There is a very clever trick to shucking corn using the microwave, whereby the ears are microwaved for a short period of time and then the outer layers of husks and silk are easily removed. But what if you don’t want to or can’t use a microwave?
In this article, we’ll look at a few reasons not to use a microwave for completing this task. Then, we’ll provide some tips for other methods for shucking corn.
Why You Might Not Want to Use a Microwave
The most obvious answer why you wouldn’t use a microwave to shuck corn is because one is not available to you. There are a lot of situations in which you won’t have access to a microwave.
The most obvious is if you’re camping. Corn is such a quintessential summer food that it is awesome to enjoy it around your campsite.
What is more, corn is absolutely delicious when cooked over an open flame, but no microwave in sight.
Similarly, you might be enjoying time outdoors at home and not want to leave your outdoor barbecue to microwave ear after ear of corn.
Another reason why you may not want to use a microwave is that the corn will start to cook in the microwave. Let’s face it; microwave food heats differently and tastes somewhat different too.
Corn on the cob is sweet and juicy, and the microwave can dry it out by cooking the outside quicker than the inside. Who wants to risk that?
Whatever your reason, there are plenty of ways to shuck corn without a microwave. Let’s look at some of those next.
First Things First: Pick Good Ears
The first step to easily shucking corn without a microwave begins at the market. You want to buy fresh, healthy corn that will be easy to shuck.
How do you recognize good corn? First, inspect the husks:
- Look for ends of husks that appear as if they were recently cut.
- The husks should be green; the brighter, the better.
- The tassels (the pieces of hair sticking out of the top) should be damp or sticky, and brown. Avoid any that are black or dry.
Next, peel the husks back a bit from the top to see some of the kernels inside. They should be bright in color (white is fine) and plump; if any of them appear shriveled or rough, it is probably an older ear.
Alternatively, if you shop at a farmer’s market, you can simply ask the vendor. They are more likely to have fresh corn anyway; plus, you’ll be supporting a local business so it’s win-win!
The Old-Fashioned Way to Shuck Corn: Patience and Attention to Detail
You don’t need anything fancy to shuck corn, just your hands. But there are still specific methods that you can follow to make the job easier.
While you can peel off the husks piece by piece, it makes more sense to use some elbow grease and get as much of it off at a time as possible. To do this, grip the ear of corn at the top and, using your fingers, separate all of the husk and silk in two pieces, one in each of your hands.
Pull hard on one side, peeling slowly, then leave the husks attached at the root and peel the other side. If peeling proves especially difficult, move back to the top and section off three or as many as four sections of husk, and then peel using the same method.
Now you should have an ear of corn with most of the husks and silk hanging off the root.
To remove the root, firmly grip it in your fist and pull toward the right or left of the ear until it snaps off. Alternatively, you can use a large, sharp knife to cut it off with caution.
You can also leave the root attached to be used as a “handle” when cooking and eating. Just remove the husks and silk by pulling them off.
Remove the Hair with a Vegetable Brush
Undoubtedly, some of the hairs or silk remain on the ear of corn, no matter how carefully you did the method above. You can diligently remove these by hand, and it shouldn’t take too long.
Alternatively, you can use an inexpensive and simple tool to remove stray silk from your corn: a vegetable brush. You can even buy a vegetable brush specifically designed for corn.
Grip the corn in one hand by the root or at the bottom of the ear, and the brush. Gently brush the corn from top to bottom (using your hand) to remove stray silk.
What’s more, your vegetable brush doesn’t have to just sit in your drawer waiting for the next time that you shuck corn. It can also be used to clean mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, and more.
Hint: Do it Outside
Here’s a hint to help reduce the mess (particularly if you have little helpers): shuck the corn outside. Since corn is natural, it’s fine if some of the husks or hairs blow away.
Alternatively, some grocery stores have bins set up next to their corn displays where you can shuck it right there. This is beneficial because it not only avoids the mess but it also helps you pick the best ears possible, and you can always finish the job at home with a vegetable brush.
What to Do with Your Cobs
You’ve shucked, cooked, and, most importantly, enjoyed your corn. What can you do with the cobs that are left besides just throwing them away?
Corn cobs can be composted, so if you or a neighbor or friend have a compost pile, use that. They can be thrown in the wild as well since they will decompose.
You can boil them down to make corn broth to be used for delicious chowder, or use them instead of wood chips to smoke meat.
Corn cobs burn well so if you’re camping or if you have a fire pit in your yard, throw them on.
Most importantly, enjoy your thoroughly shucked, fresh corn!
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.