Kitchen Confidence

How to Choose an Ear of Corn (Without Peeking!)

By • August 8, 2013 • 13 Comments

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: You can get fresh, bright, perfect corn -- while practicing proper corn-buying etiquette, too.

Corn from Food52

We can't stop talking about corn, cooking corn, wishing for little corn-on-the-cob-shaped cob-holders to hold our corn cobs in place while we moan about how much we love, we adore, we cherish, corn.

But before all that, before the salad-ing and the cream-ing, the talking and the moaning and the corn-on-the-cob-ing, the corn needs to be bought. The corn needs to be chosen.

We're here to help.

Shucking corn

Because of course, the easiest way to choose an ear of corn is to take a peek: to peel down a teensy bit of the husk and check for bright, plump kernels. But doing this before buying the corn is not proper corn-buying etiquette. You will get dirty stares at the market -- and that corn that looked so gorgeous and milky and bright when you peeled it will get sad and shriveled and starchy quicker.

Here's how to choose corn without taking that peek.

Corn from Food52

Look for teensy brown holes in the husk, especially towards the top. Those are wormholes, and, naturally, worms are best avoided.

Feel the kernels through the husk. You want to make sure that they're plump and plentiful; if you can feel holes where kernels should be, then choose another.

Look for tassels (those things sticking up out of the top) that are brown and sticky to the touch. If they're dry or black, then it's an old ear of corn.

Check out the color of the husk. If it's a bright green and tightly wrapped against the cob, then the corn is fresh. (In some cases, it will even feel slightly damp.)

How do you choose your corn? Let us know in the comments!

Tags: kitchen confidence, corn, summer, how to choose corn, choosing corn, buying corn, how-to & diy

Comments (13)

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7 months ago lsgerman

Great information.

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8 months ago muse2323

My favorite grocery store provides a garbage bag for husks, so people who want to can husk the whole thing for dinner right there and put back the one(s) they don't like the look of.

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8 months ago Andrew Wittman

Another crucial point is weight. I usually select the fattest ears that are heavy for their size. This is important early in the season to ensure you have a mature ear that is well filled-out with tasty kernels, and later in the season improves the odds that you will select an ear that is fresher and retaining more of its original moisture.

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8 months ago RandomLoop

What? My uncle farmed corn. Where does the "no peek" rule come from?

Pict1821

8 months ago Lindsay-Jean Hard

Lindsay-Jean is a Contributing Writer & Editor at Food52.

I'm appalled to learn that I haven't been practicing proper corn-buying etiquette. Thanks for setting me straight Brette!

Stringio

8 months ago Kelly Fogwell

Those are great tips, but how do you know whether or not the kernels are tough without looking? I think there are cobs that would pass all those tests but still taste bad because they've been picked past their prime. I agree with bigpan that I will probably still peel back in spite of etiquette.

Bigpan

8 months ago bigpan

Etiquette or not, I'll still peel back a husk to make sure.

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8 months ago LauriL

Yeah, hate those nasty stares!! Good info that I'll try out tomorrow!!

Me

8 months ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Associate Editor of Food52.

Ha, truth.

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8 months ago ccwhat

Along with the weight of the ear I look for an ear that is not too skinny nor too fat. Too skinny and the kernals may be underdeveloped. Too fat and the ear may have been picked past its prime. The ear should have a nice uniformity to it so you'll have a pretty good idea that the kernals have developed from stern to tip. Lastly, hopefully there's no mushiness which might indicate that someone has carelessly dropped the ear.

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8 months ago softenbrownsugar

I also feel I must say that if there is a really good sale on cobs of corn, I buy several of the crappy ones because I have a squirrel feeder, and they're not nearly as fussy as I am. :)

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8 months ago JanaVee

It drives me crazy to see people stripping the husks! In addition to Brette's tips, a good ear will have a nice heft to it. If it feels heavy for its size, it's fresh.

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8 months ago softenbrownsugar

Loved this information! Thank you!