How to Prep an Artichoke
Leave the stem on? Trim off all the pointy ends? Rub with a lemon? Here's the lowdown on what's necessary and what's not.
There's conflicting advice on how to prep an artichoke. Some recipes call for removing the entire stem, while others advise trimming a frugal sliver from the end and peeling the rest. Almost all recipes have you lop some leaves off the top of the artichoke to make the vegetable more attractive. They also recommend removing the pointy ends (which botanists refer to as “spines”) from the remaining leaves and then rubbing every cut surface with a halved lemon to prevent the artichoke from discoloring.
After testing the various recommendations, we came to our own conclusions:
Since the stem is often unpleasantly fibrous, we don't try to preserve it; instead, we cut it flush with the bottom of the vegetable. (Note: Use a serrated knife; it works better than a chef's knife.)
While we do like trimming the top of the artichoke, since it makes it easier to handle, we don't bother trimming the rest of the leaves, as their pointy ends soften to harmlessness as the artichokes cook.
As for the lemon rubdown, artichokes turn a drab olive green during cooking whether exposed to lemon or not, so we also dispensed with this advice.
Finally, we snap off the tiniest leaves around the stems, which yield little meat and only get in the way when you're trying to eat.