Not to Brag, but I Always Pick the Best Corn. Here’s How I Do It.

published Aug 4, 2017
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

I have a peculiar problem: I’m frequently stopped in the grocery store for advice about picking produce. This phenomenon is not stopped by the two whining kids in my cart or the sometimes-harried expression on my face when I’m running into the store for a last-minute ingredient. But I’ve always got an answer ready since the same advice applies to many fruit and vegetables: It should feel heavy for its size, inspect for dry or soft spots, and give it a smell.

When it comes to corn-selecting advice, I’ve got a lot to say. Sure, I have a very strong opinion about how you should be choosing corn at the supermarket, but then I’ve also never picked a bad ear in my life.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

No Shucking at the Store, Please.

First, can we all agree to stop removing whole sections of husks from corn on the cob at the grocery store or even the farmers market? Beyond mess making, it’s rude! Leaving cobs that might be otherwise acceptable to the rest of us to shrivel and go to waste should be avoided. Besides, leaving the cob intact will keep the corn you take home fresh and sweet for longer.

The Step-by-Step Guide for Selecting the Best Corn Every Time

I pick really great corn every time, thanks to this four-step approach. Use this method for every ear of corn and you won’t be disappointed. Yes, this method takes a little more time, but the reward is always sweet, crisp, summer corn. Try it a few times and soon it’ll become second nature.

1. Pick up a cob and feel its weight in your hand.

Is the cob heavy for its size or suspiciously light? Juicy corn will feel heavier than it looks, while dry or wilted cobs will be lighter than they look.

2. Give the cob a squeeze.

Working your way from tassels to stalk end, gently squeeze the cob. It should have an even firmness throughout. This is also a great time to check for any dry or moldy spots on the husk, which can be a sign the cob is not so great.

3. Check the tassels.

The corn’s silky end, referred to as the tassel, ages after the corn is picked. White, yellow, or even light brown tassels are a sign that the corn was recently picked and is as fresh as it can be. Avoid sticky black or dark brown tassels; it’s a sign that the the cob is past its prime.

4. If you must, peel back just a peek of the husk.

If a cob feels heavy for its size, firm from tassel to tail, and has golden tassels, there should be no need to peel back the husks, but if you’re new to this method of selection or unsure, you can peel back just a small portion of the husk to check. Remember, we’re talking about just a peek!