Make the Most of Fresh Summer Corn with These Tips for Buying, Storing, and Prepping It

It's peak corn season—otherwise known as the most wonderful time of the year—so celebrate accordingly!

Enjoying corn on the cob—or any summer corn dish for that matter—starts at the grocery store and continues in your kitchen. For the juiciest, sweetest summer corn, it's important to select the freshest cobs; after all, fresh corn is at its very best right off the stalk. Here, we detail the ins and outs of choosing the freshest corn, how to store it if you aren't using it right away, and the best ways to prepare the vegetable to ensure you serve this savory treat at its peak.

ears of fresh corn
Johnny Miller

How to Buy Corn

Look for ears of summer corn with bright green fresh husks that fit snugly around the cob. Yellowing or browning husks that feel dry indicate that the corn is not as fresh and should be avoided if possible. Once you've selected a nicely husked ear, peel back just enough of the husk to peek at the top of the cob and ensure that the kernels are plump and intact, coming right up to the tip of the cob. One last thing to consider: those long threadlike strands between the husk and cob called corn silk. Healthy, fresh corn should have strands that are very pale green to white or light golden. If they are browning, dried up, or black, this indicates that the corn isn't as fresh. With that being said, it could still be good if the bottom unexposed strands are still moist and light colored

How to Store

Refrigerating corn speeds up the conversion of sugars to starches, taking away a touch of the corn goodness the longer it's in there. If you intend to consume summer corn the day you bought it, store the ears at room temperature. If you're not using the corn right away but will use it within three days, store with the husk on in brown paper bags or wrapped tightly in plastic in the vegetable drawer.

If you plan to wait any longer to enjoy it, it's best to freeze fresh corn, locking in the summer sweetness before it turns to starchiness. To do so, remove the kernels from the cob and freeze in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Freeze the kernels raw or very quickly blanched in a large pot of salted water then drained and patted dry before freezing. Once frozen, scrape the kernels into plastic bags, seal, and store in the freezer for up to six months.

How to Prep Corn on the Cob

Nothing says summer like a buttery ear of corn on the cob. Whether you are grilling or boiling, you still need to prep the corn, here's how. First, remove the husk from the corn if you are boiling the cobs. Similarly, remove the husk if you are grilling and want to get a tasty caramelized char on the kernels. To husk corn, peel off and remove the husk, then remove the corn silk. This can be done with your hands, but we recommended using a stiff bristle brush for the fastest removal.

For a pretty presentation when grilling corn on the cob, pull back the husk rather than completely remove it. Make sure to soak the corn first and then pull the husk back over the stem, leaving the bottom intact. Then tie the husk together with soaked butchers twine or a thin long strand of husk. Your other option is to leave the husk on the cobs when grilling, as they act as a built-in steamer. The corn absorbs grilled flavor while staying juicy and plump without any char. Make sure to soak the corn in water for 15 to 30 minutes prior to grilling to prevent the husk from drying out and burning on the grill and to add a bit more moisture for the steam effect.

You can leave the silk under the husk when grilling with husk on and it will fall off easily when you husk post grilling. If you are serving the corn in the husk or prefer no silk, peel back the husks, leaving them intact on the stem and remove the corn silk. Then re-cover the cobs with the husks.

How to Prep off the Cob

Everyone seems to have their own trick for removing kernels from the cob. Here are our go-to techniques. Start with husked cobs with the corn silk removed. No matter which method you choose, use your hands to snap the whole cob in half crosswise to create a flat surface, so the cob doesn't slip while you work. Then lay the half cob flat side down and remove the kernels typewriter style with a knife, rotating the corn as you slice them off from top to bottom.

This technique can be executed directly on a cutting board, or impress your friends with a smart corn removal technique by cutting the kernels off onto a rimmed baking sheet or atop of a small bowl inset upside down in a larger bowl. Both of the latter techniques create guards to help gather the kernels as they drop haphazardly off the cob.

Don't Forget the Corn Milk

Optional but worth it to soak up every bit of summer sweet corn flavor is to scrape the cob after you remove the kernels. Scraping the cob gets the corn milk, which is basically any remaining juices, from the cob. Simply scrape the cob with the back of a spoon or the back of a knife after removing the kernels. These juices contain the essence of bright corn flavor with a touch of starchiness, which adds flavor and body to soups, risottos, pasta sauces, and whatever corn dish you make. Corn milk is also the key to making cream-free creamed corn dishes, like this Creamless Creamy Corn Soup. And don't discard the cobs! They can be used to make corn stock, letting this milk natural seep out into the broth.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles