Technique Tuesday: How to Clean Leeks


[caption id="attachment_3026" align="aligncenter" width="640"]http://www.pitchforkdiaries.com/2011/10/18/technique-tues…o-clean-a-leek/ http://www.pitchforkdiaries.com/2011/10/18/technique-tues…o-clean-a-leek/[/caption]

Giant Musselburgh leeks from our garden.

Though the few nights of just dipping down to a frost have demolished most of the delicate summer produce in our gardens, this time of year signals that our leeks are starting to reach their sweetest.

Cousins of the onion, leeks too are many-layered, and because almost half of the plant grows underground, they have practically spoonfuls of dirt trapped in said layers.  Cleaning them, to avoid an off-putting little bite of grit in your meal, is critical and a bit of a trick.  However, it is also super simple and well worth the time for the reward of this gorgeous flavor-bomb available long into the winter.


For cooking, generally you are just going to use the white part up to the light green part of the leek.  The very darkest green section is typically too tough and aggressive to be used in a dish, but is an outstanding addition to homemade stock.  Collect them in a freezer bag to have on hand the next time you start a stock pot.

You can simply cut the leek off at the top of the light green section, but the edible portion actually comes to a point inside the darker green section, so there will be some useable leek you'll be discarding.  Instead, with a well-sharpened chef's knife, slice the leek at an angle, like you are sharpening the end of a stick, to reveal the inner usable portion.

Slice off the root end, just barely, so the layers are still held together.

Cut the leek in quarters, lengthwise, but not all the way through the root end, so it is all still attached.

Rinse thoroughly under running water, making sure to get into each of the layers.

Alternatively, after cutting off the roots, you can slice the leek in half lengthwise, all the way through, and then slice in the thickness desired.

Then scoop up all the slices and add to a large bowl of water.  Agitate the leeks with your hand to separate the layers and dislodge any dirt.  Allow the bowl to sit undisturbed for several minutes, for the dirt to settle to the bottom.

Very gently, disturbing the water as little as possible, skim the leek slices off the surface of the water, leaving the dirt behind.  Repeat one or two more times, with fresh water, until no dirt remains.

2 responses to “Technique Tuesday: How to Clean Leeks”

  1. Ana Sofia says:

    I’ve had a bag of them waiting to be used for days. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Love this technique. We use leeks a lot but I always dread the cleaning. Thanks!

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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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