How to Shuck Corn on the Cob Like a True Midwesterner

If you grew up anywhere in the Midwest, you probably look back fondly (or not) on the days when your afternoon chore was shucking a dozen ears of corn on the back porch. But if buying corn on the cob is new to you, the process of cleaning the husk and silk from those ears can seem daunting, time consuming and really messy. No worries, friend. We’re here to show you how to shuck corn in four easy-peasy steps.

How to Store Corn on the Cob (Plus How to Pick the Sweetest Ears)

how to shuck corn step one
Digital Art by McKenzie Cordell

Step 1: Peel The Outer Leaves

First, peel away the outermost leaves of the husk, leaving behind the tassel of silk and a thin layer of husk close to the cob. Discard those leaves—or even better, compost them.

how to shuck corn step two
Digital Art by McKenzie Cordell

Step 2: Remove The Tassel And Inner Husk

Once the outer leaves are gone, you should be able to remove the rest of the husk more easily. The best way to do this in one (or almost one) fell swoop is to grasp the tassel (that bunch of silk at the top) along with the tip of one piece of husk and tug down firmly, removing a portion of the silk and husk at the same time. Repeat with the remaining husk, working around the ear in sections. You can leave the husk attached to the stalk end or not; we’ll deal with that next.

how to shuck corn step three
Digital Art by McKenzie Cordell

Step 3: Break Off The Remaining Husk And Stalk

At this point, you should have a relatively clean ear of corn with a hard, light yellow stalk at the bottom (husk attached or not). With the ear of corn held gently but firmly in one hand, use your other hand to snap the stalk end off the ear. Compost those bits!

how to shuck corn step four
Digital Art by McKenzie Cordell

Step 4: Clean Any Stray Silks And Blemishes

You’re almost there. The final step is to clean up any bits of silk that are still clinging to the corn. You can get as meticulous as you want here, but if you’re boiling the corn, know that a lot of the silk will come off in the water (so don’t worry about it too much). Some corn-shuckers use a vegetable brush to clean the silk out of those nooks and crannies, but we actually advice against that. Why? Because the kernels are delicate, and those brushes have a way of turning them to mush. No, thank you.

Now, go forth and cook that gorgeous, gleaming shucked corn!

How to Choose the Best Corn:

  • Do not shuck before you buy.We repeat: Do not shuck before you buy! Even though you’ve probably seen other corn-buyers peel back the husk to take a peek at the kernels, this is poor corn etiquette. It leaves those kernels susceptible to damage and drying out, so don’t peel the corn unless you already know you’re going to buy it.
  • Feel the corn. Gently (gently!) squeeze the ear of corn to assess the kernel size and texture. You’re going for plump, even and abundant; pass if you can feel holes from missing kernels.
  • Avoid dry silk. The corn silk is that bundle of thread-like fibers (aka the tassel) on the top of the ear. The freshest corn will have light brown, sticky silk. If it’s dry or black, skip it.
  • Look for a bright green husk. If the husk (the outer part that you shuck away) is bright green and wrapped taut, it’s a good ear. Really fresh corn should feel damp to the touch.

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Senior Food Editor

Katherine Gillen is PureWow’s senior food editor. She’s a writer, recipe developer and food stylist with a degree in culinary arts and professional experience in New York City...