Corn

How to Shuck & Remove the Silk From an Ear of Corn

July  2, 2019

The Food52 Hotline is where questions go to get answered—from the best way to thaw a frozen cake to the best all-purpose flour for baking. Today, we're talking about summery, golden, buttery corn. Which we love more than anything. Except, ahem, its pesky silk strands. How the heck do you remove those things? And what is our test kitchen's go-to way to shuck corn? Let's find out. 

How to Remove the Silk from Corn Cobs, from Food52

Around here, we could talk about corn all day: how to choose an ear (no peeking!), the best way to cook it on the cob, and how to use the whole ingredient—yep, every single part. And don't get us started on our favorite ways to eat it: raw, charred, creamed, and even churned into ice cream. And of course we’re all in love with kitschy cob-shaped holders. Corny? Oh, we don’t care. 

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How to Remove the Silk from Corn Cobs, from Food52

But if there's anything standing between us and corn, it's the silk. You know, those wispy strands clinging to the kernels? On the Hotline, Food52er Kathy asked for the best way to remove corn silk, and we were all ears to hear what the community had to say... 

Brush

  • Try removing the silk with a clean nail brush or soft dish brush as Monita does.
  • Opt for a dedicated vegetable brush (for corn or mushrooms) like Dona and kimhw recommend.
  • Skip the specialty brushes: Miznic opts for a toothbrush, "usually picked up for about 99 cents."

Microwave

  • Pegreen suggests the microwave method: “Cut a small slice off the stem end of un-husked ear of corn. Put a few ears in microwave on high for 30 seconds, the husk and silk should come off more easily. Then cook corn as desired.”

Teeth? 

  • Can't be bothered to get rid of the silky wisps? You aren't alone. Our senior graphic designer removes the corn silk "with my teeth, while I'm eating, because I'm too lazy to remove it." 

Thanks, everyone! We'll have to try that teeth trick later—but for now, here are our test kitchen's top tips on how to shuck corn: 

  • When shopping, pick a heavy ear, with firm kernels (go ahead, give it a little squeeze). 
  • Peel away the tough, outer leaves, and discard. 
  • Grab the silky tassel on top, along with a handful of green leaves, and pull from the top to the bottom, in one strong motion. Discard the silk and leaves. 
  • Repeat the previous step until most of the silk and all the leaves are gone.  
  • Snap off the bottom stalk. (Or leave it on if you like a handle!)
  • Use a small, clean brush, such as a vegetable brush or toothbrush, to scrub away any remaining corn silk. Easy.

And now that the silk is gone (yahoo!), here are a few of our favorite recipes with fresh corn

Sriracha-Lime Corn Salad

Perfect next to grilled chicken, crispy fish, or a juicy steak. (Also, perfect to bring to a potluck!) Sweet corn gets paired up with spicy Sriracha, diced bell pepper, fresh cilantro, and crumbly Cotija cheese. 

New-Fashioned Corn Pudding

A contemporary—and much more savory—take on classic corn pudding. Skip the sugar and bring in sautéed onion and garlic. And instead of just milk or cream, throw in some buttermilk and sharp cheddar for good measure. 

Corn Fritters With Cheddar & Scallions

The corniest corn fritters you'll ever meet. The fresh kernels are bound together with grated cheese and sliced scallions, plus a little egg and flour. We love how they brown and crisp in the pan, forming potato chip–like edges. 

Pasta With Tomatoes, Corn, Squash & Ricotta

Name a summerier pasta—we'll wait. Our co-founder Merrill Stubbs opts for shells and basil, but feel free to play around with both the pasta shape and fresh herbs. Penne, orecchiete, and rigatoni would all be happy here. As would mint, thyme, chives, or a mix.

This article originally published in May 2014. We refreshed it for another summer of eating too much corn (just kidding, no such thing). What are your tricks for removing corn silk? And what's your favorite corn recipe of the summer? Let us know in the comments. 

Photos by Eric Moran 

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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I like esoteric facts about vegetables and think ambling through a farmers market is a great way to start the day. My first cookbook, available now, is called Cooking with Scraps.

74 Comments

Guadalupe L. August 10, 2019
I remove the outer husks off the ear of corn, microwave the corn for about 3 or 4 minutes. Slit the husks lengthwise, slightly separate the husks on the side of the silk, pinch the tip of the husks and the silk, and pull toward the wider side of the corn, and voila, ready to eat corn on the cob!
 
Kathryn August 9, 2019
I cut the tips and brown part of silks right at the top of the ears, take off the outer shucks, run the ears under cold tap water, wrap in paper towels and microwave about 3 minutes for 2-3 ears. Take them out, peel shucks and silks from the top (easy). The corn is clean and steamed, ready to eat.
 
lbirtles August 9, 2019
I learned to shuck the corn backward - break the stalk off first and tear the leaves off from bottom to top. They will come off in big chunks and take a lot of the silk with them. After shucking two and a half bushels of corn by myself in my catering days, I can guarantee that this is the fastest way!
 
frenchy43 August 9, 2019
the best way to shuck corn and cook it at the same time is to put it into the microwave for 3 minutes and 10 seconds then grip the top of the leaves and silk and let the ear just fall out onto your plate; oh, you do have to cut the bottom off just ahead of where the leaves are attached to the cob. absolutely the best and quickest way to cook corn
 
Sage August 8, 2019
Yes the silk can be rather pesky, especially between the teeth; but do we begrudge this lovely, unique, and wholly amazing, glossy, silky soft botanical necessity? No we do not. Corn silk is a gentle medicine not to be considered any less valuable than the shiny, sweet kernels we covet. I gleefully salvage each strand and place it in a tincture jar to be used when fresh cobs are merely a summer dream. Corn silk dreams. No GMO please
 
Sarah August 8, 2019
For years I’ve just taken a lightly moistened paper towel and gently rubbed it from the end of the ear towards it’s base. It grabs the silk and doesn’t disrupt the kernels.
 
shelagh August 8, 2019
For two people, microwaving corn is the easiest method ever.
Take a large ear of corn, cut of tassel and loose pieces of husk. Microwave in the husk four minutes. Let sit 10 minutes. Wearing gloves, remove husk and silk very cleanly. Repeat for second ear.
 
Bradg August 8, 2019
Best method. Cut stem end off up to small portion of cob. Put in microwave for a couple of minutes to cook. You can then squeeze the corn out of the husk, clean of silk. You’ll need pot holders to do it but it’s the easiest method.
 
Roberta August 8, 2019
I do exactly as you do above then to remove any last wispy strands I grip the cob with both hands and then lightly twist in opposite directions. This pulls off any last strands, then rinse under the tap and you’re ready to go!
 
patrikwill August 8, 2019
The best way to remove silk is to put the whole thing on the grill without doing anything or in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. When it is done peel off everything; silk will peel off (you can save to make great healthy tea). The easiest and most moist and flavorful corn ever. (Some people wet their corn before putting on the grill).
 
Mo W. August 8, 2019
I cut off the stem and put an ear of corn in the microwave for four minutes and when I take it out I grab it by the Silk and shake the cob out of the leaves and all of the silk comes right off with the leaves. If I’m doing two ears I do seven minutes, three ears I do 10 minutes etc. It comes out perfectly cooked every time.
 
Debbie August 8, 2019
We soak the unhusked corn in water for 30 to 60 minutes and then grill it with the husk on. 10 to 20 minutes. It steams in the husk.
After removing from the grill pull the husk off and the silk comes right with it.
 
homestead2019 August 8, 2019
What's all the fuss. I shuck it, run it over cold water in my sink and rub my hands over the cobs. Most of it comes off, and any leftover silk, well, it's summer, and that's the way corn is. I
 
duckandcake September 8, 2019
Agree! Seems to be an exercise in complicating something that's isn't so complicated :-)
 
Penny H. July 6, 2019
I once read that the only good way to eat corn was to carry a pot of boiling water into the cornfield, shuck the corn right there and cook in the boiling water. Sheesh! However, later I found another method that makes the corn taste almost as fresh. Buy firm fresh looking corn, discard the outer shucks, carefully peel the inner shucks back and remove the silk. Coax the shucks back into original position and tie top with string (optional). Place corn in microwave and cook for about six minutes. Peel the shucks back (careful, they're hot) and enjoy with a little butter, salt and pepper.
 
Randy July 6, 2019
Used this method till I discovered , you just soak the ears of corn in cold water 30 minutes (without a thought about shucking). Take them immediately to a hot grill and let them steam as you rotate them every few minutes. When you feel they are done, set aside to cool. Grab the top and shuck and you'll be surprised the silk has suddenly disappeared into the husk, with no pulling strands away from the ear, truly genius and simple ! If you want a char put them back on the grill as you rotate them.
Drizzle with fine EVOO or smother with butter and grate some Parmesan Reggiano cheese over them...it is truly heaven on Earth !
 
Mo W. August 8, 2019
All I do is cut the stem off and cook it in the microwave for four minutes per ear and the leaves and Silk comes right off
 
Channon C. August 9, 2019
My beautiful son-in-law does this for us and it is heavenly. Never a silk problem. Huge problem in quantity. Never enough. The fact he makes beautiful “other food” to go with” is wasted on this selfish corn pig. Fatten me up and put me out on the lot! I’m willing to be served.
 
Panfusine July 3, 2019
If the corn is uber fresh, I confess I sometimes nibble on the straggling crunchy strands after yanking most of it off by hand
 
isw July 3, 2019
I grill my corn, naked (no butter or seasonings). Any silks that were on it get burned off -- no sweat, no problem.
 
Barbara M. April 15, 2018
My first time doing corn... My husband left for work at 6:00 in the morning. I got up cleaned corn, put on to boil on high, boiled on high all day. When water got low I just added more water. When Jerry started to eat it he nearly chocked. I indignantly said " it has to be done, I cooked it all day". In my defense I was only 19 years old. That was 46 years ago but he never let me forget it. LoL
 
Author Comment
Lindsay-Jean H. April 15, 2018
Oh my gosh I love this story! Thanks for sharing Barbara!
 
James July 26, 2015
I prefer to soak all the corn syill intact in the husks in a large pot. Make sure to cover them all in water. If they float then use a plate that will fit inside pot to weigh them down. Ill preheat my barbq and when its go time, i put the corn on the hot grill. They steam inside their husk and pretty quick. If it burns on the outside.. Dont worry! Just roll them over. When they are tender to the touch, i remove them to a plate. There they wait to be buttered.
 
Clou July 25, 2015
Best ever eaten on a hot summer night in Tehran -- husk it, put it directly on red hot coals, turn to char all sides, dip in bucket of salty water to clean off ashes. Enjoy!
 
Marla H. July 26, 2015
I was just remembering being in Tehran in 1967, and eating corn exactly that way! I've never forgotten it!
 
patricia G. August 9, 2019
Ditto in Marrakesh, in the 70s. I confess I do use the microwave sometimes, easy and fast, but--have you noticed-- it does slightly alter the kernels' texture.
 
mellon August 20, 2014
Take an ear of corn with husk on and put in micro for 4 minutes(30 sec longer if cold). Take a sharp knife and hammer and cut thru the end and then pick up the hot corn at the tip and the cooked perfect corn will slide out and silk will remain in the husk.