil and bake it at 425ºF for 60 to 75 minutes
    • Stovetop: steam on a rack in a stockpot, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes

Steamed Artichokes

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