How to Prep a Leek

The first time I ever cooked with a leek was when I was making a potato/leek soup, years ago.  The instructions told you to “prep the leeks”.  Huh?  I thought a leek was like a massive spring onion.  I don’t need to prep a spring onion.  Why I gotta prep a leek?

So I didn’t.  I cut the end with the roots off and started slicing.  I sliced the whole sucker up, all the  way to the tips.  Then I noticed a tiny bit of dirt on one of the slices. Then more dirt, then a part of a leaf.  I wiped the bit of dirt I could see off and started sauteing away.  What resulted was a dirt filled pan with some partly cooked bitter leeks that not even a blender could pulverize.

I shouldda prepped my leeks.  Problem is, I didn’t know what prepping a leek was.  I’d never cooked with them before so how would I know??  The same way I don’t cook with mushrooms (blech) so I have no idea how to prep them.  (kay … I’ll give you Portabellas, Portabella mushrooms are pretty good)

So … I have for you today,

 

Title

 

The leek really is similar to a massive green onion (scallion, spring onion).  It has a bit of a different flavour and definitely isn’t as strong as an onion or green onion.  I know this because when I slice a leek my mascara only cries down to my nostrils as opposed to when I chop onions and I have mascara dripping off my chin.

Leeks 1

 

To prep it, the first thing you do is slice it down the centre.

If you’re like me, you’ll think perfect!  The leek is prepped!  It’s not.

Leek 2

 

Because, on further inspection, the leek is filled with dirt.  And yes, those are even cedar leaves. (I looked it up … the green part of the cedar are really called leaves)

Leek 3

 

So the second part of prepping a leek is to wash it under water.  Not just rinse … wash.  No, not with soap.  Just water.  Let the water run in between all of the layers of the leek.  They’re filled with dirt!  Dirty old leeks.

Jpeg 4

 

Good.  Now your leek is almost prepped.  You’re doing an excellent job.  Your mother would be proud.

Leek 5

 

Now all you have to do is work your way down the dark green, woody part of the leaves and cut them off.  You want to be left with the white and light green portion of the leeks.  The dark green stuff is chewy, tough and bitter when you cook it.  If that’s your thing, go nuts … chow down on the grossness of the dark green leek.  But we can’t be friends anymore and I’m definitely not coming for dinner.

Leek 6

 

Almost all recipes for leeks call for you to slice them thinly, like so.  You’re done.  You’ve prepped a leek.  Which is a good thing … ’cause you’re gonna need to know how to do this for a recipe I’m putting up next week.

Leek 7

 

In closing, when a recipe suggests you do something … you should probably do it.  Unless it tells you to add mushrooms.  In which case you should ignore it entirely.

 


41 Comments

  1. Aimee says:

    No, see, you’re confusing mushrooms with bell peppers. You ADD mushrooms to every savory recipe lacking them and IGNORE any calls for grody bell peppers. Don’t feel too badly, it’s an easy mistake to make. 🙂

  2. Sandy says:

    Okay, I’m with Aimee about the mushrooms but I love bell peppers…except the green ones. Gross.

    Karen, I wish I’d had your prep tip before I ruined my first leek dish last year. lol

  3. Marti says:

    I prepped a leek once. Did it wrong. Decided I didn’t ever need to buy/use leeks again. Better be a spectacular recipe or I’ll be re-reading the fire broth and sausage recipe. 😉

  4. I have always avoided leeks because I was to silly to find out how to prep and cook them. This was info I wanted and needed to know, but never investigated on my own. Thanks Karen.

  5. Catherine says:

    you can also thinly slice the leek *before* you rinse it (in a colander, or soak them in a bowl and then drain) to make it easier to get all of the dirt out. it’s often easier to rinse them fully when they’re already in small pieces and there’s nowhere for the dirt to hide 🙂

  6. jo says:

    If you cut the dark green parts off first you have less to wash. I also cut the roots off before I wash them so I can wash all the way down to the bottom – but this does mean the leaves can come apart.

    Wish you did like mushrooms. I am never quite sure how to prep them – wash or just wipe?

  7. Lori says:

    Lol.
    I have not tried cooking with a leek but am going to try to in the near future. Thanks for the heads up on how to prep a leek

    I think I know what you might be cooking up next week. Ssshh I won’t say a word.

  8. Doug says:

    This is great. I love your writing. You’ve inspired me to commit to making whatever recipe you put up next week.

  9. Just last week I was in the health food store eyeing the leeks. They were beautiful. I’d just read a recipe for leek stuffed something or other. I wanted to buy them, but I knew I didn’t know how to CLEAN them. And now I do! Thank you!

  10. Ira says:

    I’m not trying to be difficult here, but why not first cut the parts you don’t need and THEN wash the rest?

    • Karen says:

      Ira – You can slice and wash in a collander if you like, makes no difference. I prefer to do it this way. You can do it that way. It’s not washing the dark green portion of the leaves is a big time suck or anything. No big whoop. ~ karen!

  11. Eleni says:

    Ooopsss…that explains why the baby leeks I had two days ago were crunchy! Never thought to slice them lengthwise before washing them!

    On another note…I’m sorry you don’t like mushrooms 🙁

  12. Tris says:

    Mushrooms are called “squigglies” in our house because that is how they feel on your teeth when you chew into them. Ish! No squigglies in my food!

  13. Sharon says:

    Wow. Offhand, I can’t think of anything I don’t like to eat. Mushrooms are delicacies. Green peppers add just the right flavor to so many dishes. And both are good raw or cooked. Do I need counseling?

  14. Sara Beth says:

    Seriously so helpful. I did not know this. Thank you!

    (That looks really sarcastic when I re-read it, but trust me there is not an ounce of sarcasm there.)

  15. Judith says:

    Thanks for solving the mystery Karen. I sorta kinda knew how to prep a leek. Now I can go at it with confidence!

  16. hunter says:

    Mushrooms are ONLY acceptable if they are all but pulverized. Chopped into about 1/8 of an inch pieces. Even then, they should be regarded with suspicion.

    What is AWESOME however, is mushroom powder (no, not THAT kind of mushroom). You can find powdered mushrooms at some fancy food stores. They’re great for putting into dark soups or into gravy. They add something yummy with absolutely no disgusting mushroom smell or texture.

    Neat stuff to have on hand.

    • Amie says:

      Yes! Pulverize them! I am generally anti-mushroom, but I do like a well-pulverized mushroom soup. I even made some last week, much to the shock of my husband (“the man who will eat any hideous, squicky mushroom”)

  17. devin says:

    I call green onions shallots. I think it might be a Montreal thing. Also, my favourite soup as a kid was what my mom called *leak soup*. I only found out recently that it was actually carrot/leak soup. And to this day my initial thought when I see a leak is: that’s not a leak… leaks are orange.

    • Karen says:

      Devin – That must be a Montreal thing! Shallots are actually this, although I noticed they called green onions, “shallots” on Masterchef Australia. ~ karen!

      • devin says:

        Thanks for the clarification! That explaines why the *shallots* seemed out of place in the rosemary/sole recipe I made a few weeks ago!

  18. Lisa says:

    Wow, I feel right at home. I hate green bell peppers with a passion. I can even smell them in the house if someone cuts them up! But I like green poblano peppers, and jalapenos, etc. Go figure.

    This article reminds me to go get the leeks out of my garden. Thank you!

  19. Erin says:

    Timely info as usual Karen. I’m off to dig leeks and carrots from the garden next. I usually use the colander method, but I’m game for something new. The leeks are so pleasing when sliced lengthwise.

  20. AnnW says:

    I didn’t even read the post, but looked at the pictures and now I think I can do it. You should be in TV -ha ha. This looks like a story board. What else can you teach us to do? How about crocheting? Ann

  21. Andrea says:

    And the silly thing is, I am admiring your cutting board while reading this VERY informative post.
    YAY now I know what to do with leeks!!!

    • Karen says:

      Andrea! That cutting board is from one of my sponsors. Brenda from Cattails Studio (who gave away the beautiful rolling pin) sells them on her site. Click on the Cattails Studio box on the right side bar to see all she has. I *love* that cutting board too. ~ karen

  22. Lindey R. says:

    Karen, I have to wear swimming goggles when I chop onions or I “cry” so much I could accidentally chop a hand off. It is a handy little trick, and has seriously changed by life, and makes my husband laugh every time he sees me do it.

  23. ev says:

    Yes, definitely leave out the mushrooms! And almost all of the green peppers, too!

  24. Chuck says:

    Karen:

    Thanks for the info. Nothing is easier to grow in your garden than leeks, except maybe garlic. Once the leeks are established, mulch them with straw; pile it up high. As the plants grow, pile on more straw. Result, leeks with 20 inch white stems and virtually no dirt. Leeks have dirt in the leaves because commercial growers mound dirt up to create the white stem.

    I am still harvesting leeks even after several freezes.

    Chuck

  25. Jess says:

    Great post! I didn’t know how to prep a leek for a long time till I saw it once from a tv chef. You can also just cut the ends off and slice it up. Slice it up in rings and break apart. Put it in a large bowl of water and let the dirt fall to the bottom while prepping the rest of your recipe. Just scoop them out with a slotted spoon. :)Thanks for the pics!

  26. Alisha says:

    I recommend using the hard crunchy bitter green pieces of your leek in homemade vegetable stock! If you’re a menu planner like me you can prep all your veggies for your meals a couple days in advance and use all the ends and pieces in a big stock pot with water and spices to make homemade stock – freezable and healthier than that chemical stuff people buy at the grocery store.

  27. Chrissy says:

    This is the best LEEK PREP tutorial out there!! Thanks for lowering the SCARY LEEK bar, Karen. I’ve never purchased a leek because I didn’t know what the heck to do with it, even though I’ve always wanted to try my hand at a delicious leek soup. You’ve inspired me to “go, where no family member has gone before”!

  28. Jeff says:

    I may be going out on a limb here, but I get the sense that you don’t like mushrooms?!… Great explanation on how to prep leeks, now I know how 🙂

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