How To Pick the Best Corn So Every Ear Is a Winner

Find the best of the best at your local grocery store or farmers' market.

Sweet corn season is coming, and that means cob after cob of juicy, sugary sweet kernels that explode with flavor. That is, if you know how to find the great ones. Facing down a pile of corn in the market or produce aisle can be a little daunting if you don't know how to pick the good ones. Luckily, there are some easy tricks to help you pick great corn every time!


For starters, don't buy corn out of season, it will never be as good as in-season sweet corn. And as much as it is nice to save yourself the step of shucking corn, if you want great corn, don't buy the packages of pre-shucked produce. Corn starts to go starchy as soon as you take it off the stalk but is protected by staying attached to its husk for as long as possible. Plan on shucking your corn a maximum of a couple hour before cooking.


Look at the silk first. If the silk is brown or black, dried out or matted, that corn is older than corn which is paler in color, moist or even sticky. The better looking the silk is the fresher the corn, and freshness is where the sweetness lies.


Then look at the husk. It should be bright green and not dried out or brown and should not be limp or overly damaged or bruised looking.

Do not pull the husk back to look at the corn, and for sure do not poke at kernels with your fingernail to see if they "pop", you are damaging that cob and if you choose not to buy it, you are leaving a flawed piece of produce for someone else to buy or for the store to have to discard.

close up of unshucked corn


When choosing corn on the cob, what you are looking for is the weight. Take a cob and heft it in your hand. It should feel very heavy for its size, which indicates that it is full of juice, and that the cob itself is still full of sap. A light-feeling cob has started to go starchy, and the sap in the cob has stopped feeding the kernels. You might need to go through many cobs to find those that are the heaviest, I often pass on three to five before I find a keeper, but it is worth the effort.

How to Store Fresh Corn

Place your cobs, uncovered, in your fridge until it is time to shuck and cook. For best flavor results, steam the cobs, don't boil, since boiling will leach flavor from the corn. Set your shucked cobs upright in your pot on a rack or in a steamer basket with about an inch and a half to two inches of boiling water. Steam covered for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the kernels darken. Or grill pre-soaked cobs in their husks on the cool side of your grill over indirect heat. Either will bring out the full flavor of your golden summer bounty!

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