Along with watermelon, fresh corn on the cob is one of the great joys of summertime. Though I could buy shucked corn that’s packaged and sold in the refrigerated section, unshucked corn is piled high and looking fresh at the grocery store these days so that’s what I’ve been buying.
One tricky matter is that I’ve always struggled to get all of the silk off when shucking it myself. In addition to the pieces of silk clinging to the corn, when I’m done, there’s silk all over my counter and floor.
So when I read about this nifty trick for removing the silk in one swift move from Lori Rice in a guide to cooking corn on the cob, I knew I had to try it: “It’s true that the silks slip right off the corn when the ear is microwaved in the husk.”
It works brilliantly! Seriously, there was zero mess on my counters, and not a single strand of silk stuck to my corn. Plus, the microwave method also cooks the corn perfectly, so you can bite into tender kernels without having to worry about ending up with a mouthful of silk.
How To Shuck Corn Using the Microwave
Trim the stem end of the corn using a sharp knife. You need to cut enough that the stem is completely removed and the husk is detached from the bottom of the cob, but not so much that you lose a lot of kernels.
Place as many trimmed ears of corn as you want to cook on a large plate. Some people stick the corn straight in the microwave, but I prefer to use a plate just in case any bits of husk or silk fall off the corn—it’s easier to clean a plate than it is to pick debris out of the microwave.
Next up, zap the corn until it’s tender, about two to four minutes per ear. Over time, you’ll dial in the exact cooking time for your microwave and how well you like your corn cooked. Fortunately, it’s hard to dry out corn in the microwave, since the husk traps steam to gently cook it. That said, fresh corn doesn’t need to be cooked much, so I’d start with the shorter cooking time and adjust from there.
Carefully pick up the corn by the untrimmed end and hold it vertically over a cutting board or plate. If the corn is too hot to handle, use a kitchen towel. Give it a few shakes. The clean corn will slide right out, leaving the silk neatly inside the husk.
Now it’s ready to slather with butter and enjoy!
Tip: Be sure to trim and shuck the corn as soon as you remove it from the microwave. I tried waiting until the corn was cool enough to handle without oven gloves and it wouldn’t shake loose from the husk. If this happens to you, simply zap the corn for an additional minute and try again.
It Turns Out, Farmers Love This Hack
The internet loves this method for shucking corn and so do I, but what do the experts say? To find out, I stopped by the Fino Farms stand at the Down to Earth Farmers Market in New York, where I bought the delicious local corn for my tests. I asked the vendor if she’d heard of this trick for shucking corn, and she told me that the farmer who grew the corn swears by it!
My next stop was my friend Kimberlae Saul, who grew up in Iowa—America’s leading corn growers. Kimberlae’s grandfather grew corn and after a childhood spent eating the freshest, tastiest corn she’s particular about her corn. (I recently learned a fun fact about Kimberlae: Her family dedicated a stick of butter just for dragging hot corn through.)
Kimberlae is a very kind person, so I didn’t expect her to scoff at me when I asked about shucking corn using the microwave, but I did expect a gentle eye roll. Instead, she said, “Oh yes, that’s what my grandpa always did!” I was already sold on this brilliant trick, but an endorsement by an Iowa corn farmer really sealed the deal.
With this expert-approved technique in my pocket, there’s going to be a lot more corn on my dinner table this summer—and a lot less cursing about the mess in my kitchen.