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How-To

Getting Corn Off the Cob

Fine Cooking Issue 22
Photos: Boyd Hagen.
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When fresh corn is in season, I eat it whenever, however I can. Usually that means hot corn, eaten right from the cob with plenty of butter. But sometimes I take the kernels off the cob and use them in salsas, chowders, and breads.

There are two basic ways for taking corn off the cob. The one you use depends on whether you want whole kernels to use in a salad or salsa or cream-style corn to flavor soups, puddings, and breads. However you do it, figure on about 1/2 cup of corn per cob.

A sharp knife is the best tool

Forget about all the gadgets you’ve seen for stripping corn. A sharp kitchen knife does the job best.

Begin by shucking the corn and removing the silk. Cut off the stem end of each ear to give you a sturdy base on which to stand the ear.

For cream-style corn, use the back of a knife. When you want just the juicy pulp from the kernels, without the skins, score the kernels by drawing the tip of your knife down the center of each row. Then scrape the cob with the back of your knife instead of the blade. You’ll squeeze out the pulp and juices and leave the skin behind. Just don’t push so hard that the skins come off, too. The idea is to leave behind hollow skins like an empty honeycomb.

For creamed corn, first score the kernels. Draw the tip of your knife down the center of each row.
Use the back of your knife to scrape the cob from top to bottom. You’ll squeeze out just the milk and pulp, leaving the skins behind. 

If you want whole kernels of corn, first blanch the ears. Dip them in boiling water for a minute or two and then cool them under cold running water before you strip them. This “sets” the milk so it doesn’t spurt when you scrape the kernels off the cob. Hold the ear, tip end up, on a plate or inside a shallow bowl. Cut down the ear on each cob, removing a few rows at a time. The leftover, still-juicy cobs make delicious stock, or you can scrape them clean and add their fresh-tasting juices to sauces, soups, and dressings.

To remove corn kernels intact, use a sharp chef’s knife. Scrape the corn off the cob, a few rows at a time.

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