Growing up in Iowa and Minnesota, shucking corn was one of those chores that was always relegated to us kids. Our dad would hand us a giant bag of sweet corn fresh from the field, shoo us onto the porch, and shut the door behind us. But I never really minded. Once you get the hang of it, shucking corn — and removing all the silks — is a breeze. Want to shuck corn like a farmer's daughter? Here's how.
Let's talk first about choosing the best sweet corn. You want it to be fresh. Like, really fresh. My dad grew up on a farm and always says that the true way to eat sweet corn is to snap it off the stalk, carry it to the house, and eat it. He has a point — the sugars packed inside those corn kernels become starchier with every minute that goes by after picking. The longer you wait between picking and eating, the less sweet your sweet corn will taste.
I love to buy corn at the farmers market where I can ask when the corn was picked. If the answer is this morning or even yesterday morning, we're in business. The corn sold at grocery stores is likely several days old (if not more); that doesn't mean it will necessarily be bad, but you definitely want to cook and eat it as soon as possible.
You don't really need to pull back the husk and check the top kernels of corn when buying them — if the corn feels firm and heavy when you pick it up, that's all the information you really need. The husk itself should still look fresh and it should hold tightly around the cob. If the outer leaves or the leaves around the top of the cob look dry and loose, pick a different ear.
For proper shucking, you also want to make sure the silky tassel is still attached. This is what you grab onto when you unzip the cob from its husk, and it will pull most of the silks along with it. No tassel and your shucking job will be much tougher.
Peel back the leaves at the tip of the cob just until you can see the top few rows of kernels. This is the start of your "zipper."
How To Shuck Corn Like a Midwesterner
What You Need
A plastic or paper bag
- Peel off the outer leaves: Peel away the outer leaves until you only have one thin layer of inner leaves remaining around the ear. Discard these leaves in your plastic or paper bag.
- Expose the tip of the ear of corn: Peel back the leaves at the tip of the cob just until you can see the top few rows of kernels. This is the start of your "zipper."
- Grasp the tops of the leaves and the tassel: Grasp the tops of the leaves and the tassel together in one hand. Grip the bottom of the ear of corn with your opposite hand.
- Pull down in one firm tug: Pull the leaves and tassels straight down in one firm tug. Pull all the way to the bottom, inverting the husk and the cob.
- Break off the leaves and the silks: Gather the leaves and silks in one hand and snap them off at the base of the ear of corn. Discard the leaves, silks, and tassels in the plastic or paper bag.
- Tidy up the cob: Run your fingers over the cob and pick away any remaining silks. You probably won't get every single one — that's part of the corn-on-the-cob experience — but you can get most of them.
- Repeat with the remaining ears of corn: The silk on some corn is more stubborn than on others. If you get a particularly stubborn batch, try microwaving your ears for a minute or two before shucking.
- Neater Shucking: Shucking can be a messy business with bits of silk and leaves flying everywhere. To keep things contained, try shucking inside of the plastic or paper bag you are using to discard the shucked leaves.
- Fewer Silks: For fewer silks, try microwaving the ears for a minute or two before shucking.
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(Images: Emma Christensen)