I Put 2 Internet-Famous Corn-Shucking Hacks to the Test to See Which Works Best

published Aug 6, 2022
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Corn falling out of husk onto marble countertop.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Ours are fractious times, but I think we can all agree that plucking individual strands of superfine silk off shucked corn is fussily inefficient. Even if it takes all of three minutes, for me, that’s three too many. Plus, no matter how fastidious I aim to be, I always find a few stubborn strands remain after I’ve thrown in the towel. 

Thankfully, tips to simplify the process abound online. Techniques involve everything from torching ears over an open flame to toothbrushing the silk away. 

Because I adore the versatility, heritage, and taste of fresh corn almost as much as I love the idea of painless husking, I tackled two internet-famous methods that promise to remove corn silk perfectly. The results floored me.

YouTube Creator Ken’s Method: Microwave

The top-ranking method in Kitchn’s corn silk showdown is popular in several corners of the internet, although this video by YouTube creator Ken serves as my muse. 

To clean corn like Ken, put one to two whole ears of corn with their husks into your microwave, heat them for four minutes each, and then use heat-safe gloves or towels to remove them, cut a few inches off the stem ends, and slide the silk-free cobs out of their husks. Ken doesn’t specify power level, but I set an 1100-watt microwave to level eight out of 10. I used a dry kitchen towel to remove the corn from the microwave and hold it steady when I chopped off the stem ends, and then pushed the silk-free ears right out of the husks as if they were Popsicles in paper wrappers. 

It’s jaw-droppingly effective. My corn emerged from its husk clean as can be every time. “There’s no way another method can compete with that,” I thought.

Instagram Creator Alicia Daw’s Method: Microwave + Damp Paper Towel

On July 12, 2022, Alicia Daw, a social media content creator who uses the Instagram handle @aliciaann_home, posted a Reel with her preferred technique for cleaning corn.

Like Ken, she puts whole corn into the microwave, cooks briefly, and then lops off the stem ends and slides the corn out of its silk and husks. However, Daw includes a damp paper towel in the corner of the microwave with the corn, and cooks for five minutes per ear.

The results were equally effective. As with Ken’s method, the corn was hot when it came out of the microwave, but I found it easy to handle with a towel. And, after I cut a few inches off the stem end, I slid the corn out of their husks easily. They were just as clean and silk-free as they’d been when I used the previous method.

The Results

My results were virtually identical, an embarrassment of silk-free riches. 

The only potential differentiators here are the age of your corn and climate of your kitchen. If you worry your corn isn’t super fresh, or you live in an especially arid environment, you might find the dampened paper towel helps your corn steam its way out of its husk and silk. 

Otherwise, I say go with whichever method suits you best. Either way, you’ll get great, silk-free corn. 

The Downsides

Both methods require a microwave, which not everyone has. Plus, in either case, your corn cooks lightly, which limits how you can use it. For example, cooked corn is great to eat straight off the cob or in recipes like slow cooker creamed corn; but the flavor and texture of raw corn is better suited to this fresh corn salsa or popped hominy salad

You also lose some of the stalk and corn kernels in both processes. It’s admittedly not an enormous amount but it struck me, a person who eats every single kernel of her cob, as less than ideal. If you too are concerned about food waste, you can let the trimmed tops cool, remove them from the husk, slice the corn kernels off the cob, and then freeze the corn for another time.