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Corn shucking

When I was at home in Maine recently, I volunteered to be the corn shucker, 2 dozen ears. I'm easy to please when I'm shucking for myself, but wanted this corn to be done cleanly and silk free. It was laughable. I found myself going back and back to pull off more stray silk. Any tips?

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  1. A number of years ago I was editing a book of cooking tips. One of the contributors was a New England chef who insisted that the only effective way to shuck corn was to pull the husks down, snap off the stem at the base, and rub the ear in a circular motion under cold running water to remove the silk. I nearly always cook corn in the husk in the microwave so I haven't tried this myself, but would love to know if it works as well as she said it did.

    2 Replies
    1. re: JoanN

      Thanks, Joan. I'll try that, and let you know if it works. pat

      1. re: JoanN

        I use this method and it works pretty well.

      2. Last weekend I saw my grandmother using a brush to get the silk off corn. It looked like a brush you'd use to clean potatoes. I assume you'd have to be pretty gentle so as not to damage the kernels. I haven't tried this method yet, but it seems like it would work pretty well.

        1 Reply
        1. re: SarahEats

          Interesting, because I actually asked my sister (the picky one!) if she had a vegetable brush. She didn't. I bet she'll have one by the time I go again, though!

        2. What I have done for years it cut off the tip of the ear and bottom with a very sharp knife, before you shuck it and then proceed to shuck. I find very little of the silk is left after that. Just a quick brush and it is done.

          1. I have a "corn brush" -- soft, plastic - that's supposed to remove silk, but I don't find that it works better than really careful screening and pulling of the strands. This is tedious, and if anyone has a tried-and-true method, I'd love to hear about it.

            1. As the designated shucker in our family, I usually resort to the cold water treatment. Someone recently told me an interesting fact. It seems that each silk hair pollinated in the tassel produces a different kernel on the cob. Not only that, Wikipedia says that young corn ears can be consumed whole, cob, husk, silk and all. I've seen those tiny corn ears in Chinese dishes, but never the whole schmier.

              1 Reply
              1. re: DonShirer

                I'd consider being "designated shucker" a dubious honor, but not one likely to be bestowed on me! The corn we had was the best I've had in years, and I can understand the "eating the cob" thing. We all bit too deep a couple of times and got some cob along with the kernels; it was that tender. I plan to try all the above methods, before corn is gone from the market.

              2. My way may be a little unorthodox, but it works.

                Use a cleaver to chop off the two ends of the unshucked ear.

                Shuck (it's easier that way) and de-silk without going crazy trying to get each and every strand. When both ends of the cob are cut, I find that the remaining strands generally float off during the boiling.

                1. Rubbing the shucked ear with paper towel helps to remove most of the silk.

                  1. OK, I have no practical advice aside from offering my preferred method of cooking (grilling with some of the husk still on), but I'm curious why the obsession with cleaning every last stray thread? We eat a lot of corn in the late summer up here in MN and I've never known anyone to care one bit about a couple of stray threads. (Mine is served off the grill with the last layer of husk still on, which means a few inevitable threads they can just quickly pinch off. The people peel back the remaining husk and wrap a napkin around them to be used as a "handle". Also the way they're served here at the MN State Fair.)

                    Just curious and I appreciate all the tips in case I ever need them.

                    1. I know you're trying to shuck before cooking, but when we soak and then grill our corn in the husk, I find that jsut about all the silk comes right off after cooking.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Covert Ops

                        This method appeals to me a lot. It would probably work when boiling too, don't you think? I'm going back to Maine in a couple of weeks and I'm pretty sure there'll still be good corn around.

                        1. re: Pat Hammond

                          I just had my first corn on the grill this summer, and I'm hooked. Not sure about boiling, I always did those without husks -- I think it's the high heat that dries out the silks and makes them come off with the husks. IMO, boiling would soften/break up the silks and make them stick to the corn?

                          1. re: Covert Ops

                            Yeah, I guess you're right. Well maybe I'll grill some corn too. Thanks!

                            1. re: Pat Hammond

                              Ah, Pat, I thought of you yesterday!
                              We had bought some corn (I wanted grill-only food for impending Tropical Storm Ernesto) but ate dinner elsewhere and didn't want to fire up the grill (and use all our hurricane-season savings of propane) for just corn, which takes a while, so DH insisted I boil it.

                              I tried the running-water method, and it seemed to work PRETTY well (though not to my OCD standards).

                              After eating, hubby sighed and said, "OK, next time we'll grill it." :-)

                      2. I like to eat corn that has been cooked in a barn.

                        1 Reply
                        1. living in Illinois I eat my share of sweet corn during the 3 months it is good. I dont bother the rest of the year.

                          I pull off the husk, snap the base off, and run it under cold water using gripping and rubbing with my hand until all the strands are gone. I also steam my corn, 10 minutes, and the kernels stay firm, and dont get sogged out.