How to Trim an Artichoke

Sometimes you want to get right to the heart of the matter, in this case the heart of the glorious fresh artichokes that arrive each spring. Here’s how to trim an artichoke to get that heart, which you can use for all sorts of recipes, such as oil-poached artichoke salad or sautéed artichoke hearts. You don’t have to discard the leaves. You can cook them, steam them as you would a whole artichoke.

How to Trim an Artichoke

You'll need a sharp paring knife, a large empty bowl for leaves, and a large bowl filled two-thirds with ice water.

Ingredients

  • Artichokes
  • A fresh lemon cut in half

Method

If you are trimming more than one artichoke, squeeze half a lemon into a large bowl of ice water. You will be dropping trimmed artichokes into this bowl to keep them from browning while you work others.

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Start by snapping off the artichoke leaves and tossing them into a large empty bowl. When you get to the yellow leaves, just pull them off. Wipe the exposed surface with the other half of the lemon you cut.

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Take care when you get to the pink center of the artichoke leaves. There are sharp spines on the end of the inner leaves. Pull them out. Take a paring knife and dig out the fuzzy choke. You will want to slice off the narrowest layer of the heart to get all of the choke without cutting away too much of the delicious heart.

A note on this whole process. Don’t do it if there are distractions. You need to focus. You will be using a sharp knife close to your hands. Since artichokes are tough when raw, you can easily cut yourself if you take your eye off what you are doing.

Once the choke is out, smear the cut lemon all over the exposed heart: This prevents it from oxidizing and turning brown. An artichoke is still perfectly edible when oxidized, it just is not particularly attractive.

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Slice off all but the last inch or so of the stem. Rub lemon juice on the cut end.

Trim the hard green exterior of the rest of the heart. Cut away from you as you rotate the artichoke, slicing off just the hard green part and leaving the light green underneath. Rub this with lemon.

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To finish, slice the outside layer off the stem and then coat the whole hear one more time with lemon. Drop into the lemon-water bath and go on to the next one.

Here's a tip: as your cut lemon gets used up, put it in the water bath, which will help keep the bath’s citric acid content high, and help keep the artichokes from browning.

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10 Comments

  1. Meghann

    I am always amazed at how odd our food can look before it is chopped and cooked to perfection. Can you imagine being the first person to ever see an artichoke and say, “Hmmm, I wonder how that would tase?” Or Kohlrabi! They look like little alien ships! I am so thankful someone thought to eat them, they are delicious and never cease to be fascinating!

  2. Liza (Jersey Cook)

    I always feel so wasteful getting rid of all those leaves just to get to the hearts. Is it possible to cook the leaves once they’re removed from the whole choke?

    I usually just cut off the top third and the bottom of the stem, boil the chokes, eat the leaves, and then clumsily dig out the heart. There must be an easier way :)

    Yes of course. I save the leaves, and then steam them, and eat them as I would as if I were eating them right off the artichoke. You can also cook the leaves and put them through a food mill to make a purée for an artichoke soup. ~Elise

  3. Playin_d_fiddle

    I just steamed a couple of lovely artichokes the other night (and have 3 more in the veggie bin waiting!)! I like to steam them whole and work my way to the heart, it feels like a wonderfully tasty prize after working so hard to eat my way there! Herbed butter or mayonnaise = my favorite side-helpers. Heart heart heart artichokes!

  4. Danica

    Great tutorial ~ I have always wondered how to actually trim an artichoke…I sorta just wing it usually…now I can do it the right way :)

    Thanks!

  5. Elana

    Is that a Shun knife by chance? Thanks for the tips. I am trying them tonight after work!

    It is. It’s probably too sharp for this purpose, those knives are crazy sharp and you have to be extra careful with them. ~Elise

  6. Roberta Wennik

    Great lessons in trimming an artichoke. I”m glad to see that you recommend cooking up the whole leaves to just enjoy for another meal. It truly would be wasteful to throw them away. In fact, I’m often astonished when I see chefs cutting about 1/3 of the tops off of artichokes. While the little thorns on the top of each leaf can be nasty prickers, you could just snip off those thorns with a pair of kitchen shears. Many artichoke leaves can be scraped off with your teeth almost all the way to the top of the leaf. So why throw so much potential eating away?

    One of the challenges of cooking whole artichokes is how long it takes for them to cook. So I tried doing them in a pressure cooker last night and had great success. Every leaf was tender. I did them in the steamer basket. The only downside is the flavor was more bland than when I cook them in water with lemon juice and herbs. It just means the dipping sauce needs to provide the flavors.

    Love cooking artichokes in a pressure cooker. So much faster! ~Elise

  7. Eric

    I haven’t seen anyone mention this on any tutorial but I microwave them and they turn out perfect. I have a microwave.. believe it or not.. 27 years old, but seems to be more high tech then modern ones I see. Settings for literally everything. Way ahead of its time. I just put the artichoke in a bowl with a little water on the bottom. Cover with shrink wrap.. poke some holes on top.. then set the microwave on the vegetable setting.. on low power.. and microwave figures out how long it takes until perfect. Amazing.. and only takes about 4-5 minutes. Has worked perfect all these years! I’ve never actually made it by steaming in a pot or pressure cooker so that’s new to me! I have done it on the stove top on pan with chicken broth and some stuff.. and had them cut in half and it worked out okay following a recipe in the paper month back. Next I’m going to try it on the bbq grill.

  8. Shio W.

    I am totally new at this when it comes to artichokes……. I read and understood all you wrote on how to get to the heart & edible parts when raw, but is it ready to eat then and there, or do you still have to steam/boil it before you can eat it?? Please help!

    I would look at How to cook and eat an artichoke. I prefer to eat artichoke hearts cooked. ~Elise

  9. Tony

    I trim off the top 1/2inch of gathering leaves and part of the stem. Stuff them with admixture of breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, Carlie powder, parsley flakes, oregano, salt &peper, lemon, oil and vinaigrette and steam for several hours. Great. The very solid artichokes have less meat on the leaves than the less compact articohokes.

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