Dirt is a problem with leeks. It doesn't just get on leeks, such that it can be
washed off with a quick rub and rinse. It gets embedded, deepinside leeks, wedged
maddeningly between a leek’s many rings. But with a few pointers, you’ll find cleaning
leeks isn't such a problem.
There are three main washing methods for leeks:
Method 1: Separating and Rubbing Wash leek halves directly under faucet, preferably
in spray mode. Point the leek down, so the water washes the dirt out the "open"
top, rather then into the tight-knit bottom. Use one hand to gently fan open the
layers; use other hand to rub out any dirt that doesn't get flushed out by the running
water, focusing special attention on the “dirt band.”
Method 2: Swishing Leeks cut in narrower lengths are flexible enough to be cleaned
by swishing in a large container of water. If you have time, allow them to soak
a few minutes first to soften and loosen any dirt. Give them a final rinse under
running water, too, being sure to fan open the layers and rub out any stubborn dirt
pieces as directed in Method 1.
Method 3: Swirling Leeks sliced into smaller pieces can washed in a bowl of water.
Swirl and agitate the water with your hand to help loosen the dirt. Using a salad
spinner, rather than a colander, allows the leeks to be suspended in water, so the
dirt can better fall out and away from the leek rings. If you don't have a salad
spinner, use a colander in a big pot of water, or a pasta pot with an insert.
The Best Washing Method?
Method 1 is my preferred method because of the way dirt can really get embedded between
the layers of a leek. Washing the layers while they are still large, intact sheets
is the easiest way to access and rub away stubborn dirt deposits. Cutting a leek
into smaller pieces just creates more pieces to rub free of dirt.
The running water used in Method 1 also ensures that dirt is immediately washed away
from the leek. When smaller pieces are washed in a bowl or colander, dirt dislodged
from one small piece can easily float off and get lodged in another small piece.
Where a recipe calls for cutting a leek into smaller pieces, simply wash the halves
first, then cut as directed.
Whatever washing method you choose, there’s good reason to be thankful for lots of
pure running water. While the water running from out taps is easy to take for granted,
that’s changing fast. Be good to the planet and be sure to minimize the water used
for vegetable washing.
Thank Goodness for Water
When washing leeks, it helps to know that most dirt and debris is concentrated in
a roughly one-inch band where the green and white parts meet.