Kitchen Basics: Leeks

November 5, 2012

In her biweekly column, Kitchen Basics, Susan Pachikara of Cardamom Kitchen demystifies essential cooking skills with step-by-step instructions and her own handsome photos. Whether she's showing us how much brown sugar we're meant to "pack"(or is it cram?) into measuring cups or how to detect when our onions are properly caramelized, Susan is the nonna we never had -- until now. Now, go on and get cozy under her wing.

This week, Susan demonstrates how to slice and wash leeks.

cut leeks

- Susan

It's at this time of year when I fret over the disappearance of my most cherished summer staples: sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, and okra. It’s not until I catch sight of a stack of lanky leeks that I realize that my cup is really half full. Subtle and refined, leeks are a mellow member of the onion family. Sautéed, baked, or roasted, they provide a delicate aromatic undertow wherever they go.

How to Select and Store Leeks

Select leeks that are firm and straight with tight-fitted green-tipped leaves. Although bigger often seems better, large leeks tend to be fibrous, so opt for those that have a circumference of 1 1/2 inches or less. Store leeks for up to a week in the refrigerator loosely wrapped in paper towels. Trim and wash them just before cooking. 

How to Slice and Wash Leeks

Like many members of the onion family, leeks have tight-fitted layers. Dirt and grit often settle into their folds, so it’s important to wash leeks thoroughly before using them.

Fill a large bowl with water. Cut off the green tops, which are tough and unyielding. Compost them or save them for stock.


Cut off the root end. 


Slice the stalk in half lengthwise. 

cut leeks

cut lengthwise leeks

One at a time, place each half of the stalk on a cutting board with the cut side down and thinly slice it widthwise into half moons.

slice leeks

sliced leeks 

Place the sliced leeks in the bowl of water and swish them around to help remove any dirt. 

wash leeks in bowl

After a few minutes, carefully lift the pieces out of the water without disturbing the dirt that sunk to the bottom of the bowl. 

Wrap the sliced leeks in a clean kitchen towel and press and scrunch gently to dry. 

potato leek soup
A bowl of potato-leek soup

I’d love to see your tips for washing and prepping leeks! Share them with your fellow cooks in the comments section below.

Are you new to cooking? Tell me what skills you'd like to learn and your idea could be featured in an upcoming post!

Photos by Susan Pachikara.

Want more basic tips from Susan? Check out her previous post: Kitchen Basics: Brown Butter.

Susan writes the blog Cardamom Kitchen to share her culinary experiences as an Indian-American rooted in the Midwest. 

susan cardamom kitchen

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