DIY Food

How to Use a Whole Ear of Corn

August 21, 2013

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: Your corn is more than just the sum of its kernels.

Using the whole cob, on Food52

Shop the Story

All summer, you've likely been stripping your corn of its kernels, eating them typewriter-style or slicing them off, raw, to throw together a last-minute salad. Maybe you've grilled them or broiled them or doused them in butter. 

But what have you been doing with the rest of your corn? Likely, throwing it away. Let's change that.

Corn cobs from Food52

Your cobs, husks, and silks are still of value to you after they've kept your precious kernels safe on their journey from a field to your table. They can add flavor to your soups, wrap your tamales, cure what ails you, or make your garden's soil richer.

Your most obvious, hands-off option is the closest compost bin. This year's husks will turn into next year's herb garden -- which you can then mix into butter and spread on your corn. It's the (crop) circle of life. 

But if you want to get more creative with your scraps, here are some ideas: 

Corn Stock

Just as you can save the carcass of your chicken to make a broth, you can save those cobs of corn. When your cobs are bare, cover them with water, salt well, and let simmer until the corn's scent has filled your kitchen and its flavor has infused your water.

Corn Stock on Food52 

Some cooks (like AntoniaJames and lapadia) add their husks and silks, too; just be sure to wash your outer husks thoroughly, and strain once you're done. Store stock in jars in the fridge or freezer, and use it to add the purest corn flavor to any recipes that call for stock.

Now that you've made your corn stock (good for you!), here's what to do with it:
• Replace the stock in your Risotto
• Make
corn chowder -- like lapadia's Fennel-Spiced Corn Chowder Provencal• Use it in your grain-cooking liquid
• Make extra-corny


Corn Stock on Food52


Corn husks are most traditionally used, once dried, to wrap tamales. And you can dry your own at home! This is best done in the sun, so grab a cardboard box, lay your husks in a single layer, and let sit in the sun for a few days -- be sure to take them inside overnight or if there is any chance of rain. You can also try to dry them, carefully, on very low heat in the oven. 

If you're feeling crafty, you can also make your own corn husk doll.

Corn Cobs, Husks, and Silks on Food52


They're mostly an annoyance to corn shuckers everywhere, but corn silks make a tea that may cure what ails you. According to Betty Fussel, it appeared as a household remedy in the United States in the 19th century. You don't need a recipe -- just remove the black tops, then steep your silks in hot water. Watch this video from Gourmet for more guidance on all things corn silk tea. (PS: Did you know that corn has one silk for each kernel?)

Now pat yourself on the back for being so resourceful. And go buy a few more ears before they're gone.

Tell us: what do you do with your husks, silks, and cobs?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • James Kirby
    James Kirby
  • Tom Chase
    Tom Chase
  • Aprille
  • Cindy Dudas
    Cindy Dudas
  • Brian
Marian Bull

Written by: Marian Bull



James K. July 7, 2019
CORN To Remove Silks as fast as anyone can remove outside husk: Use a powerful shop vac it removes silk very, very fast and easy
Tom C. May 21, 2017
All parts of the corn plant are excellent for adding flavor to your smoker!
Aprille May 22, 2016
I'm curious to learn more about the corn silk tea but your link appears to be broken!
Cindy D. September 10, 2013
I'm SO happy to read this! Every time I pour out the water from boiling corn on the cob, I feel like I'm throwing away gold. I'm glad to know it can and SHOULD be used! Thank you for this!
Marian B. September 10, 2013
So glad that you found this helpful!
Brian August 26, 2013
Great article. As a corn farmer myself, it's good to see people taking an interest in all things corn. I don't grow sweet corn on our farm, but we don't manage the residue including silks, husks, cobs, and everything else!
Sarah F. August 22, 2013
I like to use corn stock as steaming liquid for clams and mussels. It adds a wonderful summer sweetness, especially with fennel and tomatoes.
Marian B. September 10, 2013