Steaming brings out the nutty flavor and light sweetness buried deep in each artichoke thistle. It's also the classic way to cook them so that the leaves can be plucked from the heart, have the bit of edible flesh at their ends scraped off, and tossed aside for another. Repeat until just the heart is left and then dig in.
Whether you use the stove-top method or a microwave, start by trimming the artichokes: at minimum cut off and discard the end of the stem end; you can also trim off the thorns, if there are any, from the leaves for easier, less prickly eating.
How to Steam Artichokes on a Stove-Top
The true boiling water and moisture maintained by steaming artichokes on the stove-top more than makes up for the extra time it takes, in my opinion.
- Bring about 1/2 inch water to a boil in a pan deep enough to hold the artichoke(s) standing up.
- Add a teaspoon or two of salt (the artichoke will just be sitting it in, not submerged).
- Set the artichokes in the salted boiling water, cover the pan, reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer, and cook 20 minutes.
- Check for done-ness: pull a leaf from close to the center of the thistle. If the leaf comes out easily, the artichokes are done; if there is resistance, continue cooking, checking for done-ness every 5 minutes. Depending on artichoke size, this can take up to a total of 40 minutes.
How to Steam Artichokes in a Microwave
Steaming artichokes in the microwave is much quicker than on a stove-top, of course. The slightly drier nature of the method, however, requires the very freshest of chokes to avoid a tough texture when you go to dig in.
- Put trimmed artichokes in a microwave-proof dish. Add about 1/4 inch of water to the dish and cover with a microwave-proof lid.
- Microwave on High for 4 minutes. Check for done-ness (see above). If they're not done, continue microwaving for a minute at a time until done.
What to Do Once the Artichokes Are Steamed
Transfer the artichokes from the pot to a platter or serving plates to cool a bit.
If you don't want to serve them warm, feel free to move the cooling process along with a trip under some cool running water. Or get them down to chilled temperature by dunking them into a large bowl of ice water, adding more ice as needed to keep the water nice and cold.
Steamed and cooled artichokes will keep, covered and chilled, for a day or two if you want to make them ahead.
Artichokes can be served whole, so diners can tackle the fuzzy chokes on their own. For easier eating, cut the artichokes in half and scoop out the fuzzy chokes protecting the heart at the bottom before serving.