How to tell when Artichokes are done

How to know when artichokes are done

My Facebook friend Anna asks:

How long should you boil artichokes? Mine always seen to come out either under-done or mushy. How can you tell when they’re just right? Thanks Chef!

My response:

Hey Anna, thank YOU for the questions! Everyone at my house are total artichoke fiends, lol, so I cook tons of ’em!

While there are a lot of ways to prepare these beauties, boiling fresh artichokes is one of the original and classic methods, and how most restaurants still do it today.


Make sure to pick ripe ones. California artichokes (buy American!) are available all year, but peak season is March through May and again in October. You want them to feel more like a softball than a baseball when you give ’em a squeeze. 

You can also hold the artichoke next to your ear, and squeeze its leaves with your fingers. If you hear a squeak, the artichoke is extremely fresh, and a good one to buy.

Artichokes should feel disproportionately heavy for their size. This indicates that they still have plenty of natural moisture and will be packed with flavor.

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Avoid any that have a lot of dark spots, dried/cracked leaves, or if the stem feels mushy or isn’t nice and green. Never store your artichokes in the fridge, or in a plastic bag, both will hasten spoilage. Some will disagree on the fridge thing, but my rule of thumb, after many years of professional cooking, is, if it ain’t refrigerated in the store, I don’t refrigerate it at home.

And I have to say it…my Dad, regardless of what restaurant he was working in, or how far in the weeds, always shouted, “You might’a choked Artie, but you ain’t gonna choke me!” whenever he dropped them in the pot. I do the same. Call it good mojo.


Here’s how I do it

    • Trim a quarter-inch off the end of the stem. You can chop off the top, or trim the individual leaves, as well, but I usually don’t go to the trouble.
    • Wash the artichoke just before cooking. Any earlier, and the excess moisture can increase spoilage.
    • In a pot large enough to hold all of the artichokes you’re planning to cook (you want them to have a little room, so don’t over-stuff the pot) bring salted water to a boil. You want enough water in there for the ‘chokes to float freely.

  • Cook on a high simmer, covered, for 30 minutes (medium-size) or 45 minutes for the really big ones.

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How to tell when artichokes are done

How to know when they’re done: The “Artichoke Poke Test”

You can tell that they’re done when the point a sharp knife goes into the artichoke base with very little resistance.

If it feels like you’re poking a hot baked potato, you’re good to go.

I let my artichokes cool for 15 to 20 minutes (out of the water). When they’re still hot, but you can hold them in your palm for five seconds, you’re ready to eat!

Serve with lemon-butter, garlic-butter, or (like we do) with a big dollop of good old-fashioned Best Foods Mayo and black pepper. Dad liked them in the classic French style with hollandaise.

Artichokes with pepper mayo

Whatever you choose to dip them in…mmmmm….

Keep Cookin!

Chef Perry

Frugal Fine Cooking Home Chef
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